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Classic Covers: Paul Bransom’s Animals

“Mice Hiding from Fox” by Paul Bransom
"Mice Hiding from Fox" by Paul Bransom from  February 3, 1923
“Mice Hiding from Fox”
by Paul Bransom
From February 3, 1923

Wildlife artist Paul Branson not only did sixteen Saturday Evening Post covers, but thirty-five remarkable covers for The Country Gentleman—among them this February 1923 painting depicting mice hiding from a beautiful, but hungry, fox.

“Fancy Rooster in Mirror” by Paul Bransom
Fancy Rooster in Mirror by Paul Bransom from April 21, 1923
“Fancy Rooster in Mirror”
by Paul Bransom
From April 21, 1923

Also from 1923, this preening rooster is irresistible. One wonders if he knows what a handsome devil he is. And one gets the feeling he does.

Bransom (1885-1979) had a propensity for drawing at a very young age. Born in Washington, D.C., he left school at 13 for an apprenticeship drawing detailed images of mechanical devices for patents. Good training, perhaps, but not as interesting as his varied creatures.

“Work Horses Pulling Plow” by Paul Bransom
Work Horses Pulling Plow -Paul Bransom From July 26, 1924
“Work Horses Pulling Plow”
by Paul Bransom
From July 26, 1924
From 1924, these handsome plow horses have a high-spirited collie to distract them while they work.

The artist later traveled to New York City and took a job as a comic strip artist. Although this sounds perhaps more fun than detailed draftsman drawings, his heart was with nature, and he spent his spare time sketching animals at the Bronx Zoo. So much time, in fact, that the zookeeper allowed him to set up a studio in the area adjacent to the lions.

“Tom Turkey and Black Cat” by Paul Bransom
Tom Turkey and Black Cat by Paul Bransom From November 25, 1916
“Tom Turkey and Black Cat”
by Paul Bransom
From November 25, 1916

We think Mr. Tom Turkey is rather handsome, but the farm cat has no patience with his fowl play.

Bransom finally tucked a portfolio under his arm and began visiting the publishing houses. The Saturday Evening Post launched his career with the purchase of several of his illustrations in 1907. The word was out on this young depicter of wildlife. By the time of this 1916 cover, he was in high demand.

“Duck Hunter and Dog” by Paul Bransom
Duck Hunter and Dog by Paul Bransom From October 1, 1929
“Duck Hunter and Dog”
by Paul Bransom
From October 1, 1929
Bransom and his wife had a retreat in the Adirondacks where many of the creatures he loved to draw were readily available.

He illustrated for as many as 35 magazines and almost 50 books. If you see a copy of The Wind in the Willows with original illustrations, they are by Paul Bransom (there is even an electronic version of it out there). He also did original illustrations for Jack London’s Call of the Wild.

“Bear and Robin Welcome Spring” by Paul Bransom
Bear and Robin Welcome Spring By Paul Bransom From March 14, 1925
“Bear and Robin Welcome Spring”
by Paul Bransom
From March 14, 1925
Speaking of Call of the Wild! This bear is joining Robin Redbreast in attempting to hurry the upcoming spring season along.

Nature is nature, and many of the illustrations Bransom did were a far cry from the cute little mole in Wind in the Willows exclaiming, “oh, bother!” One Country Gentleman cover depicts a weasel with a goose he killed on a snowy bank and another an owl with a field mouse in his beak. Possibly some of these observations were made at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where Bransom painted and taught summer classes.

If you would like to see more covers by this artist, or if there is a Post or Country Gentleman artist you would like to learn more about, feel free to let us know.

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  • Charles Neumann

    Very interesting. Good to read about some of the fine cover artists of the Post.