In this ongoing series for Fine Art Today, we take a longer look at the history and features of a soon-to-be-available artwork of note. This week: James Carroll Beckwith, “The Awakening.”
The son of a prominent wholesale grocer, James Carroll Beckwith (1852-1917) — or Carroll Beckwith, as he preferred to be known, was a well-respected American landscape, portrait, and genre painter hailing from Hannibal, Missouri. After the 1871 Chicago fire, Beckwith would pursue his artistry full-time, studying first at the Chicago Academy of Design then traveling to New York to study at the National Academy of Design before finally making his way to Paris, where he trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. It was in Paris that Beckwith cultivated a lifelong friendship with fellow student John Singer Sargent, with whom he assisted in painting the ceiling decorations for the Palais du Luxembourg.
Traveling back to New York in 1878, Beckwith concentrated his artistic vision on portraiture, genre, landscape, and figure studies, but he also remained fascinated by decorative design, which led to his commission to paint murals for the Liberal Arts Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
Throughout his career, Beckwith received numerous honors, including awards for his portraiture at the 1887 Paris Salon and medals at the Atlanta and Saint Louis expositions, and a gold medal at Charleston in 1902. A staunch supporter of American artists, Beckwith was known for his generosity through the Free Art League and Artists Fund Society of New York.

A beautiful Beckwith original will feature in Susanin’s Auctioneers & Appraisers October 24 sale in Chicago. Titled “The Awakening,” the large painting displays a nude female subject facing away from the viewer. She brings her knees towards her chest as she adjusts or prepares to remove her sandal. The spatial context of the piece is indistinct, with forms that appear like clouds taking shape in the upper left of the canvas. Further, the dark, undefined background behind the sitter allows her form to separate from the surface, enhancing her three-dimensionality and adding a slight sense of drama to the picture. Auction estimates are between $25,000 and $30,000.
To view the full catalogue, visit Susanin’s Auctioneers & Appraisers.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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