The Works and Personas of Mark Beard

We encounter artists who create works bigger than themselves, and sometimes, there are those who are much more interesting than the work they create. One such example is Mark Beard, also known as Bruce Sargeant, Hippolyte-Alexandre Michallon, Edith Thayer Cromwell, Brechtholdt Streeruwitz or Peter Coulter. No, you read that right! That’s one person right there, but with 6 different personalities!

From left to right, top to bottom: Mark Beard (b.1956), Bruce Sargeant and model (1898-1938), Hippolyte-Alexandre Michallon (1849-1930), Brechtolt Steeruwitz (1890-1973), Edith Thayer Cromwell (1893-1962), Peter Coulter (b. 1948) (Image credit: John Coulhart)

Very impressive, isn’t it? Not only does he look and dress dramatically different in each persona, each persona has its own individual painting style and detailed biographies. Many artists and writers (bloggers included) take on an alter-ego in their work, but this is a different level altogether!

Mark Beard is an American artist whose works and those of his alter-egos are widely collected by museums, elite gallery circles, salons and individuals alike. According to John Coulthart, Mark Beard refuses to settle with the notion of branding oneself, which involves establishing and sticking to only one style and public image. He is an incredibly accomplished artist, working in multitude of mediums which include bronze sculptures, ceramics, architectural maquettes, oil paintings, graphite and conte drawings, murals and theatre sets. I can imagine why someone would need six alter-egos with a brilliant mind and talent like Mark Beard!

A quick Google Image search reveals that Mark Beard is famously known as his alter-ego Bruce Sargeant (b.1898). Sargeant is Mark Beard’s great gay English uncle who created homoerotic pieces that glorified the male form. One of his very famous works (two latter images shown above) is a mural in Abercrombie & Fitch’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue. Sargeant died in 1938 in a freak wrestling accident.

Hippolyte-Alexandre Michallon (1849-1930) is a French artist who is known for paintings of wild and exotic animals. He moved to England, became Bruce Sargeant’s teacher and privately taught him at his home. Before his death, his former student Edith Thayer Cromwell nursed him and Sargeant designed and created a bronze plaque in memorial and honour of him.

Brechtholdt Streeruwitz (1890-1973) is an Austrian artist who worked in the style of Expressionism, Pop Art and Minimalism. He was taught by Michallon and thus was a colleague of Edith Cromwell and Sargeant. He was a soldier during WWI, and because of an injury, was forced out of the war. He’s married with two children. After an unsuccessful marriage, he lived and died in America.

Edith Thayer Cromwell (1893-1962) is a lesbian American artist who was influenced by the American avant-garde. She paints nudes, still life, wildlife and landscapes in what I believe is largely in the style of Fauvism and Impressionism. Her mother’s premature death turned her into the only child. Michallon was her teacher and friend, and eventually Sargeant became her friend and confidant. She was semi-retired due to a series of heart attacks and painted until she died.

Last but not least, Peter Coulter (b.1948) is an American artist who was taught by both Streeruwitz and Cromwell, and thus his works express influences from both of his teachers. Coulter worked with political elements such as the Holocaust and the American slave trade. Coulter appears to be still alive as I couldn’t find any information of his death, which is confusing because the information I found about him are written in past tense.

Isn’t Mark Beard quite a handful? This guy is crazy! I still find it difficult to wrap my head around the notion of multiple alter-egos whose lives cross and influence each other, which ultimately influences Mark Beard in the end. I wonder how much of each alter-ego’s biography is real, if he dresses up and talks in an accent every time he plays a character and if he will create a new alter-ego when he finds a new painting style to explore and experiment with. I’m fascinated by Sargeant’s subdued, sculptural and statuesque bodies. I like how Sargeant selectively flushes certain parts of the body, especially the joints, as if to suggest tension or stress of the body in perpetual motion. Or maybe the body straining to come alive. It also effectively expresses warmth and intimacy much needed by the petrified men.
I would really like to meet this man! I wouldn’t mind at all if I get to meet his five alter-egos in the process! That will be exciting!

I got my information from these websites. I recommend reading them!:


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