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The following obituary appeared in the July 22, 1979 edition of The New York Times:

Paul Bransom, Illustrator, Dies; Called ‘Dean of Animal Artists’

By Edith Evans Asbury

Paul Bransom, called the “Dean of American Animal Artists,” died Thursday in Quakertown, Pa, where he had been visiting.  He would have been 94 years old next week.

Mr. Bransom has lived in New York City since 1906.  He had a residence and studio on West 67th Street where he continued to paint until a year ago, when his sight failed.  He was honorary president of the Society of Animal Artists at the time of his death.  He had previously served as its president and was presented with its Award of Merit Medal at its annual meeting here last March.  In 1976 he received the Benjamin West Clinedinst award for distinguished achievement of the Artists Fellowship which he had helped form in 1925.  In 1974 the Weber State College of Ogden, Utah conferred the degree of honorary Doctor of Arts on him.

Mr. Bransom was a self-taught artist whose formal education ended with the eighth grade of public school in Washington, where he was born.  As a child he watched and drew animals in his back yard and always hoped to become an artist.  At the age of 14 he took the first step toward that goal by becoming an apprentice to a draftsman for the United State Patent Office.  There he learned to use drafting tools as he made drawings of devices of all kinds submitted by inventors seeking patents.

Draftsman for a Railroad

He moved to a better-paying job –at $40 a month—as draftsman with the Southern Railway.  There he learned to make working drawings of railroad rolling equipment, from steam engines to freight trains.

As a step toward of his goal of living in New York City, young Bransom answered an advertisement in a Washington newspaper for a job as draftsman with General Electric Company in Schenectady.  To the great dismay of his mother –he was only 16 years old—he was accepted.

Mr. Bransom made it to New York City at the age of 17.  He obtained a job at the New York Evening Journal carrying on Gus Dirk’s cartoon, “News from Bugsville,” and spent all his spare time at the Zoological Park, studying and drawing animals.  He was commissioned to make illustrations for a new encyclopedia being published by Dodd Mead & Co. 

Good Fortune Arrives

In 1906, when Mr. Bransom was 21, things began to happen fast.  He quit the Journal job one day and went to Philadelphia with a bundle of drawings under his arm.

“I have a vivid recollection of entering the offices of the Saturday Evening Post,” he told an interviewer later, “but I don’t remember much about the return trip to New York.  They took five of those covers in one fell swoop.”

That same year, he married a beautiful young actress, Grace Bond, who was appearing with Fritzie Scheff in Victor Herbert’s “Mademoiselle Modiste,” on Broadway.

George Horace Lorimer, to whom Mr. Bransom had shown his work in Philadelphia, also bought several drawings that day, and commissioned Mr. Bransom to illustrate a story about a tiger.  At 21, the self-taught young artist was thus launched on a lifetime career that was to include illustrations for hundreds of animal stories in magazines and in more than 40 books.

Books He Illustrated

Among the books Mr. Bransom illustrated were Jack London’s “Call of the Wild,” Kenneth Graham’s “Willows in the Wind [sic],” “Argosy of Fables,” “Animals of American History” selected by himself, and “Zoo Parade,” by Marlin Perkins. 

Dr. William T. Hornaday, director of the new Bronx Zoo, provided Mr. Bransom with a studio in the Lions House for many years. Mr. Bransom also studied and painted animals in Grand Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyo. For 15 years, and was senior instructor of Teton Artists Outdoor School there.

Other summers Mr. Bransom painted in his studio at Canada Lake in the Adirondacks.  He built a home and studio there in the early 1920’s in a small colony of artists and writers that included Clare Dwiggins, his daughter, Phoebe Dwiggins, Todhunter Ballard, Charles Sarka, Margaret Widdemer, Mabel Cleland, Herbert Asbury, Emily Hahn and James Thurber.

It also included a troupe of early movie makers, Blazed Trail Productions headed by John Lowell Russell, who produced and acted, his wife Lu, a cameraman, their daughter, Evangeline, who acted ingénue roles, Frank Keating, a magician, James Stanley, a Metropolitan Opera baritone, and visiting unemployed actors.  Their Sunday afternoon parties on the shore, which they called “Vespers,” featured alcoholic beverages of their own brewing, costumed theatricals and such vigorous disporting that Mr. Thurber, who was to write humorously of it later, walked through a false door and fell into the lake during one of them.

A Change of Belief

Grace and Paul Bransom were enthusiastic participants at first but she foreswore her theatrical history, became very religious, and eventually she and Paul became tee-totallers for the rest of their lives.  She died in 1963 at 78.

In his final years, as his sight began to fail, Mr. Bransom continued to work daily at his easel, painting flowers and still lifes that did not require the precise detail and accuracy of animals.

In accordance with written instructions, Mr. Bransom left with Mrs. Althea Bond, a cousin by marriage who had cared for him in his later years, there will be no funeral.  “I have been to so many funerals I didn’t want to go to that I don’t want anyone to have to be at mine,” he wrote.  He directed that he be cremated and his ashes scattered over Canada Lake. 

 

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