The Bulls and Bears in the Market

Object Number: 
Oil on linen
Overall: 39 x 61 x 2 in. ( 99.1 x 154.9 x 5.1 cm ) Framed: 50 1/4 × 71 1/4 × 4 1/4 in. (127.6 × 181 × 10.8 cm)
The setting for this picture is Broad Street, New York City, looking north, in front of the New York Stock Exchange which appears at the left; the columned Sub Treasury Building at the corner of Wall and Nassau Streets appears in the distance.
Gallery Label: 
William Holbrook Beard, who worked in New York City from 1859 until his death, earned a reputation as one of America's finest animal painters. Many of his paintings employed animals to mimic and satirize human behavior, thus participating in a tradition dating back to antiquity. In the "Bulls and Bears in the Market," Beard employed bears to symbolize "bearish" (conservative) investors, and bulls to represent "bullish" (aggressive) investors. These came into usage on Wall Street in the late 19th century- "bulls" referred to investors who bought stocks cheap in hope of a rise, and "bears" to those who sold stocks for future delivery, hoping that meanwhile the prices would drop. Beard may have been inspired in part by the stock market crash of 1873, which produced the worst depression in nineteenth-century America. In 1882, an American art critic described the conflict depicted in the Bulls and Bears in the Market: "No recent work of Mr. Beard's is more elaborate, or more plainly shows the resources of his imagination, than the great painting entitled Bulls and Bears in Wall Street. Through this thoroughfare, the financial centre of New York and of the United States, we see a vast crowd of struggling bears and bulls rending each other in a tremendous conflict for the master. They are all in dead earnest; it is evident that they have serious work on hand. But the severity of the battle is relieved by touches of humor, such as a bear tossed in the air or a bull with a tuft of wool on his horns. In a side eddy a bear is seen sitting on the pavement busily examining the hide of a bull he has slaughtered and plundered; in another corner a bear is observed busily engaged in studying his account book. In the foreground a magnificent bull with triumphant mien stands forward as champion, and seems to claim the battle for his comrades. The hue and cry of the Stock Exchange, the vast nervous energy, the terrific passions and the tragedies and successes of that maelstrom of life in the nineteenth century, have never before been suggested with such vividness and power." The setting for this painting is Broad Street, looking north. The New York Stock Exchange occupied the building at the left from 1865 until its demolition in 1901. The current New York Stock Exchange was constructed on the same site in 1903. The columned building on the right, located at the corner of Wall and Nassau Streets, is one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in New York City. It was designed by the firm of Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Davis, who derived their design from the Parthenon. This building served as the U.S. Custom House (1842-1862) and the U.S. Sub-Treasury (1862-1925), before being designated the Federal Hall National Memorial, which commemorates the site of George Washington's inauguration as the first President of the United States (1789).
Credit Line: 
Purchase, Thomas Jefferson Bryan Fund

J. N. Bartfield Art Galleries, New York City

Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group