Sunday, July 08, 2007


Some illustrators, such as Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper, went on to become famous in "fine art" circles for their amazing watercolors. John Gannam (1907 - 1965) remained an illustrator but his watercolors were still amazing.

Gannam's paintings adorned stories in popular magazines for many years. He also painted a popular series of advertisements for sheets and blankets.

Neither Winslow Homer nor Edward Hopper could hold a candle to Gannam when it came to portraying the deep emotional relationship between a housewife and her new blanket.

But don't be fooled. Look closely and you will see the work of a serious and accomplished watercolorist.

Many of Gannam's paintings were published in cropped form, accompanied by intrusive headlines and graphics like these:

But when you look at the originals, you see Gannam's mastery at work:

Little details like this row of flowers demonstrate how Gannam kept looking hard all the time. Gannam didn't use a rote formula or lapse into photorealistic tracing.

These watercolors could fit quite comfortably on the same wall with the work of Homer and Hopper.


Anonymous said...

what a artist!! amazing!! for me is the first time ive seen the artwork of him.

thanks for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

I've been intrigued by Gannam since I saw his work in Walt Reed's Illustrators in America book. One of the big reasons why I think his work is not as well known is that tastes in watercolors tend toward the highly colorful and splashy (see Sargent and Homer, for example) while Gannam seems to like the subtler colors.

You know David, don't forget that a LOT of illustrators of Gannam's era were watercolorists too--they just used opaque watercolor (casein and gouache) rather than transparent watercolor like Gannam. Time constraints pushed them away from oils.

But its great to see the spotlight turned on such an overlooked master. Thanks for another great post.

Anonymous said...

What a great artist!

Makes me want to buy me one of those comforters...

dylan said...

stunning stuff.

David Apatoff said...

Brian, transparent watercolor, where the white of the paper glows through the pigment and illuminates it from behind, strikes me as being in a different category from other water based media (which, when you get right down to it, would also include acrylic). The only other art forms I know that are lit from behind that way are stained glass and movies. I certainly agree with your point, but then who could resist being "highly colorful and splashy" with a medium like that?

I think your two choices of Sargent and Homer are as good as the medium gets. Just sublime.

I have never tried painting with casein but I have heard some of the old timers curse it!

Anonymous said...

Just found this wonderful blog, and Johnny Gannam was a best friend of my dad, watercolorist Hardie Gramatky, in Connecticut. I was trying to find where one of John Gannam's watercolors was published ("Miss Poddy and the Humble Cottage") and came upon Brian and David's comments. Dad thought Johnny was the BEST! (and last year Andrew Wyeth named my dad as one of the all-time great American watercolorists, along with Homer, Hopper, Sargent, etc.) so I think Dad knew why Gannam was so great. He died `way too young!

Anonymous said...

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen!
I am Ukrainian artist and my art is forbidden (underground) in Ukraine. I would like to invite you to my exhibition on the Internet:! You could see that I have very original style and technique as well (ball-point pen).
Thank you!
With kind regards,
Serhiy Kolyada

Diane said...

I am hoping you are still an active blog. My husband is John Gannam's nephew so I periodically check the internet for information about Gannam's artwork. I am still hoping I might find a piece for sale that I can buy for my husband as a surprise. Any thoughts? Thanks so much for your high opinion of this great artist!

David Apatoff said...

Hi, Diane-- yes, I am still active. I would suggest that if you are looking for illustrations by John Gannam, You try either Illustration House or Taraba Illustration Art (both of whom have links at the top of my blog). I have purchased from both of them in the past and think very highly of them.

Good luck!

danielcox said...

Wow...these are mindblowing. Absolutely perfection...John's drawing and rendering skills were superb. And those expressions...oh man. Any other examples of his work available anywhere? I'm literally foaming at the mouth in anticipation!

Great blog by the way...will add your link to mine!

Ana said...

This is the first time I see Gannam's work ant you are right.
He is amazing.
Thank you very much for sharing.
Your blog has everything someone need to fully enjoy art.
It's because you are an artist and speaks from the inside.
Many historians, critics, scholars and thinkers lack the ability to forget theory and just "see" what is in front of them.
Now I understand why you have so many comments!
You deserve it.
Now I'm going to google your name...

Anonymous said...

Hi I have a picture of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn signed Gannam made of paper very nice looks like it was signed with a pen