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Charles Beck (1923 - 2017)
Printmaker Charles Beck was born and raised in Fergus Falls, MN and he returned there to establish himself as an artist after completing military service and graduate school in the 1950s. As the predominant theme of his work was landscape, Beck said that he felt fortunate to live so close to the inspirational woods, fields and farmlands of the region. “Just about anything I’ve done of significance is somehow related to the nature and the land around here,” he stated.
A graduate of Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, Charles took advantage of the G.I. Bill to study art at the University of Iowa. Upon his return home, he went to work as a sign-painter in an old harness shop where there was plenty of room to hang his fine art canvases as well. For a time, he traveled back and forth to the Twin Cities for post-graduate study at the University of Minnesota. There he worked with Cameron Booth, Walter Quirt and Malcolm Myers – and began to experiment with woodcuts. In the 1970s, Beck started working primarily in woodcut prints, which would become the medium for which he gained acclaim. Typically using a piece of soft basswood, he would carve an intricate image in reverse, then coat the wood with ink. After pressing a paper or canvas onto the wood block, the ink would display the first image. If he wanted another color, he would need another block. He would sometimes carve up to six different blocks to create a single image, a process that would require precision in matching the carvings and often mystified his fans as to how he did his work.
Even in his mid-80s, Beck would regularly head out in his pickup to make small paintings on site. “Beck Woodcuts,” a major retrospective of his prints, was assembled in 2000 by the Rourke Art Gallery Museum in Moorhead. The artist was also profiled for public television in a short film called C. Beck.