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 Frank (Francis) Godwin  (1889 - 1959)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/District Of Columbia      Known for: commercial illustrator-cartoonist, mural, etcher

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Ad Code: 3
Frank Godwin
from Auction House Records.
Girl with bowl standing atop
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Frank Godwin was a prominent painter, magazine illustrator, and advertising artist, who lent his sophisticated talents to the comics for the last 30 years of his life. He contributed to numerous strips in the daily papers. His own creations, "Connie" (1927-1944) and "Rusty Riley" (1948-1959), are among the most highly admired continuity strips in the literature of the comics.

Godwin was the son of an editor for the Washington (D.C.) Star, and began his career in art with his fathers paper at the age of 16. A desire both to perfect his work and broaden his range of opportunity drew him to New York City. There, he studied at the Art Students League. From his late teens he supported himself as a free-lance cartoonist and illustrator. The close companionship and support of the older James Montgomery Flagg, already an established commercial artist, helped him to enter the market. He was soon selling to a large variety of periodicals. His advertising art appeared in virtually all the popular magazines of the time, and he was much sought after to illustrate fiction for such magazines as Colliers, Liberty, and Cosmopolitan.

His illustrations for Winstons popular editions of the classics, in the romantic style of Flagg and Charles Dana Gibson, placed him among the most successful book illustrators of the Twenties and Thirties. He also painted in oils, and his murals for the Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, and the Riverside Yacht Club in Greenwich, Connecticut, are still much admired. He was an active member of the Society of Illustrators for many years, serving for a time as its vice president. He has been elected to its Hall of Fame.

In the early 1920s, Godwin became a staff artist with the Philadelphia Public Ledger, doing covers for the papers Sunday magazine section and illustrating its fiction. His Vignettes of Life, a series of humorous domestic scenes, began in the Ledger in 1924 and was so successful that he was soon in demand for other assignments with the Ledger. He drew Roy Powers, Eagle Scout anonymously for a long time. In 1927, he began his first signed continuity strip, Connie, which debuted on November 13th as a Sunday strip and added dailies on May 13, 1929.

Connie was an exciting, fast-paced adventure strip, liberally laced with humor. It was about one of the new, liberated women, Connie Kurridege, a dauntless lass. In the strips first year, she bested half a dozen villains: an aviatrix, an interior decorator, a secretary, a travel agent, a private detective, and an ace reporter. The resourceful young lady later served a stint as an astronaut in a prolonged science fiction episode. Connie was never carried in many newspapers, however, and folded in 1944.

In 1948, Godwin launched Rusty Riley for King Features, with the dailies written by Rod Reed. It debuted on January 26. The Sundays, written by Godwins brother, Harold, debuted on June 27th. This nostalgic evocation of innocent boyhood, called up a period decades earlier despite the contemporary clothes and automobiles, romanticized its subject in a way already passé; it survived largely because of its handsome art until a few weeks before Godwins death on August 5, 1959.

Godwins elegance of design and meticulous precision of style brought his work to pictorial heights seldom matched in the comics. Never compromising the aesthetic ideals of the illustrator and painter, he employed the same richly textured compositions and painstaking cross-hatching in his comics that he used in book illustrations, giving his work a graphic sophistication that virtually disappeared from the comics with his death.


(Information on the biography above is based on writings from the book, "The Encyclopedia of American Comics", edited by Ron Goulart.)



Biography from Tweed Museum of Art:
Frances (Frank) Godwin
(American, Washington, D.C. 1889 - 1959)
Painted 2 Mountie subjects between 1942-1944

Frank Godwin was born in Washington, D.C. in 1889. Largely self-taught, he began his career as an apprentice on The Washington Star, where his father was the city editor. During a brief period of study at the Art Students League in New York, Godwin was influenced by James Montgomery Flagg, who was famous for his illustrations for WW I posters. Charles Dana Gibson, another illustrator of war posters whose "Gibson girls" were known worldwide, appears to have been another influence on Godwin's style.

By 1908, Godwin's illustrations began to appear in popular magazines of the day, and by 1915 he was established as an illustrator of stories at the magazine "The Judge." In the 1920s, Godwin was hired
by publisher John C. Winston to illustrate a series of classic adventure stories, including Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Robinson Crusoe, King Arthur, The Swiss Family Robinson and Tales from Shakespeare. As the heyday of classic adventure fiction waned, Godwin turned to illustrating newspaper comic strips, primarily "Connie" (1927-1944) and "Rusty Riley" (1945-48).

Around the time Godwin illustrated his two Mountie subjects, he also drew "Wonder Woman" for National Comics. The hallmark of Godwin's work is its graphic richness, which stemmed from his ability to illustrate with both pen and brush in black and white, the inclusion of
realistic scenery, and details of place and time -- the very things that announced his work as "old fashioned" when compared to the new
generation of illustrators producing their relatively minimal drawings
of the 1950s and 60s.





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