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 John Gannam  (1907 - 1965)

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Lived/Active: New York/Connecticut / Lebanon      Known for: illustrator, genre-street, interiors

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Ad Code: 3
John Gannam
from Auction House Records.
Man Kissing Woman's Hand
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
John Gannam, illustrator, painter, watercolor specialist, engraver was born in the country of Lebanon in 1897. He spent his early years in Chicago, and at the age of fourteen when his father died, he was forced to leave school to work and became the sole source of income for his family.

One of his early lines of work was as a messenger boy in an engraving studio where he first began his artistic training. After a few years of closely observing artists at work he taught himself to be an artist "like the men who did layouts, lettering, drawings for engravings." He reached his goal when in 1926 he moved to Detroit for four years where he worked in an art studio. He went to New York in 1930 and quickly found employment at Woman's Home Companion and later Cosmopolitan and Ladies' Home Journal.

His illustrations were in high demand and were dome almost exclusively in watercolor, although he was known to work in other mediums. With these commissions in hand other magazines soon recognized his work and he became sought after as an illustrator. Some of his noteworthy illustrations include campaigns of: Pacific Mills, Ipana and St. Mary's Blankets. Gannam was an artist's artist and was as immensely popular "to his fellow illustrators" as he was with the public. He was known as a perfectionist and a craftsman who did a great number of studies of his subjects "on-the-spot."

Gannam was also known as a "lifelong student of the effects of light and color." When he would come across a particular challenge in a work creating a certain effect, he would work endlessly to solve the problem. Often he would work for months mastering it until finally solved and then he would go on to the next challenge. These lessons helped him become a master of the subtleties of light and its effect on the environment around him. His watercolors demonstrate a sense of spontaneity that one only gets from achieving mastery over this most difficult of mediums. He was "little concerned with details or with corrections which could be made later, if needed, in opaque."

He worked most of his life from his studio located on West 67th street, although during the last years of his life, he worked as an illustrator and lived in Newtown, Connecticut.  He exhibited his watercolors regularly and was elected an Associate of the National Academy of Design. Member of the American watercolor Society; Artists Professional League; Society of Illustrators; Board of Directors, Danbury Academy of Arts; he was a life member of the Illustrators Hall of Fame and others.

He passed away in 1965.

Blake Benton Fine Art
Linda Gramatky Smith, who confirmed the place of birth as the country of Lebanon and not Lebanon, Illinois as some sources suggest.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
John Gannam was an illustrator and painter who worked almost exclusively in watercolor.

Gannam was born in the country of Lebanon and grew up in Chicago. He was forced to leave school and work at age fourteen due to his father's death. He went through a succession of menial jobs until he eventually became a messenger boy in an engraving house. Here, he first found a purpose for himself to become an artist like the men who did the layouts, lettering, and drawings from engravings. Within a few years, through observation and a stiff schedule of self-education, he reached his goal -- working for studios in Chicago and Detroit.

The next step was New York and, eventually, magazine illustration. He received his first manuscript from Henry Quinan of Woman's Home Companion, followed soon thereafter by work from most of the other magazines. Gannam always sought fresh, unstereotyped viewpoints, and he was in steady demand by advertisers as well as publishers. His illustrations for campaigns of Pacific Mills, Ipana, and St. Mary Blankets are particularly memorable.

He was a lifelong student of the effects of light and color. Oftentimes, a particular problem would preoccupy him for months as he tried out innumerable variations. He persevered until he was satisfied with such effects as sunlight and under-water rocks on the surface of a mountain stream, or the glow of a fire and its reflection on wet pavement, as firemen fought a blaze.

Gannam worked at his paintings almost vertically, very freely, his brush loaded with water. He was after the broad, but exact, effect. He was little concerned with details or with corrections that could be made later, if needed, with opaque.

Gannam also exhibited his watercolors and was an associate of the National Academy of Design, a member of the American Artists' Professional League, the American Watercolor Society, the Society of Illustrators, and was appointed to the faculty and board of directors of the Danbury Academy of Arts. In 1981, he was elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.

Walt and Roger Reed, The Illustrator in America, 1880-1980," A Century of Illustrators

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