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 Francis (Frank) Golden  (1916 - 2008)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: plein-aire painting, magazine illustration-field and stream

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Frank Golden is primarily known as Francis (Frank) Golden

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Frank Golden
An example of work by Frank Golden
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Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.:
Francis Golden (1916-2008):

Francis (“Frank”) Golden was born in 1916 in Adams, Massachusetts and studied at Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston (graduated, 1939). In that year he traveled with a group of artists who had joined an artist’s union. Golden settled in Chicago, moved to New York, then Connecticut and finally to Massachusetts.

Golden has spent his life painting en plein aire, creating outdoor paintings in watercolor that editors of various magazines quickly bought and used as illustrations. “I became known as an illustrator,” he said in 1999, “but my work is not illustrative! I’m a painter who paints because he has to paint in order to stay sane!” Nevertheless, his watercolors became some of the most popular images in sports magazines and he by 1974 he was highly respected as a wildlife and sporting scene painter probably because with enthusiasm and gusto he paints what he knows well with competence and virility.

Golden is a knowledgeable, versatile, skilled outdoorsman who has fly-fished streams, deep-sea fished, sailed in the roughest waters and hunted in the most remote areas throughout the world. He can tell someone all there is to know about swans, Atlantic Salmon, White Tail deer, squirrels, ducks and beagles. He profoundly discerns auto racing, air flight and yachting. He is a tenor in a barbershop quartet, bakes apples pies gourmets envy and is considered “a macho Renaissance man” by those who know him well.

In 1939, Golden lived in New York City to paint murals and the background on Salvador Dali’s "The Dream of Venus" for the World’s Fair. In 1940, he was a free-lance artist who earned a good salary painting posters, and “pots and pan” for J.C. Penney’s and his “big break” came in 1948 when he was chose to illustrate for Collier’s.

Because he was able to see and comprehend natural phenomena and human and animal behavior, the artist spontaneously created watercolors that he viewed in nature with certainty and clarity. He transcribed with ease the oscillating scenes he viewed and because of this ability, from 1948-1978, Golden’s painting became illustrations for Saturday Evening Post and his sporting scene subjects were popular in Sports Illustrated (and was voted one of its top 10 artists of all time), Sports Afield, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Audubon, Collier’s and other prestigious magazines.

“I love the medium of watercolor! It allows me to paint loose, fast and smooth without hesitation and that is what creates action and the illusion of movement,” the artist admits.

Zack Taylor observed in Sports Afield, “He sees and uses colors no other artist sees…[His] leaping fish flair correctly in all proportions down to the arc in the angler’s rod,” and that talent has won Golden awards from the Society of Illustrators and the Art Director’s Club, but Golden admits, “I hate to waste time exhibiting when I can be painting, and I reject as silly juried shows.”

In 1961, Golden’s "Summer Race" was Time magazines announcement illustration for a new magazine, Sports Illustrated. Golden was hired by Sports Illustrated to paint hunting of upland birds and soon he was illustrating experience-oriented stories because editors consider the artist a “storyteller” in paint. He was chosen to paint the golfing days of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, took them fishing for roosterfish in the Gulf of California with Jon Tarantino, and showed them the secrets of Johnny Unitas’ forward passes!

In 1978, Golden left the illustration world to paint at his easel full time. Many enthusiasts of the artist’s work marvel at the golden touch of this artist and compare him unfairly with Ogden Pleissner. Golden seems to have an uncanny ability to capture fluidly all of nature in paint, while at the same time, he expresses the emotional impact of a scene with in a realistic flair.

Harry Bruse declared in 1996 in the Atlantic Salmon Journal, “What does this Connecticut watercolorist bring to his work? Strength, control, imagination, impressionism, realism, precision, care, speed – and an unmistakable whiff of the outdoors. That’s all!” His paintings of Fly Fishing Along the Metapedia, Quebec; Fishing in the Idaho Countryside; Bonefishing the Florida Flats; Fishing for Stripers; Winter Fishing in Vermont; Early Morning Trout Fishing; Duck Hunting Along the Mississippi Delt; Skiing in Stratton, Vermont and those of yachts, schooners and of many Fishing Tournament views in Florida have endeared Golden to thousands of sporting enthusiasts who have either seen articles or illustrations of his agile, colorful, fluid watercolors.

In 2000, Pierce Galleries, Inc. of Hingham, MA became Golden’s exclusive agent and held an exhibition of his watercolors in May-August.

Francis Golden is an extraordinary artist who can paint anything well. His well-deserved fame as a sports illustrator is well deserved, but he can paint so much more with equal verve. He has been influenced by the work of Sargent and by Japanese paintings and prints that predate 1890. He has painted nature and sporting events throughout the world and he is recognized as one of American’s most distinguished watercolorists.

Francis Golden died in 2008 in Massachusetts.

Bibliography:
Patricia Jobe Pierce, “A Golden Art Opportunity,” The Inquirer and Mirror Nantucket, August 2000; Harry Bruce, “Francis Golden,” Atlantic Salmon Journal, Volume 45, #1, Spring 1996, pp. 20-25 (and front cover); Martha Hill, “That Golden Touch,” Volume 2, Issue 5, September-October 1983, pp. 46-55; “What the Guide Sees,” Gray’s Sporting Journal, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp. 56-57 (and front cover).

Submitted by Patricia Jobe Pierce, historian

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:
Born in 1916, in the mill town of Adams, Massachusetts, Frances Golden began painting at the age of eight.  The town couldn’t support an art store, so he had to make due with Benjamin Moore paints and hardware-store brushes. Golden attended a good high school, unfortunately it offered no art classes.  He says, “I started out painting landscapes of the Berkshire Mountains and their colorful fall foilage.”

Frank began his formal training at the School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston where he polished his self-taught style.  He then had the opportunity to see what the top watercolorists of the day were doing which compelled him to move in that direction.  Still, it would take some time before he would find his niche. In 1939 Golden graduated from Boston.

That same year the World’s Fair was starting in New York City.  Because he had joined a local artists union, he was able to move and get a job with the fair.   “As a matter of fact,” he says “I painted backgrounds for Salvador Dali on ‘The Dream of Venus.’ It was a lot of fun, a good way for a young guy to get a start.”  Golden was far from becoming a surrealist though.

Next, he worked as a freelance artist painting pots and pans for Sears and Roebuck. He also worked for the JC Penny company doing advertising posters.   During those days there was not a steady stream of jobs for Golden.   His break came in 1946, when he landed a commission illustrating his first magazine cover for Colliers.

Commissions followed for his watercolors from The Saturday Evening Post, Sports Illustrated, Audubon, Sports Afield and Gray’s Sporting Journal. The magazine’s editors liked Golden because he was an artist and sportsman.  By now his love affair with fly-fishing had blossomed.

Golden has a flair for telling a story.  He is very aware of his surrounding and has what some call a casual, impulsive style.  His paintings evoke feelings of action and ground us in understanding for that “sense of place.” “Watercolor is a spontaneous medium,” he says. “It’s loose and fast. If the first stroke doesn’t do it, you can get it done with the second. It just sparkles, if it’s done right.”

Very interestingly enough, Golden paints from black and white photographs.  He says, “Kodachrome pushes me into what colors to pick. I use my imagination a lot more if I stay away for color film.” The photos provide ideas to tell the story once he gets home.

Today, Frank Golden continues to make art at his home in Massachusetts. He has collected awards and citations from the Society of Illustrators and the Art Directors Club, and his watercolors hang in galleries and private collections across the continent.


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