The first major retrospective of Tennessee artist Lloyd Branson’s life, works of art, and legacy features more than 60 of Branson’s paintings which tell the remarkable story of the ambitions and achievements of the artist and his region.
Born in what is now Union County in East Tennessee, Branson came of age in a community experiencing the wrenching transformation caused by the Civil War and the extraordinary growth that followed. The young artist’s unmistakable talent created the opportunity for him to move to Manhattan to study at the National Academy of Design, where he honed his skills and won acclaim. Branson later returned to a bustling Knoxville where he established a downtown art emporium with photographer Franklin B. McCrary, which provided him with a unique vantage point for both documenting and participating in the city’s growth.
Celebrating a Life in Tennessee Art: Lloyd Branson, 1853–1925, includes two of the Branson’s most famous paintings from the State Museum collection. The Gathering of the Overmountain Men at Sycamore Shoals vividly captures the excitement of Tennessee’s Revolutionary past at the Battle of King’s Mountain. The last work of Branson’s distinguished career was a portrait of World War I hero Alvin York, which Branson regarded as one of his finest accomplishments and is normally on view at Military Branch of the Tennessee State Museum.
Branson painted numerous prominent figures in politics, business, and education, but some of his most heralded work portrayed “work” itself. His Hauling of Marble, one of several depictions of the local quarry industry, won a gold medal at Knoxville’s 1910 Appalachian Exposition. Paintings of local agriculture such as Women at Work led The New York Times to declare approvingly, “Mr. Lloyd Branson takes hold of everyday life with courage.”
Museum visitors also will view several of Branson’s striking portraits including that of Civil War hero Admiral David Farragut. Also included in the exhibit is the artist’s design for Knoxville’s flag, adopted by the chamber of commerce in 1896, which evokes the pride and optimism of the rising city. The exhibition features rare still-life and landscapes that highlight Branson’s skill as well as his love for his home state’s natural beauty. The retrospective also explores Branson’s role as a mentor and teacher to fellow artists, including Catherine Wiley and Beauford Delaney.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.