An important American impressionist, Reynolds Beal was encouraged early on by his younger brother, noted artist Gifford Beal, to study art abroad. Once Reynolds completed his education from Cornell University in naval architecture, and being from a rather wealthy family, he struck out for Europe, where he informally viewed as much art as he could, primarily in Madrid. Once stoked, his lifelong fire for painting never waned.
Beal's formal art education began in 1890 under William Merit Chase in his famous Long Island school. Although similar, Beal's technic is more subdued in application and more vivid in coloration than that chase is known for. Inevitably, Beal's nautical education led him to paint primarily ships and waterways. His individual style broadened from early technical portraiture to the surreal impressionist tableaus of broad, sweeping coastal vistas, most often possessing ships as distant subjects.
Works by Beal show the various regions he visited over his life. Owning a residence in Provincetown, Rhode Island, northeast coast scenes dominate his output up to 1919. He then began traveling the world more extensively. Occasionally accompanied by Childe Hassam, Ernest Lawson, H. Dudley Murphy and Henry Ward Munger, Beal painted scenes of the Caribbean, Central America, Portugal and the American west coast. He is widely known for a series of circus paintings he produced in the 1910s and 1920s. His charming, colorful depictions are actively sought by collectors of American art.