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 George Browne  (1918 - 1958)

About: George Browne
 

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Lived/Active: California/Connecticut / Canada      Known for: wildlife and mural painting, museum diorama

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BIOGRAPHY for George Browne
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Birth
1918 (New York City)
 
Death
1958 (Adirondacks, New York)

Lived/Active
California/Connecticut / Canada

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wildlife and mural painting, museum diorama

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Biography from Red Fox Fine Art:
Excerpt from Animal and Sporting Artists in America by F. Turner Reuter, Jr. © 2008:

George Browne was born in New York City on 10 January 1918, the son of artist Belmore Browne (qv). As a boy in Tacoma, WA, and Banff, Alberta, Canada, he showed a strong interest in painting and drawing and none whatsoever in school; according to family members, his poor academic performance may have been exacerbated by dyslexia.

In his early years, Browne, like his father, lost the sight in one eye as the result of a gun accident. His father permitted him to quit school after the eight grade, when the younger Browne was thirteen or fourteen, determined that if the boy wanted to paint, he should make a thorough job of it, the elder Browne ensured that his son spent eight hours a day, six days a week working hard at his art. His free time was filled with hiking trips, shooting expeditions, and related outdoor activities.

By this time the family had moved from Banff to Marin County, CA, and when he was fifteen, he began studying at the California School of Fine Arts. He continued to work with his father throughout this period; after graduating at the age of nineteen, he served as his father's apprentice on the diorama backgrounds at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

During the Second World War he made several attempts to enlist in the Army; Browne's lack of sight in his left eye rendering him unfit for combat. After finally getting into the service, rather ironically by being drafted, he transferred to the Army Air Corps, where he served as a tester of parachutes and other safety equipment. He pioneered the high-altitude, low opening parachute jump, being the first person to survive a parachute jump from above 40,000 feet.

Browne left the armed forces in January of 1946. Other than collaborating with his father on several dioramas for the North American Hall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City before and during the War, he had not yet done any painting in a professional capacity, and he determined to do so now. He painted in California and in Alberta, Canada, for a year. In 1947 he was asked to join an expedition sponsored by the Boston (MA) Academy of Science to climb Denali (Mt. McKinley) in Alaska as an official artist; the artistic results of the climb, done in June of 1947, were twenty sketches and three or four commissioned paintings.

In the late 1940s he established a reputation as a painter of game birds, executing such pictures as Startled Mallards and Canvasbacks Swinging the Channel: Chesapeake Bay (both now in a private collection in Arizona). In 1950 he had his first one-man show, at a prominent gallery in New York City; he made connections with other galleries in the following years. In 1954 he moved from California to Connecticut in order to be closer to galleries in New York City and Boston and to upland game and waterfowl habitats of the Mid-Atlantic states and New England.

During a target-shooting game in the Adirondacks of New York on 15 March 1958 Browne was shot and killed by an inexperienced shooter attempting to clear a jammed pistol.

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:
George Browne (1918-1958)

George Browne was recognized in the mid-1950s as a sporting artist of the first rank, the ascendant star among American wildlife painters of his generation. His oils of waterfowl and upland game birds in flight were compared favorably to the works of Frank Benson and Ogden Pleissner, and his paintings of big game animals, to those of Carl Rungius.

Every painting he completed sold quickly, and his dealers were continually pleading for more of his pictures to satisfy the demands of their customers. Browne was talented and skilled and versatile; and as he was a sportsman who knew his subjects from lifelong experience, his pictures had authenticity. He was, furthermore, dedicated to his craft, a painter who worked constantly and conscientiously to improve his technique. Then, in the spring of 1958, at the age of forty, he was killed in a shooting accident, and a brilliant and most promising career was abruptly ended.

Odd though it may seem, George Browne and his remarkable work were virtually forgotten in the years following his tragic death. As all of his paintings had been sold, dealers had nothing to offer; and the individuals who owned Browne’s works held onto them and passed them on as family heirlooms. He had painted only a few more than 200 pictures in the decade in which he worked as a professional artist. Only rarely did any pictures come on the market; consequently and ironically, because his paintings were so highly regarded by those who owned them, his name was not before the public.

For the first time in thirty-five years people had an opportunity to learn about George Browne and to see reproductions of his paintings when in 1933, Sporting Classics published an informative and insightful article by Tom Davis, which served to reintroduce this remarkable painter and his work. Davis titled his essay "George Browne: the Greatest Wildlife Artist That Most People Never Heard Of." "Those who have heard of Browne, and who know his luminous work," Davis wrote, "amount to a handful of astute dealers and collectors. To a person, they are in unanimous agreement that, had the fates granted Browne a normal lifespan…he would be regarded as one of the few legitimate masters of the wildlife genre."

Davis quotes Francis Lee Jaques, who was certainly a "legitimate master of the wildlife genre. . . .I fear I was a little jealous of George Browne’s work, as I don’t believe I was of any other artist. His work was a breakthrough. It was different – and better."

That’s what we lost when George Browne was killed in 1958.



Biography from Braarud Fine Art:
Born in New York City in 1918, George Browne was the son of the noted artist, mountaineer, and sportsman Belmore Browne, 1880-1954. Though a premature death resulting from a firearms accident at the age of forty cut short his promising career, George Browne is acknowledged by collectors today as one of the century's finest sporting artists and bird painters.

The Browne family moved to Banff, Alberta in George's infancy. George grew up in an environment of art and outdoor adventure, influenced both by his father and by well-known Banff painter Carl Rungius.

In addition to structured art training with his father from an early age, George studied art for four years at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. From 1940-42, he assisted his father in producing background paintings for several large mammal groups at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Browne was married in 1948, and the young couple settled in Seebe, Alberta, midway between Banff and Calgary. He set about establishing a career as a painter of wildlife in oils. Gallery affiliations, commissions and contacts with wealthy sportsmen soon followed. Browne moved his family to Connecticut in the mid-1950s and was well on his way to widespread prominence when his life and career ended by his tragic death in 1958.

The famous wildlife painter Francis Lee Jaques is quoted in a 1993 Sporting Classics article on Browne, " I fear I was a little jealous of George Browne's work, as I don't believe I was of any other artist. His work was a breakthrough."

One of Browne's greatest strengths was his ability to integrate fully developed wildlife images, especially birds, in a convincing way into fully realized natural settings.

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