painted dramatic landscapes with trees as centerpieces. According to his wife, Bonnie, Branchard “loved to paint trees, snow, and sky, but humans did not interest him;he did not find them beautiful.” The trees that Branchard painted were indeed beautiful, their undulating trunks often mimicking the shapes of dancers. In
two interlocking, leafless trees engage in an almost intimate interaction. In
a forest of dark tree trunks is set against a white, snowy foreground and still darker sky. The earth and sky do notcompete with Branchard’s mysterious trees. Some of his unpopulated paintings give off a sense of loneliness. In
Farm in Winter,
trees and a house are surrounded bya vast field of snow and solid pastel sky. Sidney Janis, in writing about the artist, suggested that the “bleak and stark scene is America to the core, the America of Whittier’s
”Branchard was born on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village, New York, in 1881. His mother established Mme. Branchard’s rooming house for artists, knownas the House of Genius, near Washington Square. Educated by French nuns, Branchard worked as a truck driver, stevedore, and for the Home Defense Force duringWorld War I. He developed tuberculosis while patrolling the New York waterfront, which ended his formal employment. During his extended period of requiredconvalescence, he took up painting. He had no art training, but his stepfather had studied painting throughout his childhood, and Branchard had watched him paint.Branchard began painting using paints and brushes left behind by one of his mother’s lodgers.Painting only from memory, and favoring oil on canvas or board, Branchard first exhibited with the Society of Independent Artists in New York (1919). The galleryowner, Stephen Bourgeois, “discovered” Branchard at that exhibition, and showed the artist’s paintings from 1919 to 1932.
Painting, American Folk.
Cahill, Holger, et al.
Masters of Popular Painting: Modern Primitives of Europe and America.
New York, 1938.Janis, Sidney.
They Taught Themselves: American Primitive Painters of the Twentieth Century.
New York, 1942.Rosenak, Chuck, and Jan Rosenak.
Museum of American Folk Art Encydopedia of American Folk Art and Artists.
New York, 1990