Rise to Critical Acclaim: 1932 - 1939.

Mural painted for St. Thomas' Church at Point Hope,

Alaska, 1932

In 1932 Beaumont's first commission showed his versatility as an artist and his mastery of different mediums.

The women of the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles asked him to paint a mural for St. Thomas Church at Point Hope, Alaska. Measuring six by six feet, it depicted Christ and the Doubting Disciple with the words "Be not faithless but believing" The painting earned fame not only for its status as the northernmost mural in the world, but also for its exquisite beauty.

Beaumont's skill as a portrait painter involved him with the Navy. As a civilian, he painted Admiral Frank Schofield, Vice Admiral Thomas T. Craven, Commander Percy Foote and, of course, Vice Admiral William D. Leahy. Leahy was the commander of the cruiser force which tied up in the harbor of San Diego Bay. The first of three portraits Beau painted of Leahy was executed on board the USS Raleigh, with the Vice Admiral in full uniform including gloves and medals. From the first the two men got along well. As Leahy sat for the artist, he said, "Beaumont, why aren't you in the Navy!" He wanted Beau to paint studies of the Fleet. Thinking of the possibilities the Navy would allow him in terms of travel and exposure for his work, Beaumont agreed to join.

Painting a portrait of Captain Percy Foote on USS Arkansas

His commission as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve in the area of Intelligence and Special Service came on August 17, 1933. Beau's first official exhibit of 39 paintings, entitled "Our Glorious Navy" had opened earlier that year in May. The exhibition was held at the Villa Riviera in Long Beach and received positive reviews from the press. As a result, the Biltmore Salon took on the exhibition in October. Viewers and critics alike were mesmerized by the serene beauty of the ships, and the Los Angeles Art Association decided to sponsor the show. Travelling under the auspices of the American Federation of the Arts, the show received national acclaim, making its East Coast debut in the National Gallery, Smithsonian Institution in May of 1934. One critic noted, "Paint, brush and canvas are Beaumont's weapons that give him free reign of every ship. And he is the supreme boss when it comes to keeping the aesthetic log of the U.S. Navy." Before the exhibit returned to California, it also opened in New York, Newport, Rhode Island, Philadelphia, and Chicago with similar success wherever it traveled.

As the show made its circuit, Beau embarked on his first official assignment with the Navy, to sketch the new cruiser USS Portland on its journey through the Panama Canal. The Navy was monitoring  the time it took ships to make the passage. The Japanese were monitoring them as well. Beau was impressed with the Navy's decision to stall in the canal, thus throwing off the Japanese calculations. Every aspect of the operation intrigued Beau. He sketched for hours each day, making notes about colors if he was not painting on the spot so that he could paint accurately when he reached a studio on firm ground.

After observing Fleet exercises in the Caribbean, Beau was ordered to Washington D.C. The Presidential Review of the Fleet was to take place in New York on May 31, 1934. Beau was excited. President Roosevelt would be on board the USS Indianapolis. Beau desperately wanted to be aboard to record the important occasion. He made a telephone request to Admiral Leahy in Washington D.C. Unfortunately, Leahy had already denied so many other people permission, he felt he could not grant Beau's wish. At the last moment however, Beau ran into a close friend, Captain Smeallie, who happened to be the Commanding Officer of the USS Indianapolis. Smeallie gave Beau the requisite orders.

Two days later Beau boarded the USS Indianapolis in New York harbor after some difficulties and delays due to tight security. There he learned that special uniforms were to be worn for the event. All he owned was his Service blue uniform. The thought of being in the wrong uniform caused him chagrin, but there was nothing to be done. As he observed the activity on deck with great interest, he suddenly heard his name over the bullhorn, "The President wishes to see Lieutenant Beaumont."

"I nearly dropped dead!" he said, fearing Roosevelt would reprimand him for being out of uniform. He made his way to where the President was seated. Captain Smeallie presented him to Roosevelt. "Mr. Beaumont," the President said, "I am very happy to meet you. I do appreciate that painting so much." He was referring to Beau's watercolor of the USS Indianapolis and the President's schooner, Amberjack, which Captain Smeallie had presented to the President.

The widespread exposure of the show "Our Glorious Navy" brought Beaumont recognition. His ship portraits became very much in demand for newspapers and periodicals. Beaumont paintings were reproduced in the Los Angeles Evening Herald and Express, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The San Francisco Chronicle. In October 1934, the Chicago Sunday Tribune did a full page color layout of Heavy Weather The USS Oklahoma, and Majesty, The USS Maryland. Beau also completed sketches and comments for a layout in Cosmopolitan Magazine. All of these commissions kept him very busy.

What made his pictures so successful was his ability to render the ships accurately. "I've had to be as much historian as painter," he said. "I've got a whole Navy full of critics to contend with...men who are ready to jump down my throat if I miss a detail on a ship they've sailed. Accuracy is very important!"

Although Beau enjoyed his assignments with the Navy, and he loved to paint the Fleet, he grew disillusioned with the notion that the Navy owned the works he produced. He also became disenchanted with Roosevelt's W.P.A. programs, which encouraged artists to work on government projects during the Depression. The idea that government would specify what the artist should depict conflicted with Beau's staunch advocacy of artistic freedom. This controversial problem prompted him to resign from the Navy Reserve in December of 1934. Resigning, however, had little effect on his ability to portray or travel on Navy vessels.

Beau opened a new studio in the tower of the Pacific Coast Club in Long Beach, where panoramic views from the penthouse "crow's nest" inspired his art. He could monitor harbor activity and take his art students down to paint en plein air at an opportune moment. He renewed associations with the realist and impressionist painters he had known in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Joining  many art groups including the Laguna Beach Art Association, the California Water Color Society, and the Academy of Western Painters, to name a few.

Beau, the plein air artist

He entered many shows, often at the Long Beach Art Association (where he served as president for two terms), at the Ebell Club salon and at many California State Fairs. Paintings like the one entitled Harbour Siesta were entered in many competitions. Reviewing the California Art Club's annual show in 1936, one critic wrote about a non-naval work: "The first prize winner in this division (watercolor), comes near to being the best piece in the entire exhibition, regardless of medium. It is Arthur Beaumont's Gypsy Carnival, among the top-notch things this aquarellist has shown.

When the jury for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition was selected, Beau was appointed chairman. The group included many artist friends like Millard Sheets, Katherine Leighton and Jean Mannheim, all judges as well as participants. Beau took two prizes at this exposition. He also won the purchase prize in the Clearwater Junior High School competition for the watercolor, Anchors Aweigh.