• Franklane L. Sewell, artist to the chicken stars!

    by  • April 4, 2011 • History

    Today, since the backyard hen house is the new dog house, I have a short biography to share for any of my chicken loving friends.

    Documenting chicken breeds and,….family history!

    Franklane Sewell (1866 -1945) lived in Buchanan, Michigan for many years in a house on Walton Road, a house with a north facing skylight. There was both a very fine chicken and brooder coop on the property.  Mr. Sewell gained a national reputation as a painter of poultry, specializing in paintings and line drawings to document the characteristics of standard breeds. He painted the stars among chickens!

    An oil on board painting by Sewell

    An oil on board painting by Sewell

    Franklane Sewell’s prominence as a poultry artist is evidenced by his drawings still being used by the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection, and also by his being mentioned in a poem by Robert Frost.   In the poem, “Blue Ribbon at Amesbury,” (1936), after mentioning some attributes of a prize hen: “In her, we make ourselves acquainted/With one a Sewell might have painted.” *

     

    Brahma by Sewell Reliable Poultry Journal Asiatics

    Brahma by Sewell Reliable Poultry Journal Asiatics

    Brahma female by Sewell Relaible Poultry Journal Asiatics

    Brahma female by Sewell Relaible Poultry Journal Asiatics

    1919 books illustrated and published by Reliable Poultry Journal

    1919 books illustrated and published by Reliable Poultry Journal

    Examples of Sewell’s art can be found online. In The Asiatics, T. F. McGrew (Reliable Poultry Journal, 1902), included two drawings  each of the ideal male and female Brahma chicken by Sewell (above).  Another drawing by Sewell included in this work was of Langshans (below).  A lovely painting (above) is also pictured online at an auction house.

     

    1927 Dayton, OH Franklane Lorraine Sewell, the artist at work

    1927 Dayton, OH Franklane Lorraine Sewell, the artist at work

     

    Ideal Black Langshans-- By Sewell

    Ideal Black Langshans– By Sewell

    Presently, chicken breeders and those who raise chickens at home, are still fond of Sewell’s work which shows such detail and passion for perfection and the different breeds. His artwork is discussed on blogs and chicken raising forums today.

    1901 Franklane L Sewell

    1901 Franklane L Sewell

    Franklane Sewell built a distinctive house** on Fourth St. (also called Walton Rd***) in the small town of Buchanan, Michigan which still stands, with a special studio space with a skylight.  He wrote one book there  called, ‘The Poultry Manual; a guide to successful poultry keeping in all its branches, fancy and practical’  which is available online at Archive.org.  He illustrated many other books, all which helped to set a standard in chicken breeding still used today.  Clare from Curbstone Valley Farm, pointed out to me his photo, included in one of the online publications on her bookshelf.

    1908 Franklane L Sewell Poultry Manual

    1908 Franklane L Sewell Poultry Manual

    A hobby I share with my sister is researching and preserving our family history. This is how we found out about Franklane Lorraine Sewell. He married into our Michigan branch of the family

    Notes:

    * Critical Companion to Robert Frost by Deirdre Fagan
    ** This house has a recessed front porch with balcony above.  Inside, the main room is two stories high with a balcony.  The house was next-door to that of his wife’s parents, David and Eliza Kean, who were my great great aunt and uncle.
    ***Robin Parkinson

    The Poultry herald manual: a guide to successful poultry keeping at archive.org
    Full text of “The Asiatics; Brahmas, Cochins and Langshans at archive.org

     

    1891 Franklane Sewell Poultry Show Varieties Madison Square Garden 1891 Print

    1891 Franklane Sewell Poultry Show Varieties Madison Square Garden 1891 Print

     

    1927 Dayton, OH Franklane Lorraine Sewell

    1927 Dayton, OH Franklane Lorraine Sewell

     

    Sweet portrait found by Kathi Wendt

    Kathi Wendt saw this article and emailed to me, “I own a sweet little painting of a little girl, above,  signed by F.L. Sewell and dated 1892.  After doing a bit of research, I am confident that the signature is that of Franklane Sewell.  There is a good amount of information regarding his poultry artwork and this article is especially informative.  I am curious if anyone has additional information about the subjects of other paintings.”

    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.