Cooper Hewitt says...

Lester Thomas Beall was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1903. Shortly after his birth, his family relocated to St. Louis before settling in Chicago. Beall attended the Lane Technical School before undertaking his secondary education at the University of Chicago, where he studied art history, as well as the Art Institute of Chicago. He began his career in design in 1927 and moved to New York in September of 1935. There he opened a studio/office in Manhattan, which he still maintained after moving to Wilton, Connecticut in 1936, where he remained until 1950.

Fine art and photography were essential to Beall’s output throughout his career. Early on he was influenced by the European avant-garde and Bauhaus designers such as Herbert Bayer and Lazlo Maholy-Nagy, and he was seldom without his personal camera. Throughout the 1930s and ‘40s, Beall produced work for a number of notable clients including the Chicago Tribune, TIME, The Art Directors Club of New York, Sterling Engraving, Hiram Walker, and Abbott Laboratories. He created for Colliers magazine a number of promotional covers related to World War II using the silhouetted photographs, dynamic angles and shapes, and bold colors that characterize his work from this period. Between 1937 and 1941 Beall produced his famous posters for the US Government’s Rural Electrification Administration, which featured saturated colors (usually those of the American flag), bold patterns, and photographic silhouettes of everyday Americans, to increase awareness and acceptance of electricity.

In 1950 Beall purchased a farm in Brookfield, Connecticut, and there consolidated his practice. Throughout that decade and the proceeding one, Beall’s office expanded in personnel and clientele, creating corporate identities for concerns such as Caterpillar Tractor, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, and International Paper Company, for which Beall produced a notable graphics standards manual.

Beall died in 1969, and four years later was posthumously inducted into the New York Art Directors Club’s Hall of Fame.