Editor's note: The following article is printed with permission of the Kentucky Historical Society. The article was included in Vol. 67, January 1969 issue of The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, pp 20-36. If you have questions or comments regarding the article, or if you have interest in purchasing copies, please contact the Kentucky Historical Society directly through either this phone number or web address:


George Beck: An Eighteenth Century Painter

by Edna Talbott Whitley


Shortly after the beginning of the nineteenth century there appeared in Lexington, Kentucky, a couple who were destined to exert considerable influence upon the cultural life of that young town and its future citizens, George and Mary Menessier Beck, artists and educators.

Though listed in the 1806 Lexington directory as "Portrait Painter," George Beck (1749-1812) is better known for his landscape work.[1] He was perhaps the most experienced, if not the first of the early landscape painters to work in this country for he and his wife had both exhibited pictures at the Royal Academy of London, he from 1780 to 1793.[2] Six of his American views, engraved and published by T. Cartwright of London, have been collector's items for some time. The titles of the set in the Stokes Collection, New York Public Library are: "Georgetown and Federal City or City of Washington," 1800; "Baltimore, Maryland," 1801; "Great Falls of the Potomac," "Philadelphia from the Great Tree at Kensington," under which Penn made his Great Treaty with the Indians, 1800; "The "Falls of Niagara," 1804; "Wright's Ferry on the Susquehanna, Pennsylvania," 1808.

The last three of these prints were also reproduced on the popular blue and white ware of the artist's native Staffordshire.[3] Although they appeared on china without any potter's marks may we suggest that Adams' "View of the Juniata River" and his "Potomac Near Harper's Ferry," Meigh's "Scenes on the Schuylkill" and Ridgeway's "Vale of the Shenandoah near Jefferson's Rock" were probably adapted from Beck's drawings.[4] He may have also furnished designs for series of English, Welsh, and Irish views, though they are not found as frequently in this country as the American scenes which became such popular items of the export trade.

How did the Becks happen to choose Lexington as a place to live and a center from which to work?

Being the youngest son of a Staffordshire farmer in modest circumstances, George had to leave school at nine. Since he was ambitious, he continued his self-education and at sixteen secured a teaching position at Tamworth. Four years later he began to study for holy orders, at which time he must have acquired the facility with Greek and Latin which he showed in his translations of Homer, Anachreon, Virgil, and Horace into English verse.[5]

When he contracted tuberculosis he was compelled to postpone indefinitely this chosen career. Let us hope that his case was arrested when he was promised a mathematical professorship in the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. In 1776, however, through a change in the ministry, this coveted position failed to materialize and he was appointed instead to the corps of engineers. During this period, while he was employed in drawing military plans and maps at the Tower of London, his interest in art began to grow. Probably he visited the Royal Academy as often as possible.

In this same year Richard Wilson (1714-1782) an eminent landscape painter, became Librarian at the Academy upon his record as a founding member who had exhibited with the Society of Artists for eight years.[6] Undoubtedly Beck examined the composition of Wilson's drawings and canvasses there, for like Wilson "he rarely failed to present the view within some kind of compositional framework, even when this consisted of little more than a flanking of trees."[7] Furthermore Beck used dark masses of trees to accentuate the brightness of the distant view. Frequently he added depth by presenting the scene from an elevated point.

These were characteristics of Wilson's work. Ford quotes from the Farington Diary of 1805, "Mr. Locke (who had traveled with Wilson in Italy in 1751) observed that Wilson particularly excelled in painting skies."[8] To this he added, "In fact it can be said that in his understanding of light Wilson was far in advance of his contemporaries, and a direct forerunner of Constable. His handling of light is one of the outstanding qualities of his drawings for it adds a sparkling note to his out-of-doors sketches."[9]

But what do the English critics say of Beck? In his Dictionary of British Landscape Painters, 1952, Maurice H. Grant defines Beck as "a painter in oil of views of Devon, Wales, Norfolk, the Lakes, in a manner in which a well-conceived Wilsonic effect is vitiated by an inferior technique. Excellent in sky work, his works fail in other parts of his not unempressive canvasses."[10] At this date Mr. Grant had not seen Beck's set of large American views, published in London 1800 to 1808, and aquatinted by J. Cartwright, nor was he aware that Beck had even come to the United States. Afterwards he admitted he had only known Beck's work in oils, "in which medium he is little more than respectable."[11] Later he writes of seeing several replicas of a Beck canvas, "The Vale of Llanwrst," which had been sold to shops under attribution to Richard Wilson and Jan Both and resold repeatedly by successive owners when they became convinced that the authorship was spurious. One can only suppose it a great compliment to Beck that his work could be passed off, even by an unscrupulous dealer, as that of Richard Wilson (1714-1782) now considered to be the outstanding English landscaper painter of the period.

