Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Franklin Arbuckle (1909-2001)

Lest you think every Canadian artist of the 50's was simply biding his time in commercial art until he could make it big as an abstract expressionist, let me assure you -- there were plenty of "realistic" illustrators in the field. Chief among them would certainly be Franklin "Archie" Arbuckle (below, at left).

During the 40's and 50's, Arbuckle, who had a close friendship with one of the editors at Maclean's magazine, was responsible for a huge amount of the publication's cover and interior art.

During that time, Arbuckle travelled across Canada by train, painting scenes that caught his interest and sending them back to Maclean's editorial offices in Toronto. Through Arbuckle's work, featured so regularly on the cover of the nation's highest circulated weekly magazine, Canadians across this vast land saw the familiar and the unfamiliar , the extraordinary and the everyday, that which we all shared and that which was unique -- in landscape, people and activity.

A mutual friend, Tom McNeely, who, as a young in-house artist at a Toronto art studio got to see Arbuckle's originals when they arrived for print production and who later befriended the older man when they met through the Toronto Arts & Letters Club, told me that Archie called himself, "a painter who did some illustration."

Arbuckle taught for many years at the Ontario College of Art. When he retired in 1989 he continued to take many independent sketching trips to the east coast and various small Ontario communities. Tom joined him for many of those trips. Clearly, Archie never lost his love of painting on location and enjoyed interpreting the many beautiful spots around the country through his work.

On March 30th, 2001 I was fortunate to be invited by Tom to join him, Archie, and a few others for lunch at the Toronto Arts & Letters Club. There, at last, I got to shake the hand of one of the great old men of Canadian illustration. It was a little overwhelming to be in the presence of someone who embodied almost a century of experience in the field I had chosen for my career. Archie was a genial, cordial gentleman, and I wish I had had the opportunity to ask him in greater detail about his career but the happy, noisy gathering never allowed for it. Even then, at age 91, Archie was planning their next painting expedition. Sadly, he passed away only a couple of months later.

Take a moment to study the full size version of these images in my Franklin Arbuckle Flickr set.


  1. "Archie", as his friends and colleagues knew him, was a great talent in both the commercial and creative fields of Canadian art. Extraordinarily, when we hosted one man exhibitions and sales of his paintings we received as spectators more artisits than for any other exhibition we sponsored. One distinguished Canadian artist who came to an exhibition we held for Archie in 1981 ( or maybe it was '82 ), an artist who was perhaps 20 years Archie's junior confided to me that " Since the crib,I dreamt of being a Franklin Arbuckle."
    Alan Klinkhoff, Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Montreal, Canada

  2. Alan;

    Thanks so much for adding this information by way of your comment! It certainly confirm what I've always heard when speaking with my fellow illustrators who knew of Franklin Arbuckle.

    There is a well-deserved reverence around talk of Archie's work - especially from his peers - which makes it all the more meaningful.

  3. Thank you for posting so much about Franklin Arbuckle. We found a print of a sail boat and wondered about the artist. Really nice to know it is a Canadian artist.

  4. Anonymous3:19 PM

    I have one of his painting of a sail boat dated 1923 I had no idea who he was. Surely though this date is far too early so now I'm wondering if it's real or not.