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Portrait Competition civil war george washington


All © William Beckman and courtesy of Forum Gallery, New York

(1:24 min.)

Overcoats (American Modern)
(1:28 min.)

Studio #3 (Ducati)
(1:15 min.)

William Beckman (born 1942)

Born in Maynard, Minnesota, painter William Beckman challenges traditional perceptions about portraiture. Although a talented draftsman, Beckman seeks to capture something that "feels right" to him rather than to craft a likeness designed to please his sitter. For this reason, he tends to focus his efforts on family members, close friends, and himself. The artist continually refines his compositions with painstaking attention to scale and perspective, reworking his oil-on-panel surfaces with a belt sander. In Studio #3 (Ducati), Beckman repositioned the motorcycle to convey its monumentality. He eliminated landscape elements in order to propel the face and torso forward into the viewer's space.

Although Beckman is not interested in telling stories, his paintings often include items of autobiographical significance. He races Ducati motorcycles, and the landscape background in his monumental Overcoats (American Modern) refers to his Minnesota heritage. Beckman received his BA from St. Cloud University and his MA and MFA from the University of Iowa in Iowa City. His interest in figuration grew out of his exposure to the work of San Francisco Bay–area artists active during the early 1960s. The work of Willem de Kooning and John Graham also served as sources of inspiration.

Beckman has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in the United States and abroad. His work in included in many public collections, including those of the Smithsonian Institution, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna, Austria.


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A printed transcript of William Beckman's discussion is also available here.
     Audio transcript (PDF)

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