But he was driven to a front-ranking position
He also knew how to handle the pen
A mysterious I-don’t-know-what
A hope of Swedish classic painting
“Wounded in the Great War he becomes deaf and a misanthropist”
Reality and dream, from impressionism to cubism
A superb blue ballerina
Two brothers die at the front
“The friends of Montparnasse”
But regains the favours of the critics
The French belief in moderation
text by Robert Amberlin
Dick Beer was a cosmopolitan almost out of genetic necessity. The Beer were Swedes, but only since 1822 when the German Johan Adolf Beer is engaged as first violonist at the Royal Court Orchestra in Stockholm (which he ended by directing). The latter (or his German father) had converted to Lutheranism as to be better accepted in bourgeois and aristocratic circles dominated by anti-Semitism. It is probable that Johan Adolf Beer was a member of the influent Beer family of Berlin (where Johan Adolf died). The Prussian capital had seen a steady flow of Beer bankers and musicians during three centuries. Amalie Beer (1767-1854) held there a reputed intellectual salon, she also was the mother of the writer Michael Beer and of the composer Giacomo Meyerbeer. The Swedish branch maintains these family traditions: the eldest son Adolf becomes a businessman in view in the capital and frequents the court of king Charles XV. The horse and watercolour painter John Beer, Dick’s father, belongs to the third generation on Swedish soil and makes an artistic career in the United States, Imperial Russia (where his brother Hugo was a businessman) and England. A specialist of horse races, a refined aquarellist, mundane, John Beer is considered one of the most sought after horse illustrators of the Victorian age (Illustrated London News, The Graphic, Black and White, and many others). Counting with the favours of the prince of Wales, Dick Beer’s father had a brilliant social life. Oscar Wilde, James McNeill Whistler and Caruso were among the habitués in the Beer home in London.
An orphan at 14
It’s to this bohemian but also snobbish world that Dick is born. He is only fourteen when his father dies unexpectedly and the year after his mother Dorothea, also with roots in Sweden, dies in her turn. He has then to return to Sweden, in the custody of his uncles and paternal grand-mother in Stockholm. He seems not to have been totally accepted, placed with a relative, the dean Laurell in the small town of Segerstad. But very soon, thanks to the training given him by his father (sketching and drawing, watercolour and oil techniques), he enters the most prestigious of private painting school in the Swedish capital (Ahltins). In 1910, four years after his father’s death, he is admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. But already in 1912, he leaves the Academy without waiting for a diploma. Too academic ! He travels to Paris, the capital of arts. He rents a small flat rue Vercingétorix behind Montparnasse. Monsieur Berg, the director of a Swedish gym in Paris, friend to the Beer family and a small art collector, introduces him to some artistic circles.