John Gannam

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John Gannam


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John Gannam was an illustrator and painter who worked almost exclusively in watercolor.
Gannam was born in the country of Lebanon and grew up in Chicago. He was forced to leave school and work at age 14 due to his father's death. He went through a succession of menial jobs until he eventually became a messenger boy in an engraving house. Here, he first found a purpose for himself to become an artist like the men who did the layouts, lettering, and drawings from engravings. Within a few years, through observation and a stiff schedule of self-education, he reached his goal—working for studios in Chicago and Detroit.
The next step was New York and, eventually, magazine illustration. He received his first manuscript from Henry Quinan of Woman's Home Companion, followed soon thereafter by work from most of the other magazines. Gannam always sought fresh, non-stereotyped viewpoints, and he was in steady demand by advertisers as well as publishers. His illustrations for campaigns of Pacific Mills, Ipana, and St. Mary Blankets are particularly memorable.
He was a lifelong student of the effects of light and color. Oftentimes, a particular problem would preoccupy him for months as he tried out innumerable variations. He persevered until he was satisfied with such effects as sunlight and under-water rocks on the surface of a mountain stream, or the glow of a fire and its reflection on wet pavement, as firemen fought a blaze.
Gannam worked at his paintings almost vertically, very freely, his brush loaded with water. He was after the broad, but exact, effect. He was little concerned with details or with corrections that could be made later, if needed, with opaque.
Gannam also exhibited his watercolors and was an associate of the National Academy of Design, a member of the American Artists' Professional League, the American Watercolor Society, the Society of Illustrators, and was appointed to the faculty and board of directors of the Danbury Academy of Arts.



“John Gannam,” Westport Public Schools Digital Collections, accessed May 15, 2021,

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