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Franklin Booth
(American, 1874-1948)
A.33.1 Booth, Franklin - Nativity.jpg

Among all great ink artists of the period, Booth is often regarded as having a unique style. As a child he had great admiration for the black and white works he saw produced in magazines like Harper's and Scribner's. Little did he know that the tones he saw that replicated values from paintings were not ink drawings but wood engravings. He developed his placing lines tightly together to create variations in perceived value. This gave his work a look that was far different from other ink artists of the period, and a unique painterly quality. Not only was his style distinct, but his draftsmanship was also exceptional. The two qualities together made him very much sought-after, and the appeal of his work is still strong today.

Booth was successful in advertising, with clients such as Bulova Watches, Whitman's Candy, and Rolls Royce. His ability to render sumptuous dream-like landscapes, expressing the kind of natural vastness that surrounded him in his Indiana youth, also made him an ideal selection for poetry. He illustrated many pages of poems in Scribner’s magazines over the years.


Though he is renowned today for his ink work, he did venture into color work at times, choosing a watercolor method in one of his few book assignments with multiple plates—The Flying Islands of the Night by James Whitcomb Riley. It includes Booth’s open compositions and his attention to classical forms with skies filled with soft quiet washes of hues in place of fields of tone.


While Booth’s style was reminiscent of a previous generation it also put him at great risk for being out of fashion. When Art Deco became the dominant look of the period, and clean, smooth, continuous tones filled the pages of magazines, Booth’s fully rendered and classically inspired works seemed like they belonged to yesterday. In later years, his pen-and-ink work was more often found in catalogs and commercial publications, but it never suffered for lack of quality.


Menges, Jeff A. 101 Great Illustrators from the Golden Age, 1890-1925. Published by Dover Publications. Mineola, New York, 2016. p. 28.

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