The question naturally arises whether Beck might have been a pupil of Wilson. We doubt it. When Wilson returned from Italy about 1758, to Covent Garden, London, to re-establish himself as a painter of landscapes instead of portraits, George Beck was but eight years old. Drawing lessons from a well-known artist would have been beyond Beck's reach. It does appear, however, that Wilson's many pupils spent the first year of their apprenticeship copying the master's drawings.[12] One student, in particular, Joseph Farington, loaned his set of two volumes of Wilson's drawings to his friend Lady Mary Lother.[13] In some way Beck may have had access to one of these sets at a later date, possibly while tutoring in Norfolk, or sketching in Wales.

We turn to Grant's evaluation of Beck's work after seeing the American views. His painting of skies and handling of light are both praised. He says, "Even such a sky as Beck's would instantly attract attention at a modern exhibition, where colored putty reigns aloft in place of translucent paint of the old forgotten landscape school. Such a sunny envelope, one which, as Wilson boasted, "The summer flies might dance in,' is at any rate an artistic accomplishment of itself. And if it be the only one to the credit of Beck there are many without such." After characterizing his painting technique as faculty, his drawing as careless, and his composition as conventional, Grant concedes that, "In the American drawings the humble painter must be given at once a higher rank, for they display skill and taste worthy of their sumptuous reproduction." It is possible that all of Beck's American work may be better than that which he had exhibited in London or that which Mr. Grant had seen.

Is it fair to judge his work by our knowledge of the development of art in the subsequent century and a half? Should it be evaluated by modern standards or by those of his contemporaries? Between 1790 and 1793 fifteen landscapes by George Beck were accepted for exhibition at the Royal Academy and by the Society of Artists of Great Britain and the Free Society of Artists.[14] At the former showings he presented two views of "Windsor Park, London," in 1790; "Marquiss Townshend's Seat," "Rainham Hall," "Fakenham, Norfolk," 1791; "On Rumney," "Monmouthshire;" "Cardiff, Glamorganshire;" "On Wye from Piercefield;" "A View from Cardiff," 1792; and "On Rumney, Glamorganshire," 1793.[15] At the latter he exhibited two other views of "Rainham Hall," three unspecified landscapes, and two views of "Devonshire." In the department of Prints and Drawings the British Museum has preserved etchings by George Beck and engravings after his work.[16]

Undoubtedly their mutual interest in art was the first bond between George Beck and the young lady whom he married in 1786, "in whose accomplished mind he inspired reciprocity of taste and sentiment," as his "Memoir" expresses it.[17] Did they first meet in the art galleries of London and was their courtship conducted there? Until we found the statement of Henry A. Ratterman[18] that Beck married the daughter of a French refugee, Francis Menessier, we did not know who Mrs. Beck was, only of her accomplishment in art for she also exhibited two landscapes in 1790 at the Royal Academy and two in 1791.[19]

In 1789 Beck's old malady flared up again. Resigning his government post he took a position as tutor to the daughters of the Marchioness Townshend in Norfolk, which allowed him to spend more time outdoors drawing and painting from nature, After two years he was engaged to illustrate and complete Gross's "Antiquities of Ireland." But the sudden death of the publisher ended that projected work, to his great disappointment. For the next few years George Beck spent much time painting in the mountains of Wales, the locale of Wilson's retirement in 1780, and of his subsequent death.[20] Admirers of Beck's Welsh scenes suggested that he would find fame and fortune in America. Accordingly he embarked for the United States, landing at Norfolk about 1795.

There is a story, probably apocryphal, that he served as a scout in General Anthony Wayne's campaign before 1794 where his map-making experience may have proved useful.[21] The tale is of unknown origin and has been repeated by historians without checking its accuracy. The National Archives has no record of such military service[22] nor has any mention of George Beck been found in General Wayne's manuscript Order Book or Letter Book.[23] However, a fire in the office of the War Department in 1800 destroyed records of civilian employees, in which capacity he might have served.

