Frank Besedick was born on October 19, 1913, in Hamilton, Ohio. Besedick was passionate about art since the age of four when he first showed interest in the subject. He was noted for illustrating detailed scenes such as the local railroad yard. As a senior in high school, the Scholastic Magazine awarded him an art scholarship, which permitted him to pursue his passion for art for two years at the Vesper George Art School in Boston, Massachusetts. Following his years in Boston, he studied at the National Academy of Design in New York and later at the Tiffany Foundation in Oyster Bay, New York. Besedick worked for the New York City Federal Art Project for two years from 1938 to 1939, making lithographs, pencil sketches, and etchings of scenes of everyday life in suburban and inner city areas.
During his lifetime, he was a member of the Arts Students League, the Southern Printmaker’s Society, the National Arts Club, and the Society of American Etchers. He was also elected to the Who’s Who in America, an annual collection of biographies on noteworthy people in America. In 1940, he received a fellowship with André Smith’s Research Studio in Maitland, Florida, where he was introduced to an array of media.
The primary medium he is recognized for is watercolor, especially his series titled “A Shadow Falls on Beaverbrook.” As turmoil intensified during World War II, Besedick was drafted into the United States Army; however, his artistic undertakings did not end due to this alteration in his lifestyle. While in the army, his artistic capabilities were recognized, and he became a soldier artist in the Fourth Armored Division. At the conclusion of the war, Besedick returned home to Ohio and worked in both fine art and commercial art fields until his death on March 30, 1987. His works are held in public and private institutions, including the Art Institute of Chicago, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Library of Congress.
Playful children dancing, singing, and frolicking can all be found in Besedick’s Merry-Go-Round, which possibly depicts life in happier times when the worries of The Great Depression did not exist. Perhaps he was reminiscing about a carnival that traveled into his town, or maybe a travelling wagon show. Dating back to the late 1800’s, travelling shows and carnivals were a primary source of entertainment for rural America. Sometimes better known as “tent repertoire companies”, these carnivals and travelling shows presented renditions of well-known stories like Uncle Tom’s Cabin or minstrel shows. Besedick uses minute details to give the viewers a sense of the light-heartedness of the activities taking place in the composition. In the bottom left corner, two young boys, one wearing a crown-like hat and the other with disheveled hair, make a small fire while a young girl curiously observes their mischievous activities. As the boys play, to the right of them is a large, tired horse with a decorative feather headdress on its head, contently resting while exciting activities take place directly behind him. Through the horse’s slightly slumped body gestures and lowered head, it is evident that the heavy load that it bears has caused its fatigue. This animal is the focal point of the composition, for it is the largest figure within the piece and all of the action behind it recedes into the background.
To the right of the horse, two girls dance together as piano music is played on the wagon. A frumpy man assists children as they climb up onto or off the wagon. As the man lifts one child, another on his right appears to be forcibly held back by her mother. The agony in the child’s face shows how desperately she wants to return to the wagon. From what the viewer can see, at least four individuals are already on the wagon with the piano. As a young boy faces the crowd, he waves his toy pistol in the air. Down below, one mother controls her crying child, while another cuddles her small child as she patiently smiles at the whole situation. Receding into the background, a boy in a jersey appears to wave at someone outside the picture. A small cat scampers behind his right leg, just as a small cat in the foreground runs away from the chaotic scene so fast that his hind legs are thrown up in the air. Besedick uses cross-hatching to portray the darker areas, while other areas are conveyed through parallel lines. No background exists, the blank area and low, fading horizon line along the ground allowing this scene to be well-defined. Such a scene makes one wonder: where is the wagon headed, or where has it been?
Kaitlin Costley. "Frank Besedick." Carrollton Collects: Prints from the WPA. Carrollton, GA: Department of Art, University of West Georgia, 2011. Print.
Falk, Peter Hastings, ed. Who Was Who in American Art 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America. Vol. 1. 3 vols. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1999.