Symbolism in “Bulls and Bears in the Market” by William Holbrook Beard
New York City since its birth has been a center of commerce. Understandably, it is now home to the largest stock exchange in the world. Decisions made in the Financial District, specifically on Wall Street, have and will continue to have ramifications that not only affect New York City and the United States, but the entire world. The sheer volume of securities traded on the floor, combined with their intrinsically risky nature, can be a recipe for disaster. After witnessing the Panic of 1873, artist William Holbrook Beard satirized the stock exchange and its investors through his painting “Bulls and Bears”, using his signature animal motif. Bulls traditionally symbolize aggressive and optimistic investing, while bears symbolize low-risk, pessimistic investing. Beard depicts the powerful energy of the stock market with the bulls and bears battling for dominance. The liveliness of the bulls and bears conveys the passion of investors who are trading fortunes at a moment’s notice. While one bull is depicted walking gloriously, another bull has been slaughtered. While one aggressive investor reaps in profit, another meets his fiscal demise. In another corner a bear is reading a ledger, an image that pokes fun at conservative investors. Through the use of symbolism, Beard conveys the timeless Capitalist spirit that fuels Wall Street.