Strolling along Green-Wood Cemetery’s Atlantic Avenue one may come upon a magnificent cast metal bear perched upon a headstone. One might assume that this was put there during the cemetery’s heyday of grand sculptures and mausoleums in the late 19th and early 20th-centuries, but while this particular grave has been there since 1900, the bear is a more recent addition.
William Holbrook Beard was a painter who studied at the Düsseldorf Academy and later relocated to New York in 1861. He was known for his anthropomorphic portraits of animals performing human activities, as well as his famous painting “Bulls and Bears in the Market,” which helped popularize the association of those two animals with Wall Street.
When Beard was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery after his death, his grave was unmarked for more than 100 years. The absence of a proper memorial was risen by historian Jeffrey Richman to gallery owner Alexander Acevedo, who had previously featured Beard’s work. Acevedo put out a call for donations, which was answered by Colorado sculptor Dan Ostermiller with a work depicting a bear straddling a headstone. It now stands in Green-Wood cemetry.
Know Before You Go
Beard's grave is located closest to the cemetery entrance on 20th Street and Prospect Park West. Make a left on Border Avenue, a left on Jasmine Avenue, then follow Meadow Avenue west until it crosses Atlantic Avenue, where you make another left to see the grave.
The Prospect Park West gate is open until 5pm in the winter and longer (6 or 7pm) in warmer months.