Frank Crawford Penfold

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Frank (Francis) Crawford Penfold (American, 1849-1921) artist, teacher, lecturer, known for marine/seascape, genre, landscape, and portrait paintings, especially of the Brittany region of France. Penfold came from a family of artists, (the son of the portrait painter William Penfold (English born-American, 1827-1875), who was active in Lockport and Buffalo, New York. His mother was also an accomplished artist as were his two brothers Charles C. (1856- ) who designed engraved and manufactured fine jewelry in Buffalo, NY, beginning in 1872 and William who became a fresco artist in Erie, PA. He also had three sisters Ida, Lillie and Marie.

Frank’s father originally wanted him to become an engraver, but one day at school Frank drew a sketch of the old schoolhouse in
Lockport, NY in the back of an atlas. The principal at the time, Mr. Porter was charmed with the sketch and asked Frank to paint it on canvas. Frank and his younger brother used to clean up their father’s studio every evening, washing brushes and palettes, and unknown to his father, saved enough paint from his father’s palette to finish the piece. Mr. Porter was pleased with the painting and had it framed and exhibited. From that time forward Frank trained with his father in portraiture and other painting styles. One of his earliest known portraits was of "Addison Roberts" of Hornell, NY, husband of Marie (née Helmer) Roberts, painted in 1873. It was was also noted on the back of the painting that Penfold was listed as an artist in Buffalo and Paris. 

Frank had moderate success while living in
Buffalo but decided to further his studies abroad. Around 1877, he traveled to France and later settled in Pont Aven, Brittany where he also taught in the artists’ colony. He studied in Finistère, Brittany, France and also trained at the Académie Julian in Paris in 1884. He occasionally returned to Buffalo, NY and in 1891, taught a class at the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Albright Art Gallery. He remained an influential figure in the Buffalo art scene and also helped organize the Municipal Art League in Chicago, IL in 1901. He was a member of the Buffalo Society of Artists and served as President in 1896, Buffalo, NY. Frank alternated between two homes, one in Pont Aven, France and another at 32 Johnson Park, Buffalo, NY.

Artist Statement :

“Many of my friends at home wonder why I paint what they choose to call “sad” subjects, instead of something brighter and more cheerful. I can only say that I prefer to study pathetic sentiment because I know of no other mood which affords so fine an opportunity to depict character-phases of character most difficult to portray, expressions that shows not merely in the face, but in the hands, in the whole attitude. It is impossible to find this in a model-it must be felt.”[1] -Frank C. Penfold

Chronology :

1849- Born, to portrait painter William Penfold (Born Sussex, England-American, 1827-1875) Maria C. (née Chapman), had two brothers Charles C. (b.1856-), and William who were accomplished artists, and three sisters Ida, Lillie and Marie, Lockport, NY.

1873- Traveled to Paris, France.

1875- April, exhibited, First Annual Exhibition of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, two paintings shown “Summer Rambles” and “The Kitchen Door”, Fine Arts Gallery, Buffalo, NY. October, exhibited, group show, Mutter & Hoddick Art Gallery, for the painting “Autumn on the Susquehanna”, Buffalo, NY. Frank’s father William Penfold died.

circa 1877- Frank left to further his studies abroad, settling in
Pont Aven, Brittany, France, and taught in the art colony there.

1879- Returned to
Buffalo, NY for a short stay.

From 1880-1882- Penfold worked alongside fellow Lockport artist Burr H. Nicholls (American 1848-1915), who were the first painters to bring the Pont-Aven art colony in Brittany, France into porminence with artists and tourists.

1880- March 10, eight of Penfold’s paintings of Pont Aven, France were auctioned off by Irish & English Auctioneers, New White Building, Main Street, Buffalo, NY. Returned to France. March 20, Exhibited, group show, the Gallery of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, for the painting “Fisherman’s Daughter”, Buffalo, NY.

1881- December 21, thirty-seven paintings of
Pont Aven, France were auctioned off by Irish & English Auctioneers, New White Building, Room 1 and 2 on the second floor, Main Street, Buffalo, NY.

1882- Continued his art studies, Brittany, France. Exhibited, group show, Paris Salon, the painting “Death of the First Born” which was hung in first row “on the line” promptly purchased by the French Government. It was reproduced and received enthusiastically in the journals of
Paris, Lyons and other foreign papers, Paris, France. Exhibited, group show, The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, group show, Brooklyn Art Association, Brooklyn, NY. Exhibited, group show, National Academy of Design, NYC.

1883- Exhibited,
Paris Salon, Paris, France. Exhibited, unknown location, 15 W. Chippewa St., Buffalo, NY.

1884- Studied in
Finistère, Brittany, France, and also at the Académie Julian, Paris. March, Exhibited, group show, The Temperance Citizens League, two paintings shown “At the Fountain” and “An Invited Guest”, the Hodge Opera House, Lockport, NY. circa June, returned to Buffalo, NY, and also exhibited, group show, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, painting “Autumn” shown, Buffalo, NY. Circa summer, traveled to Belgium for the study of foliage and nature. Circa fall, returned to France and exhibited Paris Salon, paintings “The First Trousers” and “Found Drowned”, Paris, France.

