William Beckman: Five Decades of Self-Portraits

  • NEW YORK, New York
  • /
  • September 09, 2021

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"Self-Portrait with Hat" (detail), 1979-80, oil on panel, 21 1/8 x 16 3/4 inches

New York, NY – From September 23 to November 6, 2021, Forum Gallery will celebrate William Beckman’s 50 years of self-portraiture with an exhibition of seventeen paintings and drawings made between 1976 and 2021. The exhibition, William Beckman: Five Decades of Self-Portraits, will present important examples from each decade beginning with 1976 and will include a group of current paintings, illuminating the Artist’s singular and ongoing contribution to the field.


One of America’s foremost artists, William Beckman (b. 1942) is rightly known for the intimacy, communicative strength and emotional power of his figurative paintings and drawings. Working in larger-than-life and intimate scales, Beckman draws from life and memory to create compelling works that engage the viewer directly while penetrating the psyche of the individual subject.  His self-portraits are uncompromising, analytic and layered portrayals of reality.  



The earliest work in the exhibition, Self-Portrait, 1976, oil on panel 11 x 9 ¼ inches, not only draws immediate parallels to Albrecht Dürer but reveals Beckman’s keen study of the masters of self-portraiture throughout art history.  In his essay for the exhibition catalogue, David Ebony observes: “Self-portraits…from Rembrandt to Vincent van Gogh and Lucien Freud, have inspired Beckman over the years; but having mastered the technique of the Renaissance painters—creating oil-on-panel compositions with countless layers of pigment, glazing, and extremely labor-intensive detail—Beckman’s works are stylistically closer to Jan van Eyck and Hans Holbein.”


In the monumental Overcoat with Plowed Field, 2018-2021, oil on canvas, 100 x 73 inches, the largest painting in the exhibition, William Beckman revisits the iconography of the “overcoat,” a symbol of survival for Beckman and a nod to the Russian writer, Nikolai Gogol, whose influential short story, “The Overcoat,” has long impressed the Artist. Characteristically, Beckman renders himself standing motionless, in fact immovable, with stoic demeanor against the farmland and granaries of his youth, evoking the work of Grant Wood, painter of American Gothic who, like Beckman, sprung from America’s heartland.



Six recent small-scale self-portraits created over the past two years in the quiet solitude of his studio in upstate NY, unapologetically reflect the Artist’s aging features against fields of saturated color.  Two self-portraits in charcoal on paper created in 1983 and 1997 reveal William Beckman’s masterful handling of this medium, honored by a retrospective exhibition in 2014 of William Beckman’s drawings organized by the Columbus Museum in Georgia (traveled to the Arkansas Art Museum in Little Rock).


A Minnesota native, William Beckman first exhibited in New York in 1969 and joined Forum Gallery in 1993. In 2006, his portraits were the subject of a one-person exhibition at the opening of the newly-situated National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. His work is included in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY), Joseph H. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, D.C.), National Portrait Gallery (Washington, D.C.), The Art Institute of Chicago (IL), Museum Moderne Kunst (Vienna, Austria), The Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh, PA), Flint Institute of Arts (MI), Milwaukee Art Museum (WI), Columbus Museum (GA), Des Moines Art Center (IA) and Frye Art Museum (Seattle, WA).




Forum Gallery is located at 475 Park Avenue at 57th Street, New York, NY 10022.  Forum Gallery is open to the public from Monday through Saturday, from 10am to 5:30pm.  Please visit https://www.forumgallery.com/exhibitions/william-beckman-five-decades-of-self-portraits to view the entire exhibition online. The exhibition begins on September 23, 2021 and will be on view through November 6, 2021. A full color catalogue is available from the gallery.


Forum Gallery is pleased to greet all vaccinated visitors during our public hours, and provides hand sanitizer and face coverings, on request.  We comply with New York laws and the protocols recommended by the US CDC. 


For press inquiries, please contact Ambrose Monahan, 212-355-4545; ambrose@forumgallery.com.


For sales inquiries, please contact Nicola Lorenz, Executive Director or Marjorie Van Cura, Associate Director, 212-355-4545; gallery@forumgallery.com.





Ambrose Monahan
Forum Gallery

Forum Gallery
475 Park Avenue
New York, New York
About Forum Gallery

Forum Gallery was founded in New York City in 1961 as a gallery of American figurative art. Among the first artists represented were Raphael Soyer, Chaim Gross, David Levine and Gregory Gillespie. The gallery was a founding member of the Art Dealers Association of America in 1962. From inception, Forum Gallery’s contemporary exhibition program has been augmented by mounting curated, thematic exhibitions of historic importance, in keeping with the gallery’s focus on humanism. Forum Gallery’s program expanded in the 1980’s, and the gallery soon represented the American artists William Beckman and Robert Cottingham as well as the Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum. Today, in addition to these artists, Forum Gallery represents more than twenty American and European artists and estates, including the Spanish masters Cesar Galicia and Guillermo Munoz Vera. American artists whose work is now represented by Forum Gallery include Steven Assael, Tula Telfair, Linden Frederick, Alan Magee and Brian Rutenberg. Forum Gallery regularly exhibits at art fairs throughout the United States. The gallery exhibited at the inaugural edition of The Art Show (ADAA – Park Avenue Armory) and has since participated twenty times. An early exhibitor at the Chicago International Art Exposition at Navy Pier, Forum now exhibits at ExpoChicago annually. In 2000, Forum Gallery mounted an Odd Nerdrum exhibition at the FIAC in Paris, and today the gallery exhibits regularly at fairs in San Francisco, New York, Miami, Houston, Seattle and Chicago. A service business focused on customer satisfaction, Forum Gallery looks forward to every opportunity to assist collectors, experienced and new.

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