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 Edward Arthur Wilson  (1886 - 1970)

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Lived/Active: New York/Massachusetts      Known for: illustrator-marine, graphics

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Ad Code: 3
Edward Arthur Wilson
from Auction House Records.
Preliminary for Advertisement
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted September 2005, is from Thomas MacLellan Hall, the grandson of Kenneth F. MacLellan, who was a friend of Edward Arthur Wilson.  

Thomas Hall wrote:  "My grandfather went into the packaged food business, eventually forming United Biscuit Company in Chicago, the precursor to Keebler.  Whatever the origin of their friendship, my grandfather acquired a spectacular pen and ink drawing Mr. Wilson did of a Japanese coronation.  He eventually gave that drawing to my uncle, who later gave it to me.  We now have it proudly displayed in our dining room. A letter from my grandfather is taped to the back of the frame and it includes the photostats transcribed below."

The first photostat is from the Provincetown Advocate, Thursday, October 8, 1970

"Edward A. Wilson"
Edward A. (Arthur) Wilson, 84, well-known book illustrator and print maker, died October 2, at Dobbs Ferry (N.Y.) Hospital after long illness.

Since 1947, and until recently, Mr. Wilson has lived in Truro.
Mr. Wilson, a collection of whose illustrations for books and advertising (The Book of Edward A. Wilson: A Survey of His Work) was published in 1948 by The Heritage Press (associated with The Limited Editions Club) was given the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame Medal in 1962, being among the half dozen or so recipients of this medal.  He was made an Associate member of the National Academy in 1948 and his book illustrations were featured in Life magazine (April 23) in 1945.  Life called him "of the first rank among modern U.S. book illustrators.
Born on March 4, 1886 in Glasgow, Scotland, Mr. Wilson came to the U.S. in 1893.  He studied art at the Art Institute of Chicago and with the father of modern blockwork illustration, Howard Pyle.  Mr. Wilson's first important book illustrations were for a book of sea chanteys, Iron Men and Wooden Ships, published in 1924 by Doubleday, and Full And By (1925), a collection of drinking songs with prefaces byDon Marquis and Christopher Morley, for the same publisher.
These were followed by some seventy (70) other books, mainly classics, particularly about the sea, such as Two Years Before The Mast, a limited edition (Lakeside Press, 1930) and Ranging The Maine Coast (W.W. Norton, 1939).
Besides book illustration, Mr. Wilson did illustrations for national magazines and many national advertising campaigns.  He also did lithographic prints which are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress.

Mr. Wilson was a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, a member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts and of the Society of Illustrators.

He is survived by his widow, the former Dorothy Roe, and two daughters, Mrs. Joseph Anthony, the wife of the Broadway director and teacher, and Jane Wilson, and editor of Horizon magazine, a brother, Harold F. of Novato, Calif., vice president of the Bank of Marin, and two grandchildren, Peter and Ellen Anthony.
There will be no funeral services. In lieu of flowers contributions may be sent to the Truro Historical Society.
The second photostat is:

"Truro Tales" by Grace Deschamps (also from the Provincetown Advocate)
"Eddie" Wilson would have enjoyed the gathering of old Truro friends Friday afternoon at the home of Mrs. Frank A. Aiken of north Pamet Road.  They were there to welcome back here for a visit Mrs. Dorothy Wilson, widow of the distinguished artist who died Oct. 2 in a Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. hospital - and to greet other members of the Wilson family who were Mrs. Aiken's guests for the weekend.  (Mrs. Wilson's daughter, Jane Wilson, her son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Anthony, and the Anthony's son and daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Anthony). Mrs. Wilson herself would remain for a longer visit with her hostess, for many years a close personal friend of the Wilson family.
It was in keeping with the easy, affectionate relationship between the late Edward Wilson and his Truro friends that so many of them at the gathering referred to him as "Eddie."  Associate member of the National Academy, Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts - to name only two of the honors heheld - Edward Wilson was "Eddie" to those who knew him here.
Before this reporter had met Mr. Wilson, but aware of his place in the arts - and being habitually respectful of another's title - she was always a little unprepared to hear friends call him "Eddie." After an interview with the artist at his home here it was easy to understand why.

