Dick Beer (b. London 1893 - d. Stockholm 1938)
Portrait of Dr Mens III, 1918-1919
oil on board
70 x 50 cm
painted c. 1918-1919
Within the family Beer until today
Dick Beer (1893-1938)
Dick Beer was born in London in 1893. His father, John Beer (1853-1906), was a Swedish painter from Stockholm who had a career mainly as a watercolour painter with motifs of horses from racetracks and fox hunts from the countryside.
Barely fifteen years old, Dick Beer became an orphan and came to Sweden in 1907. Already in 1908-1909, he started at Althin's painting school in Stockholm. And later, at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1910-1912. His teachers were, among others, Gustaf Cederström, Oscar Björk and Alfred Bergström.
At this time, Many artists went to Paris, and Dick Beer wasn't an exception; he rented a studio and took every spare time to visit academies such as Colarossi and Grande Chaumière and André Lhote.
Dick Beer travels to Pont Aven in Brittany over the summer of 1913. In September, he went directly to Stockholm for his first solo exhibition with the French title Exposition des tableaux de Bretagne et autour de Paris; The exhibition was a big success with many visitors.
1914-1917: First World War:
In the spring of 1914, Dick Beer undertook a longer study trip to Italy, Tunisia, Morocco and Spain.
When the French army mobilized, Dick Beer volunteered and was accepted into the French Foreign Legion. He was severely injured at Souain in September 1915, and the war injuries left him with severe deafness and nerve problems, which became increasingly noticeable over the years. During and after the war, he painted in a post-impressionistic style with a light palette, increasingly tuned in blue and green.
Dick Beer and Ruth Öhrling married in February, and in December, their only child, John, was born. During these years, Beer had a studio at Rådmansgatan in Stockholm. During this time, he paints several large Cubist compositions such as "In the Paddock" and "Arab Café".
He participated in the Februarigruppen exhibition at Liljevalch's in 1919. His palette turned into a darker colour scheme dominated by green, blue, and red.
Amedeo Modigliani made a pencil portrait of him in Paris in 1919.
Throughout his short life, Beer spent most of his time in France and exhibited almost annually in Paris.
The Scandinavian motifs were mostly landscapes around Lake Mälaren and from the Stockholm archipelago, cityscapes, many nude studies and some portraits.
Dick Beer practised many styles during his 30 years as an artist, from post-impressionism, cubism, late cubism, expressionism and naturalism.
In the period following the First World War, the artist’s painting underwent a fundamental transformation. Dick Beer was influenced by various modernistic expressions. In Paris, the first wave of cubism, led by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, was established. It was a controversial artistic style. There was a heated debate about cubism, in which the artist broke up the motif into smaller components, sometimes called facets, in order to rebuild it on the flat surface of the pictorial plane. This manner of painting represented a complete break with preceding pictorial conventions and naturalistic painting.
Cubism was governed by theory, not practice, and critics claimed that the style was too intellectual for the general public and they predicted that it would disappear and that artists would return to a rather more classic expression.
The theories surrounding cubism and its various expressions opened up for a number of reinterpretations in the 1910s. Dick Beer was well aware of the cubist discussions. He embraced the ideas but created a varied, personal and emotive cubism in the years around 1918. His painting was often an explosive discharge with playful characteristics and a futuristic dynamism which accentuated the painting’s inherent speed and movement, as for example his works “Dancer” and “The Toy Box”. He also experimented with geometric compositions of buildings and landscapes, which were reminiscent of Paul Cézanne’s more cubic landscapes. Here, Beer’s colours were often muted, in blue, brown and red hues. He frequently returned to earlier motifs and reworked his canvases into a cubist style, as in “Dancer tying her shoes” and “Seated dancer“.
Contemporary art critics were appalled and Beer had to endure severe criticism. At one point, the artist published a reply in the daily Politiken, 1919, where he described his view on art:
“... because love for and understanding of art, ‘l’art pour l’art’, is not easy to achieve, and neither is it easy to comprehend the different movements’ or schools’ origin, goals, characteristic endeavours, etc. – These international phenomena require not only theoretical and art historical knowledge but (...) the ability to empathise with and feel for art, as its practitioners do”.