Alaska Artists: William Franklin Draper

lonely caribou in Alakan Nature

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William Franklin Draper  was lieutenant commander in the United States Navy, and an American painter. Draper was a portrait painter and former combat artist who depicted many of the world's wealthiest and most powerful people.

William Draper was born in Hopedale, Massachusetts on December 24, 1912. His parents were Clare H. Draper and Mathilda Engamn Draper. After first studying piano, he decided to instead, choose painting as his career. Draper attended the Pomfret School in Connecticut, and later Harvard University.

After Harvard, William Draper attended the National Academy of Design in New York, and the Cape Art School in Massachusetts. Following his education, he went to Spain to study briefly, and then moved to France, where he attended the Grand Cahumiere. In 1937, he studied sculpture with George Demetrius, a Boston sculptor, and Jon Corbino in New York.

In 1942, William Draper entered the Naval Reserves as a lieutenant. After his initial training, Draper was assigned to the Anti-Submarine Warfare Unit in Boston. Following his service in Boston, he transferred into the Naval Art Section, and was dispatched to Alaska, where he spent nearly half a year painting in the Aleutian Islands.

He was in Amchitka when the Japanese invaded during World War II, and his paintings depict the attacks, as seen from his close-range foxhole. Draper painted while dealing with the wind and Arctic weather, which made painting difficult, as he had to wear gloves to keep from getting frostbite.

After Draper returned from Alaska, he was requested as the artist for the portrait of Rear Admiral J.R. Beardall, then Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy. Following the completion of the portrait, he served in a variety of other areas in the Pacific, and commissioned to paint portraits of several other admirals.

After the Bougainville Campaign, Draper was assigned to the USS Yorktown, and while on duty, painted the series of air attacks on Palau, the landings at Hollandia, and the airstrikes on Truk island. Draper also covered invasions of Saipan and Guam aboard the USS Tennessee (BB-43). During his tour on the Tennessee, the ship was hit three times by enemy fire, and they were forced to land at Guam. Draper was awarded the Bronze Star for his Naval services, and left the Navy in 1945 as a Lieutenant Commander.

Before returning to civilian life, and his Park Avenue studio where he continued to paint for much of the rest of his life, he painted portraits of, among others, Admirals Nimitzand Halsey and completed murals for the US Naval Academy at Annapolis. The war paintings were reproduced in four issues of National Geographic magazine and were exhibited in leading cities throughout the country and abroad.

Draper became a highly successful portrait artist in America after the war. In William Draper's five-decade career, his subjects included President Richard M. Nixon, Mayor John V. Lindsay of New York, the Shah of Iran, the financier Paul Mellon, Dr. Charles Mayo of the Mayo Clinic, Terence Cardinal Cooke, the actress Celeste Holm and the New York socialite and jazz harpist Daphne Hellman. A portrait he did of John F. Kennedy, based on an oil sketch for which the president sat in 1962, hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington.

Many of  William Draper's freely brushed and textured canvases can be found on the walls of Harvard University, including a portrait of former Harvard president Nathan Pusey ."Portraits are always a challenge. It's like a puzzle," the artist once said. William Draper died on October 26, 2003 at the age of 90. In 1999, William Draper received a lifetime achievement award from the Portrait Society of America.

Johnny AculiakEdwin Tappan Adney| George Twok Aden AhgupukAlvin Eli Amason| Saradell Ard|   Belmore Browne| Vincent ColyerJules Bernard DahlagerLockwood De Forest| Frederick Samuel Dellenbaugh| William Franklin Draper| | Henry Wood Elliott| John Fehringer| Claire Fejes| Louis Agassiz Fuertes| Magnus Colcord Heurlin| Norman Jackson| Rockwell Kent| Sydney Mortimer Laurence| Fred Machetanz| Marvin Mangus| Milo Minock| James Kivetoruk Moses| Rie MunozJoseph Henry Sharp| James Everett Stuart| John Webber| Kesler Woodward|


william draper world war II painting in Alaska

portrait of JFK by artist william Draper

Alaska's Tribes:

Below is a full list of the different Alaska Native cultures. Within each culture are many different tribes.

Learn more about Alaskan tribes

Aleut Athabascan Eyak
Haida Inuit Tlingit
Tsimshian Yupik