Monday, December 03, 2007

Denver Gillen (1914-1974)

I've been admiring Denver Gillen's work for quite a long time now - and even more so because he started life as a fellow Canuck. Thanks to a previous post I wrote about the artist, I was contacted by Gillen's daughter, Jenifer:

I am in awe of your collection of illustrations by my father, Denver Gillen. Thank you for the honor of recognizing his work and his talent.

Jenifer Gillen Cohn"

That first note lead to a delightful correspondence with Jenifer in which she related many wonderful memories to me:

"I know my father, who we called 'Pop', would have been charmed by your interest in his work. He would have been interested in your work, too.

I remember that Pop did receive his fair share of fan mail, which he would read out loud to my mother. He would chuckle about it, but I know he really appreciated them. And, he would always answer his mail."

This week I'm going to share some excerpts from those correspondence with you, and through Jenifer's recollections of growing up in a happy home with her mom and Pop, I know you'll be as pleased as I was to learn about a remarkable man and a terrific illustrator, Denver Gillen.

Denver Gillen Flickr set


  1. Gillen's style is instantly recognizable, and now I know his name.

    Leif, I think it's wonderful that your presentation of the illustrators from a couple of generations back has put you--and the rest of us--in contact with their widows and descendants.

    I love hear from them what it was like to be married to an illustrator or to grow up as one of their kids. It rounds them out at real people behind the paintbrush.

  2. Thanks for showcasing Gillen's work.

  3. Thanks for that, Jim - you hit the nail on the head... that's what I love, too.

    Hopefully many people, especially those in the graphic arts who read these stories will come to appreciate that we are part of a larger continuity. Many of us work in isolation and don't feel we have much connection to each other, let alone those who worked in the field before us!

    Their stories are our stories. We are all part of a huge extended family. I like that... and want to celebrate it!

  4. I have noticed Denver Gillen's work for many decades now and have always admired his straight forward, no frills method of rendering. His compositions are solid but not unique... his color was always appropriate, but not avante garde... his characters studies had sense of reality and personality, but not exaggerated. He didn't seem to get caught up with changing trends or slick techniques. He just painted from his gut. His illustrations remind me of some of the 50's San Francisco illustrators, such as Stan Galli and Bruce Bomberger.

    I too, love knowing about the artist as a person, through his friends and family... it ads an important dimension to his work, something we can relate to.

    Tom Watson

  5. Anonymous2:39 AM

    I am new to blog ,and when i was searching illustrators life I found this... and come to know there old and new things .. which readily a inspiration to me for my growth..

  6. Anonymous3:18 PM

    I have two of his paintings, both signed very clearly. They are both of trucks with men working around them in the logging forest. I cant be sure of the date of the trucks or the brand. I think I have illustrations for the trucks but, I dont know. Each painting (originals) are about 16 X 18 inches. I bought them at a yard sale in Fayetteville Arkansas. I thought the skill level of the painting was amazing!

  7. Hopefully many people, especially those in the graphic arts who read these stories will come to appreciate that we are part of a larger continuity.
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