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An example of work by Branson Graves Stevenson
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following biography, submitted September 2006, is from Scott Wilder, researcher of artists from Kansas and Missouri.|
Branson Graves Stevenson was born in Franklin County, Georgia on April
5, 1901 and died in 1989. On his father's farm in Georgia he was
the youngest of a family of eleven. After living on the farm for
several years, the family moved to Atlanta, Georgia so that the
children could have a better education. When his mother passed
away in 1912, his father moved to Panama where he was a steam shovel engineer for the Panama Canal. In
1914, he returned to Barnesville, Georgia to attend an agricultural
school. After completing courses at the agricultural school, he
returned to Panama where he graduated from high school. During his high school days he began to be more and more interested in art. He completed a design for the Liberty Loan Committee of the Panama Canal Zone for their next bond selling campaign.
Branson studied at the Instituto Nacional de Panama, which was his only
art instruction. He worked as a stenographer in Colombia, then
came to Helena, Montana where he worked for his brother who had a large
distributorship for Studebaker. In addition to learning about
buying and selling cars, he had a small art studio. His brother
was then investing in the oil fields, sending Branson to the Studebaker
branch in Lewistown and then moved after many months to the Studebaker branch in Great Falls. After arriving in Great Falls,
he met Charles M. Russell who did not pay any attention to him but his
apprentice, Joe DeYong and Branson became good friends.
The Sunburst Oil and Gas Company was established by Lon Stevenson with
the assistance and financial interests of his brothers. While
waiting for the drilling, Branson worked for the Great Falls Auto and
Truck Company and as well at the Swanzey Advertising Agency. "Cracking"
became a more efficient way to produce products than what was done by
the Sunburst Oil and Gas Company.
In 1923, Joe DeYong contacted Branson about making an etching. Both
artists had never discovered this medium before. From this point
on the medium of etching became an integral part of Branson Stevenson's
career. While still at the Swanzey Advertising Agency, during the late 1920's, Branson studied ceramics. In 1925, Branson married Violet Palmer.
In 1931, he became employed with the White Eagle Oil Company. Later he
became the branch manager for all of Montana under the firm name of
Socony Vacuum Oil Company. Branson also at this time served as
the vice chairman for the American Artists Professional League.
In 1942, he arranged for a display of seventy five prints obtained from
the Pan American League. During the war effort, he designed many works
for the benefit of the bond sales. In the late 1940's, he would
submit his work for fair exhibits under a different name as NOSNARB
NOSNEVETS. He told the art directors that the art was done by a
Russian on our Alaska Ferrying Command Air Base. This allowed him
to hear from even people he knew about what they felt about his art.
Joe Howard who wrote, "Montana...High, Wide and Handsome", put the following poem in the Great Falls Tribune after finding out about the artwork submitted under a different name.
ODE ON A NEWSPAPER PORTRAIT
In the Grecian Manner
and in Dolorous Mood
Can this be my old friend Branson,
The rum-soaked, lecherous, worldly-wise...
This pensive youth, so clean, so handsome,
With eager dreams in his innocent eyes?
Can this be the oil-smeared cynic,
Shameless minister to Free Enterprise...
This lovely boy with aspect cherubimic,
With faith and hope in his questing eyes?
Can this be who, all dreams gone,
Now pays with suborned guile his soul's bad debts?
Or is it the sweeter, nobler one
I knew as Nosnarb Nosnevets?
In 1947, Branson Stevenson took a pottery course at the College of
Great Falls. His weekends were now devoted to developing pottery
and inventing his own glazes. Archie Bray became a close friend
and Branson assisted him with the building of the nonprofit educational
organization. Branson Stevenson created several new discoveries
for the world of pottery.
Branson Stevenson was a founding member of the Montana Institute of the Arts which began in 1948.
In 1953, the Charles Russell Art Gallery opened in Great Falls and
Branson was the first chairman of the board. During the 1950's,
Branson was very busy with his own one-man shows including the Helena
Art Center, the Montana State University Exhibition, and the
Pacific Northwest Art Exhibition.
Branson felt that this most favorite work was his first etching, Night Around The Roundhouse. As to lithography, he felt that Rhubarb was the one and
that in pottery it was Double-Dunk Bowl.
Branson Stevenson retired from the Mobil Oil Company in 1960. In
1963, he became a lecturer on art at the College of Great Falls.
He wrote many articles for craft periodicals and then operated the
"Glass Art Shop" in Great Falls.
He was a painter, printmaker, sculptor, craftsman, and teacher.
His work in the Montana Institute of the Arts in Helena, Montana; the
C. M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana; the Montana Historical
Society in Helena, Montana; and the University of Oregon in Eugene,
His scarab logo that he signed his work with was a beetle including his
monogram within a circle. The beetle came from the "tumble bug" found
in Georgia and where Branson spent his early years. The tumble bug was
so named because it pushed ahead of itself a ball of dung.
The Life, The Times and The Art of Branson Graves Stevenson by Herbert G. Anderson, Jr.; Janher Publishing, Inc., Raynesford, Montana; 1979.
The Meadowlark Gallery, Inc.
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