A reluctant graduate of Princeton University, artist Gifford Beal only completed his degree at the request of his father, and then carried on with his formal art training.
He was the son of landscape painter William Reynolds Beal, and studied with William Merritt Chase at the age of thirteen. He followed Chase to New York where he continued studying under him for another ten years. By 1896 he agreed to enter into Princeton, and upon graduating he returned to New York City and took up classes at the Art Students League under Frank Vincent DuMond and Henry Ward Ranger.
By 1914 Beal was elected to be the President of the Art Students League, and remained in the post longer than any other artist, until 1929. During this time he continued to paint and travel, but was fundamentally a permanent resident of New York. His subject matter included marine scenes, garden parties, landscapes, street scenes, flowers, the Hudson River Valley and even circuses, though he would paint watercolor scenes from Puerto Rico, the Bahamas and even West Africa as well. Such a diversity of subjects allowed him to work in no particular school or style, though the influences of several of his friends can be seen in his work.
His mentor, William Merritt Chase, provided the strongest influences, while close friend Childe Hassam would also inspire Beal's technique. His palette would frequently accommodate his subject matter, but his brushwork would always remain strongly Impressionistic.
He exhibited around the world and his paintings are in many private and public collections including the National Academy of Design Museum in New York and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.