Best known as an allegorical painter, William Holbrook Beard was born in Painesville, Ohio, April 13, 1824. He first began his career as a portrait painter in Ohio, and in 1845 he moved to New York, where his brother, the genre painter James Henry Beard, was established. William Beard first exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1858, and was elected to the National Academy in 1862. He established himself in the Tenth Street Studio and his work, noted for its imagination and originality, became popular. Beard died in New York on February 20, 1900.
The Bear Dance, depicting a rather exclusive party in a forest clearing, is also known as The Bears of Wall Street Celebrating a Drop in the Stock Market, and The Wall Street Jubilee. The painting's extraordinary popularity, however, is due almost entirely to an audience of children, who are delighted by the dancing bears and are free from the concerns of Wall Street.