Frank Godwin and the 1924 “The Howitzer” . . .

Note:  This is a revised version of a post that was “up” for a very short period in 2013.  In view of the recent reference to the “choir boys” painting on Liz Rizzo’s Frank Godwin Facebook page, I thought I would revise and repost it.

This post deals with Frank Godwin’s paintings for the 1924 edition of The Howitzer, which is the yearbook of the United States Military Academy, familiarly known as West Point.  In this post, I will carry the topic a little further.

Frank Godwin served in the United States Army during World War I, so he was a particularly fitting choice to produce illustrations for the book.  Essentially, Godwin produced illustrations for several of the major divisions of the yearbook.  He also produced two painting which were reproduced on the front endpapers and were repeated on the rear endpapers.  So, a total of seven Godwin illustrations appeared there, in all.

Ironically, the frontispiece illustration, facing the title page, was not drawn by Godwin.  Instead, that task went to “Hurd,” presumed to be Peter Hurd, a West Point dropout (didn’t know you could just resign!) who was only twenty years old when the illustration was printed.  (I don’t think anyone today would say that it was a good illustration.)  Hurd went on to become a well-known artist.

The Godwin paintings were all attractive, though a couple were less interesting than others.  Among the better ones, it is difficult to choose the best.  Possibly the painting for “Activities” was best.  It shows extremely effective use of colors and of light and shadow.  It reminds be a little of the rather theatrical illustrations Godwin produced for Tales From Shakespeare (published by Winston), which was first published (with Godwin illustrations) in . . . 1924!  (Same year as the yearbook.)  The actual reproduction of the painting consists of the colorful area with the curved top.


Another illustration of interest is the one for the “The Classes” section of the book.  It is possibly my second favorite, although, again, it is a little difficult to decide.  The degree of detail in the illustration is amazing.  The use of color is great, with the stained-glass windows contrasting well with the subdued colors of the rest of the painting.

the classes

You might say, “Gee, Tom, you said that the degree of detail is amazing, yet all you showed was a rather poor-quality image.”  How do you know about the detail?”

Well, I know about the detail, because I am fortunate in having the original (quite small) painting in my collection!

Actually, the overall reproduction-quality of the Godwin paintings in the yearbook varies quite a bit, and even the yearbook doesn’t perfectly display Godwin’s virtuosity in that painting.  A much better representation of the painting (than the one above) is found on Liz Rizzo’s Frank Godwin, Artist, Facebook page.

That photograph of the matted-and-framed original painting was taken before I bought the painting.  I think I bought the painting around ten years ago.  The photograph shows the painting behind glass, and there are reflections (I think mainly of other framed pictures) that are a bit distracting.

The painting medium appears to be some kind of opaque watercolors (loosely speaking) — gouache, I would think.

As far as I know, the 1924 The Howitzer was the only edition of the yearbook that contained Godwin illustrations.

By the way, in my opinion there is no reason to believe that Godwin designed the botanical background.

—Tom Sawyer

November 20, 2013

Revised December 26, 2014

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2 Responses to Frank Godwin and the 1924 “The Howitzer” . . .

  1. Liz Rizzo says:

    Happy New Year Tom! Glad to see your posts!

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