Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum transports visitors into the Naval art of Arthur Beaumont

Credit: Courtesy of UC Irvine Institute and Museum of California Art, Gift of The Irvine Museum

Credit: Courtesy of UC Irvine Institute and Museum of California Art, Gift of The Irvine Museum

For the first time ever, Savannah residents will have the chance to witness the legacy of American legend Arthur Beaumont, thanks to the “Arthur Beaumont, Art of the Sea” exhibit. The collection consists of some of the most iconic World War II U.S. Navy paintings in American history.

The exhibit will open at Savannah’s own Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum on Friday and runs through June 18. “The Irvine Museum in California loaned this exhibit to us,” said Interim Executive Director and Curator Wendy Melton. “Arthur Beaumont was a California artist, and ‘Art of the Sea’ has traveled throughout the country for about four years. The Irvine Museum chose Ships of the Sea as one of only ten museums in America to mount this important collection. Now it’s finally arrived, and we’re really looking forward to presenting it to coastal Georgia and the Lowcountry.”

The opening reception on Friday will be free to the public. “We feel very privileged to present this collection of paintings from the enormity of Arthur Beaumont's work as one of the most celebrated and prolific artists of the U.S. Navy,” said Milton.

“He utilized really vivid and dramatic coloring of the vessels. I feel like they transport you to a certain period in time. You don’t have to know anything about World War II to feel an emotional, transportive effect.”

Credit: Courtesy of UC Irvine Institute and Museum of California Art, Gift of The Irvine Museum

Credit: Courtesy of UC Irvine Institute and Museum of California Art, Gift of The Irvine Museum

Arthur Crabbe was born in Norwich, England, during the 1890s. His artistic passions were instilled within him at a very young age. Acquiring a knack for painting from his mother, at 19 years old, Arthur traveled to Canada to work as a rancher until finally earning enough money to move to San Francisco to study art at the University of California.

He worked as a ranch hand for the Miller and Lux Ranch to continue paying for school. He would go to work at this ranch for a while and even painted some of his experiences there. Eventually, Crabbe uncovered a crime ring of individuals stealing ranch supplies and selling them to a saloon owned by an Italian mafia family. This made him public enemy number one of the crime family, so he changed his last name from Crabbe to Beaumont to help stay hidden.

After leaving the cattle scene and taking some odd jobs here and there, he became a full-time painter, got married, and settled in Los Angeles in the 1930s.

Beaumont would go on to attend other schools, such as the Chouinard Art Institute in California, the Slade School of Art in England, and the Academy of Juliette in Paris to hone his artistic skills further. When his academic tenure was finally complete, he returned home to California. There he became an art teacher at Chouinard from 1926 to 1929 before finally opening his own art studio in downtown Los Angeles. Here he could paint his own works and give classes to other aspiring artists.

Credit: Courtesy of the Laguna Art Museum Collection, Gift of Donald Grant

Credit: Courtesy of the Laguna Art Museum Collection, Gift of Donald Grant

Unfortunately, the timing would not be on his side, as the Great Depression began shortly after the studio’s opening. “It wiped out the art market,” said Beaumont’s youngest son, Geoffrey. “You could not sell a painting to save your soul. Disposable income disappeared, and it was a grave period of time for the United States as we went into the Great Depression.”

During this time, Beaumont continued painting despite the lack of income from the studio. He still produced great works like an altarpiece commission he did for the St.Thomas Church in Point Hope, Alaska.

He also did all the poster paintings for the 1932 Olympic Games, sponsored by the University of Los Angeles. However, one of Beaumont’s most essential works would be done the year prior when he met Captain Percy Foote, a naval officer.

Credit: Courtesy of the Hilbert Museum at Chapman University Permanent Collection, Gift of Drs. James L. and Lynne P. Doti

Credit: Courtesy of the Hilbert Museum at Chapman University Permanent Collection, Gift of Drs. James L. and Lynne P. Doti

The captain was an eager collector of the arts and interested in Beaumont’s work, and commissioned a portrait of himself.

“My dad did not work from photographs ever,” Geoffrey said. “So the captain had to sit there for hours while my dad was doing a portrait, and also studying the personality of the person he was portraying in the portrait.”

Foote was so pleased with the commission’s outcome that he invited Beaumont aboard his ship, the Arkansas, on a routine run. This led to Beaumont’s meeting with Admiral William Leahy, one of the highest-ranking officers of World War II. Leahy loved Beaumont’s work for Foote and requested his own portrait.

After impressing yet another admiral with his marvelous talents, Beaumont was offered a job as an artist for the U.S. Fleet. Going on to paint more paintings about the U.S. Navy than any other artist in history.

IF YOU GO

What: Arthur Beaumont Art of the Sea

Where: Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, 41 Martin Luther King Blvd.

When: Exhibit open through June 18; reception held on Friday at 6 p.m.

Cost: Free

Info: shipsofthesea.org

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum transports visitors into the Naval art of Arthur Beaumont


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