As is shown by views of that city the first part of Beck's life in the United States was spent in Baltimore, though his name does not appear in early directories.[24] After a year or so he was invited to the vicinity of Philadelphia to paint "Woodlands," the country seat of Col. Wm. Hamilton. Immediately he sent for his faithful wife who promptly opened a school for girls in Philadelphia leaving him free to pursue his muse.[25] She is said to have been thus engaged for seven years. On November 4, 1799, according to an advertisement in the Pennsylvania Packet, George Beck began a drawing school at his house on Fifth Street opposite the Statehouse yard, teaching Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.[26] The tuition was $9 per quarter. Ladies were instructed from three to five and gentlemen from half past five till half past seven. Private instruction was available there at $1 an hour, and at $3 for two hours if the lessons were given elsewhere.

At that date there were many commercial and social ties between Philadelphia and Lexington. Doubtless some of the merchants on semiannual buying trips to Philadelphia readily described the beauties of the scenic west to Mr. Beck.[27] They may have suggested that a school was needed in Lexington. Perhaps he did not require much encouragement in his ambition to explore and depict new and rugged landscapes.

The Becks had other inducements for leaving the East. Mrs. Beck had not seen her father, a prominent French jurist and former member of Parliament, since his escape to this country in 1789.[28] Like many of his compatriots, M. Menessier lived for a time in the colony at Gallipolis, Ohio.[29] From there he moved to Cincinnati where he traded a worn saddle, it is said, for a vacant lot.[30] Soon he opened a coffee house or refreshment room which became famous for its fine French pastries.[31] The cultured and courtly air of the proprietor, a skilled musician, helped to make it both proper and fashionable as a resort for ladies as well as gentlemen.[32] Perhaps he also served ice cream, cordials, and light liqueurs, as did some of the early French emigrees in Lexington.[33] At the April session of court in 1803 the price of French brandy served in taverns was fixed at twice the rate for the local product.[34]

En route to Cincinnati George Beck probably painted the "VIEW of PITTSBURGH," once dated 1806, but now thought to have been done in 1804 because of changes in the topography of the land.[35] We do not know how long he lingered in Cincinnati, but long enough to decorate General James Wilkinson's pleasure barge.[36] Long enough, too, for Mrs. Beck to be brought to date on the tribulations which the French refugees had undergone and to resolve to offer them a helping hand when the opportunity presented itself.[37] She afterwards employed Mrs. Waldemard Mentelle and John Derrac to teach dancing and the French language in her school.[38] Both the Becks felt that Lexington at that period offered a better opening than Cincinnati for a teacher of classical languages and advanced mathematics, and so they set out for that place.

Upon their arrival Mrs. Beck opened a school for girls. It was disappointing to Mr. Beck to discover that the available advanced male students were already enrolled at Transylvania. Not: being intensely interested in teaching rudimentary subjects he postponed opening his academy for some time. He might never have returned to teaching had it not been necessary to substitute for his wife in March, 1810, during her prolonged illness.[39] However, he busied himself with mathematical pursuits, music, and chemistry, wrote many original poems, translated the Georgics, the Odes of Horace, Anacreon, books of the Iliad and parts of Virgil into English poetry. Mr. John Wilson Townsend thought that 1806 was his most productive literary year.[40] He also calculated an approaching comet and published his prediction with diagrams in January, 1812.[41]

Unfortunately there are gaps in the files of the Lexington newspapers so that the date of the initial announcement of Mrs. Beck's school is not known. The wording of the earliest available advertisement gives the impression that the school had not been in operation long before February 11, 1805, for it begins, "Having learned that her terms are not perfectly understood," etc.[42] It concluded, "Mrs. Beck has an assortment of very excellent scarce books for children of all ages: (which she bought) conceiving parents might wish to purchase for domestic tuition, They may be supplied on the usual terms of booksellers at her school, the late residence of Mrs. January."

The books, of course, had been brought from Philadelphia as had the globes, orrery, and maps used in teaching, and perhaps the Piano Fortes for there were few instrument makers in the West at that time.[43] During the eighteenth century the orrery was invented by George Graham for the 4th Earl of Orrery, of England, to demonstrate the movement of planets.[44] The first one made in the United States was the work of David Rittenhouse (1732-1796) of Philadelphia and was given to Princeton in 1768.[45] He also gave another to the University of Pennsylvania which Mrs. Beck must have seen. Certainly the orrery was a novelty in the West.

