Frank Ver Beck
(June 1, 1858-July 13, 1933) was an American illustrator known for his comedic drawings of animals.
He was born in Richland Township, Belmont County, Ohio as the son of a shoemaker. He studied art and woodcarving under Mansfield, Ohio artist Robert R. “Railroad” Smith and worked as a wood engraver.
In 1881 or 1882, Ver Beck moved to New York City. There he studied art and became a freelance illustrator for magazines including Scribner’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Collier’s.
In 1894 in Munsey’s Magazine, Harold Payne wrote:
For quaintness of conceit and weirdness of treatment William Francis Ver Beck has no parallel. His specialty is in making animals, and particularly reptiles, to represent human beings in comical situations. He invests crocodiles, turtles, lizards, frogs, and other amphibiae with human attributes, places them in all sorts of ludicrous positions, and carries them through endless laughable experiences. He even descends to the vegetable kingdom for his subjects, and invests cabbages, carrots, and beets with the power of lingual communication. Indeed, Ver Beck might well be designated as the artistic Aesop of the time.
Ver Beck was one of author Stephen Crane’s first friends in New York City. One winter evening Crane and British artist Phil Mayborrowed a tiger skin belonging to Ver Beck and were arrested walking huddled under the skin on Broadway in the early morning hours. They were released but the policeman kept the tiger skin. Also in New York City, in 1895 Ver Beck witnessed the shooting of Solomon Mann by David Hannigan and testified in Hannigan’s trial.
Shortly before World War I, he moved to England. In 1913, he was working in St Ives, Cornwall with his wife, the American-born artist and author Hanna Rion.(1875—1924) Their relationship ended and she remarried in 1921. He died at the age of 75 in Essex.