On James Edmund Allen, Illustrator
James Edmund Allen as a lad.
by Allen E. Rizzi
James Edmund Allen was born on February 23, 1894 in the small town of Louisiana, located on the west bank of the Mississippi in Pike County, Missouri. Three years later, he moved with his family to a rural area on Mill Creek just outside Anaconda, Montana. There, his parents William Henry Allen & Annie May Scoggins raised their small family. The family had moved west to join cousins already in the area & involved with mining & timber interests. This was still the untamed west, full of excitement, intrigue & danger.
Growing up in Montana, James became known as "Edd" to his family & friends. With his younger brother, Elmer Leroy Allen (18961971), Edd developed a love for the rugged outdoor life in Montana. Edd liked horses & often accompanied his father & brother on hunting trips far into the rugged mountains that surround Anaconda. It was here that Edd first began developing his skills as an artist, concentrating on outdoor scenes portraying men at work. This style, portraying the muscle of America, became the hallmark of his future success as an artist.
Edd in Montana.
Edd worked with one of the Allen-owned timber companies in Anaconda as a flume yard operator. The work was hard & dangerous. In his free time, he continued to hone his artistic skills & spend time with his family & friends. A tall, good looking young man, Edd soon fell in love with & married the young Grace Parmelee who was born January 8, 1899. The couple's first child, Charlotte May was born November 4, 1917. At the outbreak of World War I, Edd joined the United States Armed Forces along with younger brother Elmer, known as Lee. Both brothers arrived in the European theater in 1917 where they served with the American Expeditionary Forces in Germany & Belgium. Lee served with the Army as a horseman, breaking horses while Edd became a 2nd Lieutenant.
After returning from the Europe, Edd resumed his work as an illustrator & artist with renewed vigor, living among other artists in the well-known Interlaken Colony near Asbury Park, New York. His second daughter, Jo Ann, was born November 24, 1923. In 1925, he traveled to Paris where he shared a studio with fellow printmaker Howard Cook. There he experimented with various artistic media, making lithographs & etchings for the first time. Forced by the Depression to return to the United States, he moved back to New York, where he continued to hone Edd in WW I his skills as a printmaker under Joseph Pennell & William Auerbach-Levy. Industrial scenes from the post-depression era that portrayed the muscular images of men working on railroads, buildings, & bridges began to form a large part of his graphic subject matter. Examples include The Builders (etching, 1932), The Accident (etching, 1934), Spider Boy (etching, 1937), The Flats (lithograph, 1937) & Distress (lithograph, 1938).
Edd in WWI.
In the decade from 1930 to 1940, Edd's work found great commercial success in the pages of many favorite magazines including Collier's & Good Housekeeping. In addition to illustrations for single articles, Edd's illustrations would also support a series of stories, as was the case with Emma-Lindsay Squier's series of pirate stories, which appeared in Good Housekeeping from 1932 to 1935. While his repertoire was versatile & energetic, Edd's illustrations most always portrayed people of determination, action & strength. In addition to achieving success as a commercial illustrator, Edd also contributed to the short story genre with western tales of life on the ranch.
Despite the demands of a busy life, Edd always remembered his father with much love & affection. During a visit from his father on January 27, 1930, he painted a portrait of the elder Allen as a gift at Dann's Station, Trenton, New Jersey. In 1939, he penciled an original work as a Christmas present for his father. It shows two bears on a mountain cliff looking down into a valley with a road suggesting progress winding toward them. The lovely work is inscribed simply: "To my straight shooting dad, Christmas 1939."
Edd died September 9, 1964 at Larchmont in the state of New York where he had lived for many years. He left a legacy of very fine art that is just now beginning to reach its fullest appreciation with the American public. His works are in demand & may be found for sale today in the catalogs of several prominent art dealers. In the spirit that was ingrained in his work, James Edmund Allen lived the American dream of imagination, daring, hard work & success.
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