Born in 1883, he was said to have spent much of his working life in London, making use of the studio over Fores Gallery, where AC Havell also worked. For a short time, it is recorded that he lived in Goldsmith Street, Nottingham, and he died in 1915.
John Beer's favourite and most successful paintings were of horses. He worked in oil, water-colour, body colour and gouache to produce paintings full of atmosphere and in such detail that they were often compared to photographs. Beer incorporated many famous racing events into his paintings, including a set of eight pictures of the Derby and single paintings of the Grand National.