Novel, too, for her time were some of Mrs. Beck's theories of female education. But there is not space enough to enter into that discussion just now. Before leaving Philadelphia George Beck had had several of his drawings published by Atkins and Nightingale of 143 Leadenhall Street, London and of No. 35 Front Street, Philadelphia, engraved and aquatinted by T. Cartwright, London. The first four, released in 1801 and 1802 are all inscribed, "Drawn by G. Beck, Philadelphia," though the second pair have a new branch office address, "Chestnut St. The next two published views are marked simply "Drawn by G. Beck," implying that he had left that city. They were published by George Nightingale of the same London address without any local agency's name. Next to appear was "The Falls of Niagara," 1805, possibly the earliest extant view of that great natural wonder. One of the first dated paintings of it, now in the Senate House Association, Kingston, New York, was done in 1827 by John Vanderlyn.[46] That is also the date of the several views made by George Catlin, the originals of which are now in the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art collection at Williamsburg, Virginia.[47]

After the Becks were settled in Lexington they sent one landscape marked, "For sale," to the first Annual Exhibition of the Society of Artists in 1811.[48] The next year Mr. Beck sent three, "A View of Mr. Hood's Place near Robin Hood Tavern on the Ridgeroad," "The Woodlands" (seat of Colonel Hamilton), and a "View of Steep Rocks on the North River near Wihawk, New York."

After his death his widow exhibited seven of his drawings or watercolor views of Kentucky including one of Lexington. By this time the annual exhibit was being held by the Columbian Society of Artists, a merger of the old society of Artists of the United States with the Pennsylvania Academy of Art. In 1814, Mrs. Beck sent four: "View of the Upper Ferry at the Mouth of Hickman Creek, Kentucky River"; "View of the Lower Ferry, Kentucky River"; "View of the Middle Ferry, Kentucky River"; and "View of the Juniata River, Pennsylvania."

For the decoration of his banquet hall at Mt. Vernon George Washington bought two large landscapes, "Falls of the Potomac" and "The Potomac near Harper's Ferry." From the Wm. A. Leavy "Memior of Early Lexington" we learn that Mr. Beck painted two pictures for Thomas Hart, "Olympian Springs," a resort in Bath County owned by Hart which Mrs. Beck patronized in 1807, and "Falls of the Ohio." Mr. Leavy's younger brother, Lawrence, had been one of George Beck's academy pupils and so he was interested in Beck's painting to the extent of buying two pictures at auction, though he failed to record their titles in his narrative.[49] At present the ownership of these latter four pictures is unknown. Visitors to "Winston," the home of Mr. and Mrs. Howard Evans, near Lexington, will recall the three Beck paintings in the Peter collection, "Boone's Knoll," near Camp Nelson, a stormy scene at a "Ferry on Kentucky River" which age has darkened so that it will not photograph well, and "Falls of the Ohio." Could this last be the one painted for Thomas Hart or a replica of it?

The Maryland Historical Society owns Beck's "View of Baltimore from Howard's Park."[50] Mr. Walter Jeffords, Jr., of Glen Riddle, Pennsylvania, has the "Scene on the Schuylkill River," and "Falls of the Ohio" and the Missouri Historical Society has three small water colors, one of "George Town," Ohio, a county seat about eight: miles inland and twelve miles down the Ohio River from Maysville, Kentucky. These are part of the Von Phul Collection.[51] Their other two bear English titles: "North of Whitmore Bridge" and "Ruins of Penrith Castle, Cumberland, 1765." They also have three wash drawings of unidentified buildings.

Mr. Beck's academy for boys was short-lived, only lasting one year.[52] Then, commissioned by "Mr. Jervas," (possibly someone connected with the English potteries) he went to Baltimore to make a series of pictures described as "the last efforts of his expiring genius." His health, which had twice before suffered because of too close confinement at scholarly pursuits, again became a matter of concern. After a three month's illness of inflammation of the lungs he died.

The Lexington Reporter of Saturday, December 28, 1812, carried this notice:

DIED on the 14th of this month, after a long and tedious illness, Mr. George Beck, in the 64th year of his age. Mr. Beck came from England many years ago, attracted by a desire of enriching his native country with the productions of his talents for painting, drawn from the beauties of nature in America. His eminence in landscape painting may rank him amongst the best painters of wild nature: nor was his genius confined to one branch of the nobler arts, as he was eminently learned in mathematics, as well as in other branches of literature. But he languished here almost unnoticed. A new country, although overflowing with generous feelings of its inhabitants, is, nor cannot be as yet a proper theatre for profound learning, or the high soaring of genius, and Mr. Beck's last years were embittered by the consciousness of neglected and almost useless talents, confined to the drudgery of a day school.
Mr. Beck as a private man was everything that virtue can wish, and has left in the heart of his friends a lasting impression of his worth. Mr. Beck leaves a widow whose talent for the education of youth, is well known.

