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 Caroline Van Hook Bean  (1879 - 1980)

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Lived/Active: New York/District Of Columbia      Known for: landscape and street scene painting street scene

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Algernon Binyon is primarily known as Caroline Van Hook Bean

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Ad Code: 3
Caroline Van Hook Bean
from Auction House Records.
Fifth Avenue, Flag Day
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Washington D.C. November 1879 – Washington D.C. December 24, 1980

"Of course, as you knew long ago - I am married - since last November," wrote American Caroline van Hook Bean in the summer of 1914 from Veere to one of her classmates of the famous Smith College for women in Massachusetts. "My husband was sent for hurriedly on account of a stroke his father had – so we were married at once just as we were about to announce the engagement!”

In December 1913, the New York Times and The New York Herald payed attention to the marriage, following which the reviewer of the Algemeen Handelsblad sardonically wrote: “In the Society Report we see our painter, the bridegroom's father, appear as ‘Baron Bart J. Blommers, the noted Dutch painter’. After the marriage the young couple will go to Europe ‘to see the bride groom's parents.  Baron Blommers and his wife are arranging to present their daughter-in-law to the Court of Queen Wilhelmina in January, after which the entire family will go to Spain and the Riviera.” We found this piece of American journalism too nice to not mention it, convinced that ‘Bart J. Baron Blommers’ will be the first to laugh.’

Caroline and Bart Johannes Blommers (1879-1942) had met in 1912 in Woodstock at the Summer Art League, the summer school of the New York Art Students League, which was founded in 1906.  Bart Blommers, a son of the famous Hague School painter Bernard Blommers (1845-1914) had studied in Leiden or Delft, but ‘the call of art’ was too strong. Together with his younger brother Pierre, he pursued his career in America.  Caroline described her husband in the said letter as two inches smaller than her, dark as a Spaniard and real Dutch. The whole winter they had worked together with Blommers Sr. in his summer house, which he was not able to leave because of his poor health.  Also, Bart and she skated – “a real Dutch sight”.  They were in Katwijk during the bulb season and made cycling tours through the area. Caroline sent three oil sketches to Smith College and also a watercolor of Katwijk women strolling on a Sunday afternoon. And now they were in the historic town of Veere on the island of Walcheren, which just celebrated 100 years liberation from Napoleon.  For now, they remained in Holland, in winter maybe in Paris or Rome, and after a while or they would return to the United States.  Caroline praised the bells of the Veere town hall and noted: "There are artists everywhere, the natives are quite used to us but the cows follow me through the meadows and stare [...]."

From Veere Caroline and Bart participated in the Domburg Exhibition of 1914, both with one work.  Caroline sent in A Grey Day in Veere (for fl. 200), her husband Bart Landscape (for fl. 100).  Only the local paper, the Middelburgsche Courant, noted their presence: “In Veere there are at present so many painters.  Mrs. Blommers-Bean, B.J. Blommers and Louis Bron each sent in a picture of this small town, meritorious work but not leading to a special attention.”  The Dutch painter and etcher Louis Bron (1884-1959) from 1908 on yearly anchored his sailboat in the harbor of Veere.  He took part in the Domburg exhibition, with Veere Harbor (for fl. 175).
Bart and Caroline's plan to stay longer in the Netherlands as Europe was disrupted by the First World War.  It is not clear if they were back in New York by mid-December 1914, when Blommers Sr. died.  In any case, Caroline was there in April 1915 to participate in an exhibition.

Caroline van Hook Bean grew up in a well-to-do family; her father was a famous ichthyologist. At the age of 14, she was sent for one year to Paris as a promising drawing talent, to get to know the cradle of Impressionism.  She completed her education at Smith College in 1903. Then she took classes at the NY Academy of Design under William M. Chase, and in 1907, she left for Europe to study in England and Germany.  Upon her return in 1908, she moved in with her parents in New York.  She continued to travel frequently to Europe, but also roamed around a lot in America.  Besides Chase and Blommers Sr., John Singer Sargent in London and Harry Thompson in Paris were among her teachers.  Although she liked to concentrate on painting street scenes, she developed especially as a portrait painter.  During her study she also made etchings - she made some of Capen and Dewey House, Smith College -, later she practised lithography.

Her marriage to Bart Blommers lasted until 1918.  Until 1921 she lived in New York, after she returned to Washington.  In 1927, Caroline remarried to Algernon Binyon, an Englishman born in Capri; Bart was remarried in 1920 to his pupil Vivian Shaw Kennedy.

