Download the full resources file


Indiana University Art Museum

Teachers' Resources

Armistice Day 1918

Gifford Beal, Armistice Day 1918

Gifford Beal (1879–1956) was the product of a wealthy East Coast family. He began his art education in 1892 at age thirteen, studying at the Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art on Long Island. He was impressed and inspired by his teacher, the renowned Hoosier artist William Merritt Chase, with whom he studied on weekends and over the summers until 1900. Although Beal was profoundly influenced by Chase, the teacher encouraged his students to develop their own styles and methods to express their unique visions.

Throughout his career, Beal was primarily concerned with capturing the motion and excitement of festive events, the beautiful natural world, and the happy people which he observed around him. Unrelentingly optimistic, he portrayed his subjects sympathetically and positively, desiring to create a pleasing image, "a good picture, honest and pleasant." Beal's art, on the whole, is not about social commentary or displaying the artist's technical skill, but rather about capturing the simple pleasures of American life.

Sunlight was key to Beal's exploration of the natural world. In many ways, his painterly approach and emphasis of the effects of light upon the colors of a landscape, is similar to that of the French Impressionists. However, Beal strove to avoid foreign influences and to remain essentially American, deliberately avoiding travel to Paris despite his affection for it. Following his old mentor's teaching, Beal developed his unique style.

Beal had great concern for art that was ordered and confident, sharing much in common with Puritan sensibilities. His painting, Armistice Day 1918, displays these qualities in full effect. Rather than depicting small details of the festivities at the close of World War One, Beal chooses to capture the overall excitement. Other Impressionists dissolve forms and atmosphere into small patches of color and light, yet here, in this richly textured display, the scene is based on broad, expressive strokes of line and bold, geometric shapes.