If the word "genius" is 'banded about: a little two frequently one must recall the fulsome style of journalism at that time. Coupled with the desire to please and to give credit for worth is the feeling of inadequacy on the part of the writer as an art critic. Without regard for the opinions, expressed or unexpressed, as to George Beck's merit, Mrs. Beck never wavered for a moment in her belief in "his genius."

On March 1, 1813, D. Bradford, Auctioneer, inserted this advertisement in the Lexington paper:

To be sold by Auction on Saturday the 3 of April at 3 o'Clock P.M. a choice collection of PICTURES painted by the late George Beck, Esq. The sale will be held at Mrs. Beck's, four doors below the Upper Bridge in Water Street, where the paintings are to be seen by ladies every day previous between the hours of 12 and 2, and by the public, on the morning of the day of sale.
As the talents of Mr. Beck were so much neglected during his life, it is to be presumed that the citizens of Lexington will show their liberality and public spirit in purchasing these pictures which are sold for the benefit of his widow and are the only specimens of Mr. Beck's genius that they can ever have an opportunity of possessing.

Later in the month the same auctioneer advertised again, a longer notice in the March 30 and April 3rd issues.[53]

The sale of Books will commence at 10 o'Clock in the morning, amongst which are many scarce and valuable works on Philosophy, Geography, Astronomy, Mathematics, Geometry, Chemistry, Medicine, History, Travels, etc., a large collection of Greek, Latin and English Poets in their several languages, one copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica with the Supplement: Hume's History of England in 12 vols.; the British Classics in 39 volumes handsomely bound, gilt, and lettered. A quantity of Magazines, Plays, Political, Mathematical, and Miscellaneous Pamphlets, etc.
The sale of the Pictures will begin at two o'clock in the evening and will commence with the Paintings Executed by the late Mr. Beck whose excellence in his peculiar style of landscape is well known. The Engravings are chiefly landscapes by the best artists, and from the greatest painters of the Italian, German, Dutch and French schools. The whole may be viewed any day previous to the day of sale, from 12 o'CIock at noon to 2 and from 5 to 7 in the evening.
A credit of six months will be given on all sums above ten dolIars by giving a negotiable note with an approved endorser.

On June 10, 1816, Mrs. Beck announced a third sale through Rodes and Smith, auctioneers: "AUCTION on Friday next June 14 will be Sold at Auction, a Number of Paintings, Drawings, Sketches and Prints. Being a collection made by the late Mr. Beck and which he had preserved as the best specimens. His taste and judgment, it is presumed, will induce such as wish to obtain choice Pictures to attend and examine them, when their excellence must recommend them."

In the Western Monitor of Sept. 5, 1818., Mrs. Beck expressed the desire to publish her husband's poetical works by subscription, the volume to be illustrated with an engraving of the late author by Mr. Lewis of Philadelphia, after a portrait painted by Magnaven of London. Within a short time she had to withdraw her proposal for lack of financial support. It may require a classical scholar to discuss the merits of his Greek and Latin translations and judge how true they are to the cadences of their originals, but everyone can appreciate the perceptive eye and sensitive hand of the artist revealed in this specimen of his work, an "Ode of Anacreon," dating from about 563 B. C.

Anacreon's 15th Ode
Come here, some youth the Muse has taught
To mimic terms and picture thoughts,
In all her virgin charms display
My peerless love that's far away.
Her lucid form before me streams
And hovers round my precious dreams:
Draw her ebon ringlets flowing,
Golden lights around them throwing.
Stream o'er the curls of silky twine
Sweets that breathe and tints that shine;
Her brow in shadowy splendor trace
Gliding in the lines of grace
Blending love with quaint reproof
That bid rude gazers stand aloof.
But where, fond artist, are the dyes
To match the brilliance of her eyes?
For while they living lightening stream
Love must soften every beam.
With liquid roses touch her cheek,
Mellowing blent with dimples sleek:
Rubies then in honey drip,
To form her kiss-inviting lip.
Thence, softening round with pencil thin
Bound with bloom her dimpled chin:
But what sweet hand her neck may form
With gliding lines and tinctures warm
There all must live and breathe and move,
That touch her peerless seat of love!
A sunny veil be round her twined
Loose, transparent, unconfin'd
Folds here and there in amorous play
May kiss her limbs and melt away
Just here and there a part concealing,
In warmer light the rest revealing.
Enough! Fair artist cease thy wiles
She lives, she breathes, my charmer smiIes!

