CHARLES BECK (b. 1923 - d. 2017, Fergus Falls, MN) Charles Beck was born in 1923 in Fergus Falls. Beck began drawing in grade school where he would trade his works for candy and marbles. He attended Concordia College in Moorhead in the 1940s where he studied art under Cyrus Running, graduating in 1948 after taking time off to serve as a pilot in the Naval Air Force. Beck continued his education at the University of Iowa where he received his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1950 and then returned to Fergus Falls where he worked as a sign painter.
In 1953 Beck enrolled at the University of Minnesota where he studied under Cameron Booth, Walter Quirt, and Malcolm Myers. It was here that Beck was first introduced to woodcut prints, and he completed his first print The Holy Family. Beck joined the faculty at Fergus Falls Community College (now Minnesota State Community and Technical College or M State) in 1960 where he taught for 27 years. Concordia granted Beck an Honorary Doctorate in 1980, and in 2006 M State honored Beck by naming the new gallery after him.
Throughout his life, Beck’s primary subject was the landscape and nature of Otter Tail County. Instead of an exact representation, he worked to create an interpretation of his own experiences and vision.
THE COLLECTION Poet Timothy Murphy was an admirer and friend of Beck and derived both enjoyment and inspiration from his friend’s artwork. Murphy’s poem Snowgeese references and gives direct attribution to Beck’s iconic landscape of the same name:
Snowgeese for Charles Beck
The flock is whorled like a translucent shell and intricate as the tubing of a horn, its embouchure, the soft foot of a snail lighting on sand, except the sand is corn, chisel sloughed and left to build the soil from which indebted farmers have been torn. I catch one note—a wild, wayfaring cry as snow geese splash into a glacial mere. Framed by moraines under a nacreous sky, they echo in the chambers of my ear. How does an ear rival your artist's eye that sees what I can only hope to hear?
Reproduced images of Beck woodcuts are also featured in most of Murphy’s published collections of poetry. The Timothy Murphy Collection includes twenty-four Beck woodcuts and will remain on semi-permanent loan to The Rourke Art Gallery + Museum.