1885- Exhibited, Paris Salon, the painting “La Veuve” (The Widow), which hung on “the line” again, but was withdrawn after a few days to be exhibited in the United States, in New York, Chicago, and other American cities including Buffalo, NY. Fall/Winter, taught art classes at Mrs. E.B. Seymour’s
Art School (former secretary and treasurer of the Decorative Art Society), Buffalo, NY, which opened in September of that year. Exhibited, group show, for a sketch of the Chautauqua County Creek, Benson’s Art Rooms, 16 East Swan Street, Buffalo, NY.

1886- May 8, returned to
France. Summer, spent time in Étaples, Pas de Calais, France.

circa 1886- Winter, returned to
Pont Aven, France. Also visited the Picardy region of France and traveled to Algeria.

1887- Returned to
Buffalo, and taught classes at the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Buffalo, NY. Later returned to France.

1889- Exhibited, Paris Salon, two paintings shown “Triste Nouvelle” (Sad News) which hung on “the line” and “La Songeuse” (The Dreamer), (Prize, Honorable Mention), Paris France. October, Returned to Buffalo, NY. December, organized, solo show, over thirty paintings from France, Algiers and Italy which included “Lion in Repose” a portrait painted from life of the animal presented by the artist Rosa Bonheur to the Jardin des l’lantes Museum in Paris, “”The Dreamer” (from a previous Paris Salon), “In the Glow” (Bay of Naples), 641 Main Street, Buffalo, NY.

1890- January, returned to France. Exhibited, Paris Salon, the painting “Bon Soir-Good Night”, which hung on “the line” again, and also for the painting “The Gleaners” a large painting of a scene in Picardy (5’ x 7’), Paris, France.

1891- Exhibited, Paris Salon, the painting “Letter from Jacques”, in Room 32, Paris, France. Taught first class in composition at the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy during an extended visit, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1893- Exhibited, Columbian Exhibition/World's Fair, Chicago, IL. Exhibited, Paris Salon, Paris, France. Daughter Jane Green Penfold was born, who also became an artist and a member of the Buffalo Society of Artists, and later taught a costume design class at the Buffalo School of Fine Arts. August, returned from France.

1894- Buffalo Society of Artists held an auction of paintings to benefit of the Art Students League. A meager response was reflected in two paintings sold, an Algerian and a French scene for $20 each, Library Building of the Buffalo Society of Artists, Buffalo, NY.

1896- April, Elected as President of the Buffalo Society of Artists, Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, group show, Buffalo Society of Artists, four paintings “Summer Evening”, “Adoration”, “Autumn” and “Returning from Market”, Buffalo, NY. April 20, returned to Europe.

1897- Circa November, Frank and his wife were married (unknown name), Buffalo, NY.

1899- Exhibited, group show, Paris Salon, Paris, France.

1901- Exhibited, Pan American Exposition (Prize, Honorable Mention), two paintings shown “Mal Du Pays” (Homesickness) and “Song of the Lark”, Gallery C, Buffalo, NY. Exhibited, annual show, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA. Helped organize the Municipal Art League, Chicago, IL.

1902- Exhibited, group show, Buffalo Society of Artists, painting “Five O’clock Tea in the Studio” which contained the portraits of several famous Buffalonians including Burr H. Nicholls, Mrs. Penfold, Mrs. George Howard Bush, Miss Emily Gray, Mrs. Edwin Fleming, and Mr. George Hibbard, Buffalo, NY.

1904- Exhibited, group show, Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis World's Fair, St. Louis, MO.

1907- March, exhibited, solo show, Albright Art Gallery, sold eight paintings, Buffalo, NY. April 11-21, Exhibited remaining paintings from solo show at the Albright Art Gallery, rented space at 146 Main Street, in Buffalo, NY. May, returned to Pont Aven, Brittany, France.

1915- Exhibited, solo show, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

1916- February 17, on his way back to France from New York, Penfold’s French steamship “Chicago” was attempted to be captured or destroyed by a German war vessel. The German raider, disguised as a merchant ship with lights appeared three miles off their bow and ordered the “Chicago” to stop. Instead of complying, Captain Mace ordered full steam ahead to 17 knots, outdistancing the German ship within a half hour. April 28, two Penfold paintings were sold to benefit a hospital in Brittany, France, held at the home of Dexter P. Rumsey with a concert under the direction of Mrs. Penfold, 742 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, NY.

1921- Exhibited, February, group show, Buffalo Society of Artists, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. May 2nd, Penfold’s wife died at the age of 71. Distraught over his wife’s death, Penfold committed suicide by drowning in nearby Concarneau, Brittany, France.

1922- Memorial exhibit of watercolors, Twenty-eighth Annual Exhibition of the Buffalo Society of Artists, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

Awards: Honorable Mention from the French Government, Paris, France; Paris Salon (Prize, Honorable Mention 1889), Paris, France; Pan American Exposition (Prize, Honorable Mention), Buffalo, NY; Fellowship Prize (unknown year), Buffalo Society of Artists, Buffalo, NY.

Associations : Brooklyn Art Association, Brooklyn, NY.

Memberships: Buffalo Society of Artists (President 1896), Buffalo, NY.

Museums: Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo, NY; Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, ME; Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE.

For additional information on this artist or for other possible examples of his works, please visit the AskArt link.

(Rewritten & compiled chronologically by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY,, sources: Too long to list here and are furnished upon request.)