Dr. J. Hall Pleasants is the author of two articles about Beck, the first published in 1940 in the Maryland Historical Magazine, "George Beck, an Early Baltimore Landscape Painter" and one published in the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, in 1942, called "Four Late 18th Century Anglo-American Landscape Painters." He quotes "a competent critic" who thinks Beck's work is like Claude Lorraine's in the use of trees framing the scene and the illumination coming from within the picture. He compared his work to that of the Italian, Domenichino Zampieri (1581-1641), to that of the German Adam Elsheimer (1578-1620) and to that of the Dutch artist, Allart von Everdingen (1621-1675). The discovery, since made, of Beck's ownership of "engravings, chiefly landscapes by the best artists, and from the greatest painters of the Italian, German, Dutch and French school" makes this a most illuminating comment. Apparently Mr. Beck studied and copied them until they profoundly influenced his style.

Dr. Pleasants also promoted a special memorial exhibit of Beck's work at the Baltimore Municipal Art Museum in 1938, a fitting tribute to the painter whose pictures of Baltimore were the first he drew after landing in this country from England, and the last he made for Mr. Jervas at the close of his life.

After Dr. Pleasants found the sketch of Beck in the Portfolio, published at Baltimore in August 1813, he decided it had been written by an early Baltimore author, probably Robert Gilmore, art collector. To one familiar with the writing of Mrs. Beck the "Memoir of the Late George Beck" has a most familiar ring. May we suggest that she had prepared it in advance for inclusion in the collection of George Beck's original poems and translations from the classics which she had announced for publication?

The poetic tribute, appended to the "Memoir" and signed only by initials, was from the pen of Anna Maria von Phul (1786-1823), one of Mrs. Beck's pupils. The von Phuls and the Becks may have known each other in Philadelphia before the former came to Kentucky. After William von Phul's death in 1792, his widow Catherine Graff von Phul, and four of her eight children moved to Lexington. Anna Maria may have been Mrs. Beck's first Kentucky pupil for she painted a landscape dated 1804, and a receipted bill for her quarterly tuition in drawing, May 13, 1805, are part of the von Phul manuscript collection in the Missouri Historical Society. After Mrs. von Phul's death in July, 1808, the Becks were particularly attentive to the von Phul youngsters and often took them on visits to "Chaumiere" the famous home of Colonel and Mrs. David Meade, now in Jessamine County, where acres of parks planted in exotic shrubbery and trees were laid out, tastefully ornamented with statuary, fountains, and lakes.[54]

We are inclined to believe that the drawing of a head of Mary, Queen of Scots, exhibited by "A Young Lady from Lexington, Kentucky" at the Columbian Society of artists, Philadelphia, in 1813 was from the hand of Anna Maria von Phu1.[66] To that same exhibit Mrs. Beck sent seven pieces of her husband's work, drawings or watercolors.[58] Even after the marriage and removal of her older sister, Sarah von Phul, the friendship between the families continued and was fostered by an exchange of letters and visits. Especially after Anna Maria resolved to follow her brother Henry to St. Louis to live in 1821, they still kept in touch. Mrs. Beck forwarded to her that year a shipment of drawings and paintings for sale, but with her usual misfortune they were damaged in transit and so brought little.

Lacking the opportunity of seeing enough specimens of Beck's work to form our own opinion about its value we are forced to consult our American critics. Writing in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography in 1960, James Thomas Flexner in his "Scope of Painting in 1790" says of three early men, "Conventional exemplars of ordinary British Landscape painting, the work of all three has the sterile and withered charm of an old maid who has not forgotten that once, long ago, she was beautiful." On the other hand Dr. Pleasants says, "Beck is technically perhaps the best trained as he is artistically the most vigorous of our Anglo-American painters."

Mr. Edward H. Dwight, Director of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, of Utica, New York, thinks that Beck's work was greatly influenced by Paul Brill (1544-1626). Somehow the Becks acquired and held on to two original paintings by Brill which Mrs. Beck, in her will of 1833, requested should be offered to James Brown of Cincinnati for the unpaid balance owing him on real estate purchased from and mortgaged to him.[57] If he declined to accept then they were to be sold to raise the balance due. Mrs. Beck also bequeathed her portfolio of landscapes and the original views painted by the late George Beck to Mrs. Jeptha Garrard. To Mr. J. W. Davis she gave her portfolio of flower paintings and to Col. J. W. Davis original views by Mr. George Beck, most: of them scenes in Kentucky.

