Thursday, February 22, 2018

Beall Drawings

"Master Drawings"
Lester Beall at University Gallery
Booth Building
Rochester Institute of Technology

When I was a youngster, my drawings at age twelve featured bulldozers and other Caterpillar tractors.  I sent away to the company to get pictures, and I was rewarded with glossy photos and a letter from Lester Beall encouraging my artwork.  Any kind of encouragement when you are that age means a lot, and I kept his letter, and also kept drawing.  Caterpillar actually published my art in their newsletter.  Only later did I find out that Lester Beall had the concept for a new logo that Caterpillar adopted and used on all of their products.

Lester Beall in the late 1940s

Flash forward to today, and I am now teaching drawing to my students at Rochester Institute of Technology and we are going to see the show at The University Gallery in the Booth Building of drawings by that same Lester Beall who expressed an interest in my artwork so many years ago.
On view is a slew of works on paper from an early period when Beall was in the throes of making fine art as well as fine design.  He is heavily influenced by the abstract expressionism of that time period ( think Jackson Pollock ) and he is also fascinated by the figure drawings of Matisse, among others.

Lester Beall with works on paper

Reading about how these drawings came to R.I.T., I see that the present show was curated by R. Roger Remington and Darrell Chapnick.  I know that Roger Remington wrote a biography of Lester Beall a few years back that traced the history of Beall and his influence on graphic design when it was part of the modernist movement.

Lester Beall 
at University Gallery

There are many fluid figure drawings, some done with ink and brush ( and maybe a finger or two ) and there are a few  pure abstracts, and even a landscape or two in the present show.  In the back of the room is a crate in which all of these drawings were found, and a descriptive sign that lets a visitor know how these drawings came to be exhibited...and it is an interesting story.

Lester Beall 
a graphic designer with a distinct style

Lester Beall, like many other artists is partially self-taught.  He certainly had his eyes opened by great artists and practiced when he could.  He will be remembered mostly for his work as a designer and we are lucky to have many of his works in the design archive in the Wallace Library right here on campus.  Thanks to Roger Remington and Darrell Chapnick for bringing this great art to our attention.

Beall poster design
and CAT logo