November 21, 2003 by

William F. Draper


Categories: Artists, Military

William Franklin Draper, the “Dean of American portraiture,” died on Oct 26. Cause of death was not released. He was 90.

Draper studied at Harvard University, the National Academy of Design in New York and the Cape Art School in Massachusetts before joining the Navy in 1942. He spent World War II hunkered in foxholes or on aircraft carrier decks sketching the battles as they happened and occasionally painting portraits of admirals. For his service, Draper reached the rank of lieutenant commander and earned a Bronze Star.

After he returned to the states, Draper developed a reputation in the art world as one of the premiere portrait painters in America. His portraits of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon hang in the National Portrait Gallery. Many of his military paintings and celebrity portraits reside in the National Gallery of Art and the Navy Art Collection in Washington D.C.

In 1999, Draper received the lifetime achievement award from the Portrait Society of America.

7 Responses to William F. Draper

  1. Steve Gilford

    The Draper portrait of Henry Kaiser is most likely going on view as a part of a major museum exhibit starting later this month and runing for the next eight months. It may well become a part of the permanent Kaiser exhibit that will follow the large one opening in a few weeks.exhibit
    For the past year and a half, I have been working with the Oakland Museum of California on this exhibit reflecting the life and impact of an extraordinary man who has been somewhat forgotten. A while back, I was excited to learn that that Draper had painted an outstanding portrait of Kaiser which had hung in the World Headquarters of his 90+ companies. After Kaiser’s death and the later dissolution of his companies, the portrait had stayed in the building as a part of Kaiser Aluminum. Recently, the successor company to Kaiser Aluminum presented the portrait to the only real Kaiser organization still going strong, The Kaiser Permanente Health Plan. Meanwhile, there was no one around who recognized the name of the artist at either Kaiser Permanente or the Maxxasm Corporation. I was very pleased to pass on to them information about the respect that William Draper had earned with his portraiture and the outstanding company of Draper subjects Henry Kaiser had been in.
    I have been unable to find any record as yet in the Kaiser archives at the University of California that would tell me when the painting was done. Perhaps there is someone whom you might be able to direct me to who would have access to this information.
    Presumably, at the same time, Draper painted a portrait of Eugene Trefethen, a brilliant businessman who made the Kaiser empire work. He was Kaiser’s alter ego and was in effect, the COO of the nearly one hundred Kaiser corporations doing business all around the world. This portrait is currently hanging in the executive offices of Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, CA.
    I hope this information is of some interest to you.
    With my best wishes and my appreciation for the vision and skill of William Draper.
    Steve Gilford

  2. Jameas Andrade

    I am writng in regards to the question of when the portrait of Henry Kaiser was painted. Bill Draper, as he was called by his friends, was my Godfather and great friends with my uncle. If anyone has any information it would be my uncle.
    Contact me through my e-mail if you are still interested.
    Best wishes,
    James Andrade

  3. Pat Young

    William F. Draper was the highlight of an event my company, The Portrait Group, sponsored in Reston, Virginia, A Gathering of Portrait Artists. He painted a demonstration portrait of the founder of Reston and discover they had known each other at Yale. He was a judge for one of my portrait competitions and simply a prince of a gentleman and one of the finest portraitist of our time. He is missed enormously.

  4. Sean Shinners

    I Have acquired a portrait by William F Draper of a Lady named L B Walker can anyone out their shed any light on the Lady in question i would be happy to forward some photos of the portrait.
    Sean Shinners.

  5. A M Bailey

    I am putting together a feature story about Draper in our non-profit art society magazine and would like to use a photo of a Draper portrait for the color cover photo. If you have a painting he did would you consider letting us use a copy of it?

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