In an effort to find these paintings we traced the descendants of Mr. and Mrs. Jeptha Garrard to Wisconsin and Minnesota and finally lost them in New York City. Some of them have lived abroad for years. The Brill landscapes have disappeared but in December, 1967, a New York sales gallery owned two oil paintings by Beck, 17 x 23 inches, "A Romantic Landscape" and "Great Falls of the Potomac."[58]

The present interest in Beck's paintings, manifested by collectors and museums, would have been gratifying to Mrs. Beck who spent the last part of her life trying to obtain for her husband's work the recognition and appreciation denied him in his lifetime.



1. Joseph Charless, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio Almanac for the Year 1806 (reprint Lexington, Ky.: Winston Coleman, Jr., 1953), 6.

2. Algernon Graves, Royal Academy of Art 1769-1904 (London: H. Graves & Co., 1905), I, 156.

3. N. Hudson Moore, The Old China Book (New York: Tudor Publishing Co., 1936), 278, 280.

4. Ibid., 266, 272, 276.

5. John Wilson Townsend, Kentucky in American Letters (Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1913), I, 23-26. Beck's translations with or without initial signatures appeared frequently in the Kentucky Gazette (Lexington).

6. Brinsley Ford, The Drawings of Richard Wilson, prepared under the editorship of Dr. K. T. Parker, Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (London: no date, circa 1951), 13.

7. Ibid., 29.

8. Joseph Farington, "Diary," eight volumes of unpublished type-script in the Print Room, British Museum, recently made from the original MSS in the Royal Library, Windsor.

9. Brinsley Ford, The Drawings of Richard Wilson, op. cit., 19, 29.

10. Maurice H. Grant, Dictionary of British Landscape Painters from the 16th Century to the Early 20th Century (Leigh-on-Sea, England: F. Lewis, 1952), 21.

11. Maurice H, Grant, Old English Landscape Painters (London: n.d.), 211-12,

12. Brinsley Ford, "The Memoirs of Thomas Jones," The Walpole Society, XXII (1950), 9, 41, 43, 53.

13. Maurice H. Grant, Old English Landscape Painters, op. cit., 211-12.

14. Algernon Graves, Royal Academy of Art, 1769-1904, op. cit., I, 156.

15. Algernon Graves, Society of Artists of Great Britain, 1760-1791 and Free Society of Artists, 1761-1793 (London: C. BelI & Sons, 1907), 28.

16. Letter to the author from Philip Pouncey, Deputy Keeper, Aug. 16, 1958.

17. Anonymous, "Memoir," The Portfolio. (Baltimore, Md., 3rd ser., XI (Aug., 1813), 117-22.

18. Heinrich Arnin Ratterman, "Fine Arts in Cincinnati," Der Deutsche Pioneer (German language newspaper of which he was editor), quoted by Henry and Mrs. Kate B. Ford, in History of Hamilton County Ohio, 1780-1781 (Cincinnati: S. Williams, 1881). 235; also by Charles Theodore Greve, Centennial History of Cincinnati and Representative Citizens (Chicago Biographical Publishing Co., 1904), 930.

19. Algernon Graves, Royal Academy of Art, 1769-1904, op. cit., I, 156.

20. Brinsley Ford, The Drawings of Richard Wilson, op. cit., 13.

21. H. A. Ratterman, "Fine Arts in Cincinnati," op. cit., Ford, 235 and Greve, op. cit., 930.

22. Letter to the author from National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D. C. Aug., 1957.

23. Letter to the author, July 19, 1957, and sub. from Wm. B. MilIer, Presbyterian Hist. Soc., Philadelphia, where the two MSS are kept.

24. J. Hall Pleasants, "George Beck, An Early Baltimore Landscape Painter," Maryland Historical Magazine, XXXV (1940), 241-43.

25. Philadelphia Directories: 1798, on Walnut St.: 1800 on 5th near Chestnut; 1807, 51 S. 5th (a mailing address for they were already living in Kentucky).

26. Alfred Cox Prime,.Arts and Crafts in Philadelphia, Maryland, and South Carolina 1721-1785 (Topsfield, Mass.: Walpole Society 1929-1932) II, 44.

27. Twice a year Kentucky newspapers were full of notices asking patrons to settle accounts so that firm members could start their buying trips to Philadelphia.

28. H. A. Ratterman. "Early Music in Cincinnati," MSS in Cincinnati Public Library read before the Literary Club Nov. 9, 1979. Parliament, a judicial, not legislative body.