He had been awarded the rarely bestowed Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame Medal and the reporter went to ask him some questions about his notable career.  She was never quite sure afterwards who had intervieweed whom.
People who have achieved fame have every right to talk about themselves and interviewers are usually happy to have them do so.  But Edward Wilson's interest in people and events was evident from the start; he himself asked questions and he was a talented listener.  That he had known all kinds of people was clear from the characterizations he captured in his art.
He had also known many who were famous in one way or another and who had sojourned here and he had a wealth of reminiscences enlivened with the humor for which he was noted.
It was a humor no less enjoyable because it was without malice.  It was a great deal of life itself that the artist could chuckle about and you came away thinking that some people are born with not one gift but many - not along some unique wealth of talent but with it the grace that comes from a complete absence of vanity or self-importance.
A feature of Friday's gathering was the opportunity to see goodly sampling of Edward Wilson's work; some of the lithographs, prints and woodcuts that enhance more than 70 books, most of them classics and most of them about the sea. in the illustrations he did for national magazines and ntional advertising campaigns were the power and motion that raised the art of illustration to a new dimension.
"It is probable," wrote one critic, "that not more than two or three living artists have done so much to establish an American tradition in illustration."  And again, a few years ago: "It is probable there is not an artist alive who can match Edward A. Wilson in creation of illustrations of a salty tale of the sea or of a stirring, swashbuckling story."  The artist knew there was drama inlife, and in his evocation of a battered ship or a lonely dwelling he could get dramatic excitement.
And Truro Scenes:
In the Wilson collection were also lithgraphs of Truro - the old Methodist Church (destroyed by lightning) sitting in lonely grandeur on a South Truro hill: a scene on the South Pamet Road,  just two old barns but touched with the artist's inner light; the old Joe Atwood house, now owned by Mrs. Arthur Williams.
It was coincidence that the Advocate of Oct. 8 that carried the obituary of Edward Wilson also carried the half-forgotten story of the wreck of 1854 of the famed steamship Artic of the Collins Line founded by Truro's Edward K. Collins.
"I wish Eddie might have read it," Mrs. Wilson wrote this reporter.  Edward Wilson had long been interested in the Collins story.  He had collected prints of all of the Collins liners and indeed years ago he had offered his collection to the Town.  Apparently because the Town officials felt they had no space to accommodate the prints they declined the offer.
Mr. Wilson then loaned them to the Wellfleet Historical Museum.  He was finally persuaded to accept a collector's handsome offer for the collection - although he would have preferred to have given them to Truro.  (He gave one fine print of the Collins liner Atlantic to the Truro Historical Museum - in addition to other valuable gifts.)
In 1938, the artist's daughter, Jane, (on the staff of Horizon Magazine) thoroughly researched Edward K. Collins' career and Mr. Wilson later signed a contract with a publishing company to do a book on Collins.  He was too busy to write the book, himself, and his art was pictorial.  The writer contracted by the publishing company to do the text, however, died of a heart attack a week later and the book failed to develop. (Mr. Wilson himself had accepted no advance on the book although the writer had).
Years later the artist turned over his research to a friend who planned to write a Collins book, although all that came of it eventually was an article in American Heritage.  Mr. Wilson also owned clippings from British and other newspapers about Collins Line ships which he loaned to a Wellfleet museum. It is expected that these will now be placed in the Truro Historical Museum.

Edward Wilson was 84 when he died.

In 1966 he did the illustrations here for two books: Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth and Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome.
The artist's granddaughter, Ellen Anthony, who is teaching in a school in St. Anthony, Newfoundland (recruited for the job by Grenfell Mission) has written her own requiem for her grandfather.  It is a worthy piece of prose, with the restraint of feeling the artist would have appreciated. It is attached to a Wilson lithograph of Truro.

Robert Louis Stevenson in his Requiem said it another way: "Home is the sailor, home from the sea." Edward Wilson had transferred to wood and stone and parchment his own blood and kinship with seamen and the sea and he had made them vivid for millions.  The old salt on a cargo ship, the longshoreman, the connoisseur of the arts- to all of them Edward Wilson was a man who knew his business."
Another small piece of paper in the envelope has the following typed on it: (Books illustrated by Wilson)
Robinson Crusoe (1930)
Last of the Mohicans (1932)
Green Mansions (1935)
Anthont Adverse (1935)
Treasure Island (1941)
"Westward Ho" (1947)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  (1952)
Around the World in 80 Days (1962)
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1966)

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