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 Frank Ryan  (1920 - 1993)

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Lived/Active: California/Florida      Known for: celebrity portrait painting, set designer

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Frank Ryan
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information is provided June, 2004 by Jack Keough, an artist and first cousin of Frank Ryan.

Frank Ryan was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1920. He studied art at Pratt Institute, New York City. He graduated from college at the beginning of World War II and joined the Army Air Force with the rank of lieutenant.  While in training in New Mexico, Frank did several oil paintings of western scenes.  Serving in France during the war he constructed topographical maps for bombing raids into Germany.  In his unit was the actor, Clark Gable with whom he became friends.

After the war ended, Clark Gable introduced him to Ralph Edwards and he took a job doing the scenery for the television show, This is Your Life.

Jackie Gleason's wardrobe mistress asked Frank to do a series of pastel drawings of Gleason in his various comedy characters, which she gave to Gleason as a Christmas present.  Gleason subsequently used these drawings on the opening of each show.  Frank also did an oil portrait of "The Great One" commissioned by Gleason.  For a number of years Frank was Jackie Gleason's personal artist receiving a weekly pay check to review and approve any art work done by other artists for Gleason.

During this period Frank did a number of oil paintings for other celebrities including Imogene Coco, and Nannette Fabray.  A picture of Frank Ryan and Nanette Fabray and the portrait he did of her appeared in an issue of Life magazine. Because of all of the paintings Ryan had made of movie and television personalities, Walter Winchell (the Hearst newspaper columnist and radio reporter of the 1940s) frequently mentioned Frank in his columns and called him" The Actor's Artist"

When Gleason moved his show to Florida, Frank went with him.  When Gleason retired, Frank took a job as department of art chairperson at the famous Nova High School in south Florida.  After his retirement from teaching Frank continued his painting, but focused mostly on doing pastel portraits of friends and acquaintances.

He died on December 1,1993 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida of a heart attack.


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