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 Frank Pierce French  (1850 - 1933)

About: Frank Pierce French
 

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Lived/Active: New York/New Hampshire      Known for: engraved magazine illustration, portrait and landscape painting

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Ad Code: 4
Frank French
from Auction House Records.
Mission Garden, San Juan Capistrano
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Frank French was born 22 May 1850 in Loudon New Hampshire, son and youngest of ten children of Hiram & Lydia Walcot (Bachelder) French.  When he was age 14, his parents died, which led to the sale of the family farm and to him and his siblings being left on their own.  From the time he was young, he had been interested in art, and finding encouragement from an older sister, planned to become a portraitist. 

He attended school in Laconia, New Hampshire and took odd jobs. By 1870 when he was age 20, he was living in Manchester, New Hampshire. Learning that newspapers were hiring engravers, he took lessons from Henry Herrick, a retired illustrator and engraver*.  At Herrick's suggestion, he went to Boston and worked at the engraving firm of Kilburn and Cross. 

Returning to Manchester, he was hired by John B. Clarke as engraver for his newspaper, Mirror and Farmer. During this time French founded the Manchester Art Association, which had resulted from the influence of an exhibition of paintings by Boston artists to stimulate art interest in Manchester. This Boston show was the first fine art exhibit in the city.

In 1872, French moved to New York City where he worked independently and found engraving work with the American Tract Society engraving reproductions of paintings for the Society's publications.  By the mid 1870s, he had partnered with John G. Southwick, a business association that lasted several years until Southwick took a job as supervisor of illustrations for Harper and Brothers.  By 1880, French was also working for Harper's New Monthly Magazine*, again doing reproductions of paintings.  His major project was the book Home Fairies and Heart Flowers: Twenty Studies of Children's Heads, published in 1887.

In 1889, French was gaining national recognition.  That year he was appointed to the United States Commission for the planning and selection of engravings to be entered in the 1900 Exposition Universelle* in Paris. He received medals in the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago* in 1893, the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo* in 1901, and in 1904 at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition* in Saint Louis, his engraving of Deschamps' Beggar Girl won the gold medal.

In 1921, French entered his first exhibition at the National Academy of Design* with a graphic work in the winter show.  The following spring he was elected to membership, and entered the exhibitions of 1924, 1925 and 1927.

With the advent of photo-mechanical reproduction processes, publications had diminishing need of engravers.  So French left New York and returned to New Hampshire where he lived in Merrimack and devoted himself to oil and watercolor landscape painting and some portraiture and to wood engraving of animal subjects. 

As a portrait painter, he did likenesses of several New Hampshire state officials. In 1925 French was originally commissioned to paint the photograph of Abraham Lincoln in the New Hampshire State House collection. French planned to work with Frank McGlynn, a stage actor and Lincoln impersonator, but the selection commission changed its mind and gave the job to Alexander R. James of Dublin New Hampshire.

Frank French died in 1933 in the Reeds Ferry section of Merrimack, New Hampshire. The Currier Art Gallery's permanent collection in Manchester houses much of the work of Frank French.

Sources:
John Davis, "Frank French", Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design, 1826-1925, (David Dearinger, Editor).
New Hampshire History Blog, Janice Brown, June, 2007

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Frank French is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915

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