In the few papers and letters by her that are in the archives of Smith College, Caroline is emerging as ‘easy-going’; she is warm, witty and casually, little interested in data, but full of life and artistic talent, and very independent.  She was fascinated by old homes and has renovated a dozen.  Her portraits were very popular, she was never short of orders.  She often participated in exhibitions and organised one-man exhibitions.  Her second marriage, which ended with the death of Binyon in 1941, was very happy.  An illustration of this is the report in the Smith College archive of an article that The Nashville Banner (TN) published in May 1939 on “Caroline (Bean) Binyon who, with her husband, Capt. A.H. Binyon, and Wee Willie Winkle, her Scottie, is having a marvelous time ‘barnstorming the USA’.  They were in New Orleans, Palm Beach or Atlanta nearly all winter and have journeyed north for the summer, stopping in interesting places.  Caroline does portrait drawings in all theses places, and meets delightful people.”

In 1933, Caroline felt like twenty.  When she was 83, she wrote letters like a young girl and looked thirty years younger than she was, and when she was ninety she had a solo exhibition at the Chapellier Galleries in New York.  Under the title "New York City in Wartime", she showed paintings from 1918 and 1919, which remind of the work of Raoul Dufy.  All exhibited works were sold. “Charming and skillful,” wrote The New Yorker in a long column devoted to Caroline.  The reviewer referred to her work, but the observation applies also to Caroline herself. She was a gifted artist of life, made after a thorough training attractive and harmonious work and reached in a happy and long life the age of 101 years.  Her portraits are mostly in private collections and her work can also be seen in various institutions, galleries and museums in the United States.

Submitted by Francisca van Vloten

Francisca van Vloten, ‘Caroline van Hook Bean’, in: A Tender Silence and a Strong Tone: Domburg’s Ladies and Veere’s Maidens, ed. Francisca van Vloten, De Factory: Deventer 2009, 76-79.
The author's sources also include Anthony Hiss, ‘The Talk of the Town: Caroline van Hook Bean’, in: The New Yorker, April 18, 1970, 34.

N.N., ‘Miss Bean marries titled Artist’s Son: Daughter of State Fish Culturist the Bride of Bart J. Blommers. Jr.’, in: The New York Times, Dec. 8, 1913.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Sue Rice,

Caroline Van Hook Bean was born in 1879 in Washington, D.C. She graduated from Smith College in 1903, and studied with John Singer Sargent in London, Bernardus J. Blommers in Holland, and Harry Thompson in Paris.

She lived in New York from 1905-1921. She studied at the St. Louis School of Art, and the National Academy of Design with William Merritt Chase and then returned to Washington in l921, where she had her studio in Georgetown and was married to Algernon H. Binyon.

She died on December 24, 1980 at age 101.

Biography from Spanierman Gallery (retired):
A noted painter, etcher and illustrator, Caroline van Hook Bean was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Dr. Tarleton H. Bean, a renowned icthyologist with the Smithsonian Institution and later director of the New York Aquarium.  After attending Smith College, Bean moved to New York and began to study art at the New York Art Academy, where she was a pupil of William Merritt Chase; among her classmates were George Bellows, William Glackens, and Eugene Speicher.  Bean continued her training at Chase's summer school at Shinnecock, Long Island.  During time spent abroad, Bean received further instruction in Paris (ca. 1893-94), where she studied with Harry Thompson, as well as in Holland, where she was instructed by Bernardus J. Blommers.  In London, Bean received criticism from John Singer Sargent.

During World War I, Bean created a series of images of wartime New York that, similar to the series rendered by Childe Hassam, conveyed the festive look of city skyscrapers hung with the flags of all nations.  After moving from New York to Washington, D.C. in about 1921, Bean received commissions for portraits of many dignitaries, and she also established a business of restoring old Georgetown houses; upon completing work on a house, she would paint an image of it. Bean's characteristic style was informed by the Realism of the Eight and the bright, pure tones and lively brushwork of Impressionism.

Bean was married for the second time to English automotive engineer, Captain Algernon H. Binyon. Throughout her career, she exhibited her work in New York galleries and in many other cities in the United States, including Washington, D.C., Cincinnati, Chicago and Milwaukee. Her professional affiliations included the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, the Society of Washington (D.C.) Artists, the Society of Washington (D.C.) Etchers and the Washington (D.C.) Art Club. She had one-man shows of her critically acclaimed wartime scenes at the Mussmann Galleries in New York (1919) and the Chapellier Galleries in New York (1970).

Bean died in Washington, D.C. on December 24th 1980 at the age of 101. Examples of her work can be found at the Dayton Art Institute and the National Museum of Women Artists in Washington, D.C., as well as in many private collections.


© The essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery. It may not be reproduced without written permission from Spanierman Gallery nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery.

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