William Holbrook Beard

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William Holbrook Beard
Wall Street Jubilee artwork by William Holbrook Beard

Wall Street Jubilee

Born: 04/13/1825
Location: Painesville, United States
Died: 02/20/1900
Age: 74
Movements American Realism
Nationality American
Expertise Painting

The prolific American painter William Holbrook Beard was well known for painting a variety of animals, especially bears. He oftentimes used the animals in satirical ways as social commentary on activities and events involving humans.

Personal life

William H. Beard was born in Painesville, Ohio and studied as a portrait painter with his brother, James Henry Beard, before later turning to landscapes and animals for his subjects. He traveled to and worked in Italy, Switzerland, and Germany before returning to New York to help establish an art community in Buffalo. He later settled in New York City, opening a studio in a building that housed many other artists as well. Beard married Caroline Rebecca LeClaire, the daughter of the popular portrait artist Thomas LeClaire, in 1863. The couple had a daughter who died while still in childhood and a son named Wolcott Beard. Beard died from apoplexy in 1900.


William Holbrook Beard began his lengthy career as a portrait painter, but he later developed a greater interest in nature and animals and decided to focus his painting on those subjects. He was well known for his fantasy paintings of animals in human situations, which allowed him to comment on his views of events and activities in a satirical way. Beard spent time traveling and painting in Europe with fellow artists Whittredge, Bierstadt, and Gifford before returning to New York to create an artist community where he met his future wife, Caroline. He then opened an artist’s studio in The Studio Building on Tenth Street in New York City. Beard was a popular painter of animals, including monkeys, rabbits, and cats, with his favorite subject being bears. Some of his more well-known works were The Bulls and Bears in the Market, Dancing Bears, Majestic Stag, and The Bear Dance. Beard liked to use literature as inspiration for his works and often depicted vices such as pride, greed, and jealousy. Beard was a very prolific painter, with the Smithsonian attributing 127 paintings to him. Beard’s work is showcased in many prominent museums across the country, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Museum of Wildlife Art.

Fun Facts

  • Beard traveled over 400 miles by horseback and stagecoach across the Rocky Mountains, seeking inspiration for landscape paintings, but was generally unimpressed.

Related Artists


Some Examples of William Holbrook Beard’s Artwork

A Sailor's Delight 1891 artwork by William Holbrook Beard

A Sailor’s Delight 1891

William Holbrook Beard artwork by William Holbrook Beard

William Holbrook Beard

A Cautious Crossing artwork by William Holbrook Beard

A Cautious Crossing