Art of the American West

C.A. (Charles A.) Bell

Germany/America/Canada (1894-1976)


Charlie A. Beil was born in Germany in 1894. He made his way to North America by jumping the ship he worked on in Argentina and traveling north. By the mid-1920s, he had worked his way to Montana as an itinerant mule-skinner and cowboy. Although primarily a self-taught artist, he was encouraged by Charlie and Nancy Russell in Great Falls. Russell remained a mentor to Beil and a major influence on his work. Upon Russell’s death, Beil lead Russell’s horse in his funeral.

While working on a guest ranch in Montana in the 1930s, Beil met the influential Brewster family of Banff with whom he would continue to have a close relationship for the rest of his life. He moved to Banff in 1934 and established a studio producing murals, dioramas, and bronze sculptures. Probably the most well known of Beil’s sculptures are the rodeo trophies which he produced for the Calgary Stampede.

Shortly after his arrival in Alberta, Beil worked on one of the most gargantuan public sculpture projects in Canada, the prehistoric park at the Calgary Zoo. The park was originally located on the west end of St. George’s Island and featured life-sized replicas of dinosaurs in natural settings. Although not scientifically accurate, these sculptures provided an opportunity for several generations of young Calgarians to allow their imaginations to run wild, imagining themselves suddenly transported back to prehistoric times.

Beil received the degree of Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) from the University of Calgary in 1968 and remained active as an artist until his death in 1976.