Skip to main content

Biographical Note | A Finding Aid to the Paul Bransom papers, 1862-1985, bulk 1904-1979 | Digitized Collection

Paul Bransom papers, 1862-1985, bulk 1904-1979

Biographical Note

Wildlife illustrator, painter, and cartoonist Paul Bransom was born in 1885 in Washington, D.C., and grew up sketching animals in his yard and at the National Zoo. He began work as a draftsman for the U.S. Patent Office at age 13, and went on to produce technical drawings for the Southern Railroad Co. and General Electric. He moved to New York City in 1903 and worked for the
New York Evening Journal
from 1904 to 1907, where he produced the comic "News from Bugville" and other cartoons. During this time, he befriended several New York artists in the cartoon trade, including James Swinnerton, Charles Sarka, T.S. Sullivant, Walt Kuhn, Rudy Dirks, and Gus Mager. He was a member of the Kit Kat Club and joined in their sketch classes and annual skelters. He sketched frequently at the New York Zoological Park, and was eventually invited by the director to use a room in the lion house as his studio. He married Grace Bond, an actress, in 1906.
Bransom's break as an illustrator came from art editor George Horace Lorimer of the
Saturday Evening Post
, who bought several of his drawings for Post covers around 1907. Bransom began illustrating animal stories regularly in magazines such as
Delineator
,
Country Gentleman
,
An American Boy
,
Good Housekeeping
, and
Ladies Home Journal
. In 1912, he illustrated a special edition Jack London's
Call of the Wild
, and soon after that, the first illustrated edition of
The Wind in the Willows
by Kenneth Grahame. During his career, Bransom illustrated 45 books and was a regular contributor to 35 magazines, illustrating works by popular writers such as Albert Payson Terhune, J. Frank Dobie, and Emma-Lindsay Squier. He also created animal scenes for advertisements.
In 1917, Bransom built a studio on Canada Lake, NY, in the Adirondacks and he and his wife split their time between the Canada Lake home and a winter apartment on 67th Street in New York City. In 1949, he bought a second summer home near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in what is now the Grand Teton National Forest. In Wyoming, Bransom hosted artist friends and taught outdoor classes for the Teton Artists Associated until 1962, when his health forced him from the high altitudes back to Canada Lake, NY.
Bransom held his first solo exhibition in 1925 at Arden Gallery in New York City, and had at least 18 solo exhibitions around the country throughout his life, including at the Warren E. Cox Gallery (1929), Charles Scribner's Gallery (1935), the New York Zoological Park (1942), the Society of Illustrators (1942), the Denver Museum (1950), and the Woodmere Gallery in Philadelphia (1963). He often exhibited in the annual group exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists, a group he co-founded in 1960 and served as its second president, from 1968 until his death. Bransom was also a member of the American Watercolor Society, the American Artists' Professional League, the Salmagundi Club, the Dutch Treat Club, and the Boone and Crockett Club. In 1974 Bransom was granted an honorary Doctor of Art degree from Weber State College in Ogden, Utah. In 1975 he won the Benjamin West Clinedinst Memorial Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Painting.
Paul Bransom died in 1979 at the age of 94.