Gordon Grant is most famous for his maritime drawings and paintings. He was born in 1875 in San Francisco and was sent to school in Scotland as a youth. The voyage by sailing vessel around the southern tip of South America and then across the Atlantic made a tremendous impression on the young Grant and started a lasting fascination with the sea and sailing ships.
He studied art in London and returned to San Francisco to work on both the SF Chronicle and the Examiner. This was the period of the artist/reporter with on-the-spot drawings being made on battlefields and warfronts. The Boer War and the Mexican Revolution were both grist for his artistic mill and his images appeared also in Harper’s Weekly in New York.
We know he did some book illustrations as well, because we have seen a copy of Back to the Woods from 1903. A sample of this early style is at right. His fame as a painter of ships was greatly enhanced in 1926 when prints of his painting of the U.S.S. Constitution were sold by the thousands to help raise money for the preservation of that historic vessel. It was destined for a fate as a target for Naval trainees when Grant, along with Eric Pape and many others, successfully lobbied Congress for restoration and designation as a National monument. His painting of the ship now hangs in the Oval Office at the White House. He later reprised his interest in the Constitution with the illustrations for Eagle of the Sea – The Story of Old Ironsides in 1949.
I couldn’t find a decent print of that image, but Walt and Roger Reed in The Illustrator in America 1880-1980 have a stunning image from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Davies. I hope they don’t mind my sharing it with you.
From then on, Grant was able to devote himself primarily to images of ships and the sea. Titles include: Sail Ho!, The Story of the Ship, Greasy Luck, Ships Under Sail, The Book of Old Ships, Forty Famous Ships, The Sea Witch, etc. His paintings won an award at the Paris Exposition of 1937.
The Story of the Ship
Ships Under Sail
The Sea Witch
In 1950, Watson-Guptill published the Gordon Grant Sketchbook containing over 200 of his on-the-spot drawings done for his enjoyment and as preparatory work for his book and easel paintings. The strength of these drawings reinforces the depth of his skill. The image below was used on the dust jacket.
An inveterate watercolorist, he received many awards from the American Watercolor Society and his drawings and paintings have been purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library. He died in 1962.
To learn more about Gordon Grant, see:
|200 Years of American Illustration||Henry C. Pitz, Random House 1977|
|The Vadeboncoeur Collection of Knowledge||Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. 1999|
|The Vadeboncoeur Collection of ImageS B&W ImageS 4||Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. JVJ Publishing 2008|
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This page written, designed & © 1999 by Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. Updated 2011.
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