|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|William Franklin Draper, born in Hopedale, Massachusetts, became one of
America's more noted combat and portraits artists, who depicted many of
the country's wealthiest and most prominent individuals. His portrait
of John F. Kennedy hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington
DC., and in 1999, he received the Gold Medal from the National Portrait
Society, its highest honor.|
His father was Clare H. Draper and
his mother Mathilda Engamn Draper. He first studied to be a
concert pianist for several years. In the end he chose painting as a
His art training began at Pomfret School in
Connecticut and Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
From there he went on to The National Academy of Design in New York,
and the Cape Art School in Massachusetts where he studied with Henry
Henche. He continued his instruction abroad in Spain as well as
at the Grand Chaumiere, Paris, France. In 1937 he studied
sculpture with George Demetrius, a Boston sculptor, and the following
year was under the instruction of illustrator Jon Corbino at the Art
Students League in New York.
Draper was commissioned as a
Lieutenant JG in the Naval Reserve in June 1942. His first assignment
was with the Anti-Submarine Warfare Unit in Boston. He transferred to
the Art Section in Washington, DC, and shortly thereafter was sent to
Alaska where he spent over five months in the Aleutian Island Chain
painting a series of 42 oils including Kodiak, Dutch Harbor, Umnak,
Adak and Amchitka. He was present at the initial occupation, and also
the Japanese attack on Amchitka Island. He depicted the attack
with bombs bursting and shells flying within close range of his
foxhole. In making this series of paintings, he ran into
difficulties peculiar to the climate of the Aleutians, such as
eccentric winds blowing his canvas into the air like a kite, and
conditions of arctic weather that made painting only possible by
wearing gloves to keep his hands from freezing.
After his return
from Alaska, he was designated to paint the portrait of Rear Admiral J.
R. Beardal, the Superintendent of the Naval Academy. Upon
completion of the portrait, he was assigned to the Pacific where he
painted various naval activities at Noumea and other bases. He
was commissioned to paint the portraits of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz
and Admiral William F. Halsey.
Draper also landed with the second wave of marines at Bougainville. After Bougainville he was assigned duty on the USS Yorktown, an Essex-class carrie, and painted a series of works on the first air attack on Palau. He covered the landings at Hollandia and the air strike on Truk.
Draper covered the invasion of Saipan and Guam aboard the USS Tennessee,
depicting the powerful destruction that hit these islands. While
he was aboard, the Tennessee was hit three times. He landed, and
remained, on Saipan for eighteen days, recording the bitter struggle
and eventual success of this action. At Guam, he landed with the
assault troops under heavy enemy fire.
For his services in the
Pacific, Draper was awarded the Bronze Star. He left the service
in October 1945 with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He
returned to his career as a painter, becoming one of the premiere
portrait painters in America. Some of his subjects included John F.
Kennedy (1962), the Shah of Iran (1967), art collector Paul Mellon,
1974, author James Michener (1979) and Richard M. Nixon (1981).
paintings may be found at the National Gallery of Art, National
Portrait Gallery, and the Navy Art Collection, all in Washington
D.C. The Navy Art Collection is at the Washington Navy Yard, Navy
Art Gallery, Building 67.
He was a member of the Century, Harvard, Knickerbocker,and Lotus Clubs in New York, where he lived most of his life.
additional information and corrections courtesy of his daughter Margaret Draper.
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