29. H..A. Ratterman, quoted by Henry and Kate B. Ford, History of Hamilton County, Ohio, op. cit., 235.

30. Charles Cist, "Recollections of Samuel Stitt," Sketches and Statistics of Cincinnati in 1859 (1859), 147.

31. Charles Theodore Greve, Centennial History of Cincinnati, op. cit., 408, quotes an advertisement of Sept. 10, 1799, in The Spy announcing the coffee house and a French school.

32. Ibid., 918, quotes Ratterman who lists Menessier as a founder of the Appolonian Society.

33. Reporter (Lexington, Ky, ), June 9, 1810, advertises ice cream sold by Mr. Terrass at Fowler's Garden and in 1811 by Terrass & Giron; in 1812 by Jabez Vigas at his Pleasure Garden. French Confectioners listed in the second City Directory of Lexington, 1818, were John Duncan, John DuBois, John Deverin, Henry I. Robert, and Michael Turtoy.

34. Fayette County Court Order Book No. I, 30.

35. Lois Mulkearn, "A View of Pittsburgh," University of Pittsburgh Quarterly, 1948.

36. H. A. Ratterman, quoted by Henry and Kate Ford, History of Hamilton County, op. cit., 235.

37. Reporter (Lexington,) Dec. 22, 1808. Mrs. Waldemard Mentelle, nee Charlotte Victoria Le Clerc, born in Paris, France, Oct. 22, 1770, the daughter of a French doctor, came to Lexington in 1798 (Gazette, July 20) with her husband, Augustus Waldemard Mentelle, (1769-1846). He was a son of a professor of natural history at the Royal Academy, 1792, who was an historigrapher for the King. Mrs. Mentelle opened her own school for girls in 1820 and in 1835 had fifteen boarders at "Rosehill" where she died Sept. 8, 1880 (Obituary); also George W. Ranck, History of Lexington, Kentucky, its Early Annals an& Recent Progress (Cincinnati, 1872), 354.

38. Reporter (Lexington), Jan. 4, 1815, to Feb. 8, 1816.

39. Ibid., Mar. 10, Aug. 18, 1810.

40. John Wilson Townsend, Kentucky in American Letters, op. cit., I, 23-26.

41. Appleton's Cyclopaedia (New York: D. Appleton, 1887), 1, 212.

42. Kentucky Gazette (Lexington), Feb. 5, 11, 1805.

43. A piano dated 1801, made by John Goodman of Frankfort and Lexington for the Governor's Mansion is at Liberty Hall Museum, Frankfort. The Gazette, Sept. 1805, advertises pianos made by Joseph Green "With the assistance of a gentleman from London."

44. Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged, (2nd edition; Springfield, Mass., C & C Merriam Co., 1958.)

45. Ethel Mary Doane, Antiques Dictionary (Ist edition, Brocton, Mass., 1949).

46. Letter to the author from the Frick Art Reference Library, New York, N. Y,, Mar, 18, 1957.

47. Letter to the author from Mary G. Black, Registrar of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Collection, Williamsburg, Va., Nov. 18, 1958.

48. Anna Wells Rutledge, Cumulative Record of Exhibitions Catalogues, The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1807-1870, The Society of Artists, 1800-1814, The Artists' Fund Society 1835-1845, (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1955), 23.

49. Wm. A. Leavy, "A Memoir of Lexington and its Vicinity, 1873," Kentucky Historical Society Register, XLI, (1943), 345.

50. J. Hall Pleasants, "George Beck, An Early Baltimore Landscape Painter," Maryland Historical Magazine, XXXV, (1940), 241-43.

51. Charles Van Ravensway, "Anna Maria Von Phul," Bulletin of the Missouri Historical Society, X, (Apr., 1954) 1; letter to the author from Marjory Douglas, Curator., n.d.

52. Reporter (Lexington, Ky.), Mar. 16, 1811.

53. Ibid., Mar. 30, Apr. 2, 1813.

54. Order Book 2, Fayette County, Kentucky. Sarah Von Phul qualified as Executor, July Court, 1808.

55. Anna Wells Rutledge, Cumulative Record of Exhibitions Catalogues, The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 1807-1870, The Society of Artists, 1800-1814, The Artists' Fund Society 1835-1845, op. cit., 7, 269.

56. Ibid,, 23.

57. Will Book No. 11 (Hamilton County Probate Court, Cincinnati, Ohio), 281-83; probate Oct. 12, 1833.

58. Illustrated in Kennedy Quarterly, VII, No. 4.


About the author:

At the time of publication of the article in the The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, the following was noted about the author:

Mrs. Wade Hampton Whitley, a frequent contributor to The Register, is author of Kentucky Ante-Bellum Portraiture (1956).


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