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Who Is Eric Bransby, Painter, Draftsman and Muralist

Updated on January 4, 2015

Eric Bransby, Colorado and Missouri Artist and Teacher

In the process of earning a degree in Fine Arts, I had the fortune to study drawing and printmaking with Eric Bransby. As a naïve student, I didn't realize who this quiet, unassuming man was, just as he said as a student at the Kansas City Art Institute, he didn't know who his teacher Tom Benton was.

photo credit Community Photo Gallery

The Artist: Eric Bransby - by William Underwood Eiland

"Eric Bransby minces no words when he talks about his career: 'I paint for the masses.' In fact, in describing his convictions about art in general, he refers directly to [Jose Clemete] Orozco's belief that mural painting is a social art form, and as such has a social responsibility. The muralist, according to Bransby, works in tandem with the architect, and in so doing structures his work so that the public -- the human masses who use the building -- gain a common appreciation of the space that both envelopes and unites them in a shared aim, a purpose that the murals themselves illuminate and reify. Indeed, it is those honestly rendered men and women, a humanity of emotions and thought, not artificially constructed automatons, who give the energy of shared beliefs and common values, in short, life to space. No wonder, then, that his career as a painter has been an ongoing mission to put figures on the wall: They are the unifying lyrics that give meaning to the embracing music of architecture." ~William Underwood Eiland

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Bransby won a six-state competition to design and execute a ten-paneled mural, dedicated in 1981, for the council chambers of the Liberty, Missouri City Hall.

My son was a model for one of the children in the mural for the Council Chambers of the Liberty, Missouri city hall.

Draftsman and Muralist

by William Underwood Eiland

While Bransby's "homework" for any mural commission concentrated on the figure and its placement on the wall, he also studied local history so that his mural reflected the intentions of those who commissioned it. Bransby is eloquent in explaining this part of his preparation in the brochure distributed at the unveiling of the mural: "The shape of a community is formed not so much by rivers, buildings and monuments as by the acts of man. The men and women of Liberty's past, a few famous, many others whose names are lost to us, have by their diligence, foresightedness, courage and faith shaped the character of this community. It is fitting then that human beings be the recurring image of the Liberty mural." Restating beliefs he learned from and shared with Benton and Charlot, Bransby was well aware that the mural itself was a reflection of the city's past, present and future: "The men and women who in the future will convene in the Liberty City Council Chamber, and whose actions will determine the direction of the continuing history of Liberty, will thus symbolically share the podium with the historical figures who formed the City's heritage."

*Eric James Bransby, "Liberty: The Heritage Years," n.d., n.p.

Bransby, ever dedicated to his students and to the advancement of knowledge in drawing and painting, was rewarded with the Veatch Award for Distinguished Research and Creative Activity in 1977. ~W. Eiland

Lee Ann #4 - Eric Bransby - 2010 Kirkland Collection: 100+ Years of Colorado Art

All rights reserved by Arvada Center
All rights reserved by Arvada Center

Vance Kirkland Collection Prints and Drawings by Arvada Center

photo credit Community Photo Gallery

Figurative Connections: Selected Works by Eric Bransby

Cossitt Hall Rotunda Ceiling Mural Colorado College - Painted by Eric Bransby

Rotunda ceiling mural by artist Eric Bransby
Rotunda ceiling mural by artist Eric Bransby

Cossitt Hall Rotunda ceiling mural painted 1948 by artist Eric Bransby, Colorado College

In 1948, artist Eric Bransby painted a mural in the entrance rotunda of Cossitt. "Settlement of the West" depicts goldseekers, migrating settlers, the cattle industry, and trappers and traders. Born in Albany, New York, in 1916, Bransby studied at Colorado College and taught at Yale University, the University of Illinois, Western Illinois University, and the University of Missouri. Other Colorado Springs area sites with murals executed by Bransby include the Colorado Springs Medical Center, U.S. Air Force Academy Planetarium (later installed at the Colorado Springs Municipal Airport), Air Defense Command Headquarters, and the Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum. In 2002, Bransby, then in his eighties, returned to restore his mural in Cossitt's rotunda. ~~

Bransby The Student

Bransby would go on and have other distinguished muralists as teachers, but his training with Benton at the Kansas City Art Institute was in his words "quite accidental. I didn't know who Tom Benton was. I grew up in a little suburb of Omaha -- a very culturally-deprived little community. Nobody in the family was interested in art as such. I knew of Grant Wood. Iowa. And I'd heard the name Tom Benton but I didn't know anything about Benton. I didn't know he was at the Art Institute. I had originally planned to go to the Chicago Art Institute but I couldn't swing it." ~W. Eiland Berardi, Under The Influence, 52

The Artist in America - Thomas Benton

Bransby remarks that the textbook for all painting students was Max Doerner's Materials of the Artist and Their Use in Painting. Moreover, most students owned Benton's The Artist in America.

Eric J. Bransby Bio

Eric J. Bransby; professor emeritus of art; B.A., M.A. (Colorado College); M.F.A. (Yale University).

In 1984, Bransby was sixty-nine years old, and he retired from the University of Missouri-Kansas City to return with his wife to Colorado Springs

Bransby received an honorary doctorate from Park University in 1993

In 1997, the University of Colorado awarded Bransby a Doctorate of Humane Letters

The Colorado College Alumni Association honored Bransby with a Medal for Lifetime Achievement in 1998

What Do You Love About Eric Bransby and His Work? - I'd Love To Hear From You

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I, too, was one of his students. I helped him and Mary Ann move back to Colorado after they retired from University of Missouri/Kansas City. I learned, of course, a lot about painting, drawing, etc, from him, but we spent many hours in his home or office (I also modeled for him for the Liberty Mural) talking about theology, politics and other subjects. Eric's father was a Presbyterian minister from England. I was hoping to go to divinity school after college. Those are my fondest memories.....many hours with him alone, driving on an errand or working on a project, we talked about virtually everything. In a real way, he was a mentor and father-figure. I love him dearly and miss he and his wonderful wife, the late Mary Ann Bransby.