North winds still blow inland to Thorpe-St. Andrew, England, where this adventurous maritime artist, Arthur Edwin Crabbe, was born on March 25, 1890. Arthur was the fourth of five children born to Moses Samuel Crabbe and Sarah Jane Belderson. Moses, a senior medical attendant, served with the British Military in India for 17 years. His wife, a trained nurse, was expert in fine sewing and embroidery. With the advantage of extra income from the sale of Sarah's popular crafts, Sarah encouraged her children to draw and to paint. Family lore recorded that Arthur sketched his first rudimentary fishing schooner at Yarmouth at the age of four. However, the oldest painting remaining in the family collection today depicts a railway scene near their home in England, painted in 1906 when Arthur was sixteen years old.
Educated at home by a governess/tutor until he was ten years old, Arthur entered the Holt School, aspiring to become an architect. He dreamt of building castles inspire by those nestled in the English countryside. However, the mathematics required in his study of architecture was not his forte as he was not naturally gifted in math. His aspirations evolved and he determined to study art instead. In his senior year, Arthur would join a paramilitary Army Reserve cavalry corp. unit... In short order he was an accomplished horseman, a talent that would serve him well in the years to come. He graduated from Holt school in 1908, with a baccalaureate degree and a yearning to seek adventure in the New World.
Enticed by a job offer on a ranch in Saskatchewan, Arthur and his friend, George Barclay Stone, embarked in Liverpool on a Canadian Pacific liner bound for Quebec. Dressed in their English tweeds, Arthur and George then boarded a train in Quebec City and headed west. Humboldt, was the small town closest to the Cross ranch. Colonel Cross was an officer with whom Arthur’s father had served in India. He was a stern but fair taskmaster, and it was not long before Arthur and George traded their jodhpurs and riding boots for cowboy gear and settled into the routine on the ranch.
Ranch life was exhilarating. Arthur's distinctive accent and keen wit amused the other ranch hands, and he quickly made friends. He passed his days riding the range and performing the chores required by cattle-raising. The expansive prairie scenery left an imprint on his earliest works of art. He sketched all aspects of his life on the ranch and this experience was embedded in his paintings into the 1920s and early 1930s. The only negative he encountered in his life on the ranch was the dark frigid winter. The persistent cold weather discouraged Arthur from extending his stay in Canada.
In 1909, after almost a year in Saskatchewan, Arthur chose to head south for the sunny climes of California, where his older brother Will was an engineering student at UC Berkeley. . By this time Arthur was convinced he wanted to pursue the study art. With the help of his brother’s friends at the University, he enrolled in the University of California Berkeley’s Mark Hopkins’s School of Art located on the site of the former Mark Hopkins mansion, a structure which had been destroyed in the great earthquake and fire of 1906. Arthur commuted daily by ferryboat from Oakland to San Francisco, and in addition to his classes in art, he pursued odd jobs in the City in order to pay his expenses.
Further ranch adventures lay ahead when he decided he needed to earn additional funds for his tuition. In the summer of 1910, Arthur found employment working on a ranch near Klamath Falls, Oregon. On the Fourth of July Arthur fell ill after drinking some tainted water while en route to a holiday rodeo. Examined by a local doctor, he was diagnosed with the dreaded typhoid fever. There were no hospitals in the vicinity, and Arthur was quarantined in a hospice nearby with an old Indian woman was assigned to look after him. In those early years, few people survived typhoid fever. While he was isolated in quarantine, he received little attention except for an occasional visit from the physician. After several weeks of isolation, with little treatment and no improvement in his condition, he was certain that he would die if he did not escape. He summoned his strength and sneaked out of the hospice in the middle of the night. He walked towards town, finding the effort to be exhausting. All of his money had been stolen while he was in the hospice, and he was penniless. In a stroke of good luck, a sympathetic German settler and his family took pity on him and nursed him back to good health. After a few weeks he had regained his strength and he set out to return to his brother and his family in California.
Arthur traveled up to the American River in the High Sierra Mountains, in search of his brother. Will had graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and with a degree in electrical engineering, and he had been hired by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company to supervise a new power plant on the American river. Will found a job for Arthur, and Arthur worked at the PG&E for nearly a year. In 1912 Arthur was offered an attractive supervisory job on the vast Miller & Lux ranch in the San Joaquin Valley. His cowboy skills earned him the nickname "Bronco Pete" and it was not long before he advanced to the position of assistant superintendent of the Eastside Ranch near Firebaugh, California. The Central Valley of California was relatively untamed in those days, and "Bronco Pete" soon uncovered a clandestine cattle rustling conspiracy lead by the notorious Perini brothers. He informed the local sheriff that the Perini's were stealing cattle from Miller & Lux, and two of the Perini brothers were arrested. Subsequently Arthur testified against them and they were convicted and sent to prison. In retaliation, the Perini family declared a vendetta against "Bronco Pete". Cousins of the jailed Perini brothers physically assaulted Arthur, fracturing his skull, breaking several ribs and causing a severe and permanent loss of hearing in his left ear. After surgery in San Francisco, Arthur returned to the ranch to recuperate. On several occasions shots were fired at him, prompting the sympathetic sheriff to advise Arthur” to get out of town and change your name.”
Although the particulars of his whereabouts during this period are not well defined, it is known that in 1915 "Bronco Pete" moved south to Los Angeles and changed his name, hoping that it would be more difficult for his assailants to track him down. Initially he chose the name Arthur Beaumont-Crabbe. In subsequent years, he shortened his name to Arthur Edwaine Beaumont, a name he would retain for the rest of his career.
In 1915, while working an odd job as a construction worker in Los Angeles, he met the young lady that he would subsequently marry. He fell in love with the beautiful Dorothy Dean, whose father was the General Manager of the Bible Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles. After a four year courtship, Arthur and Dorothy were married on April 4, 1919. By then Beau had obtained a better paying job working in the port of San Pedro, It was not long before Beau would make his first sketches and paintings of local harbor scenes. Dated 1916, a single miniature painting of a merchant ship underway remains today, marking Beau’s first effort at painting a ship. In subsequent years, he would become one of the most prolific maritime painters in the US.
In 1917, Beau opened his first commercial art studio in Los Angeles. From that date onward, he focused on his career exclusively as a professional artist. Success was neither automatic nor immediate. He recalled, "After one month on the job, I had only made five dollars, not even enough to pay one month's rent!" Beau persisted, and in the next few years he was able to make a proper living combining commercial commissions with portraiture.