A Travelling Artist Returns Home
Biography of Frank D. Allison from A Dictionary of Canadian Artists by Colin S. MacDonald
Born in Saint John, N.B. in 1883, son of Frank Octavius Allison and Mary Sara Bonsall Kaye, Frank Drummond Allison studied painting under Wilfred Molson Barnes in Montreal; John F. Carlson, Woodstock, New York; and George Elmer Browne in Europe. He lived in Saint John, New Brunswick, but traveled extensively and found his subjects in many countries. Although he painted a variety of subjects, he had a special interest in old buildings, bridges, cities, towns and coastal scenes. He is perhaps best known for his watercolours.
He exhibited both his oils and watercolours with the Royal Canadian Academy exhibitions between 1915 and 1941; at Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Spring Shows between 1915 and 1939. Among his solo shows during his career was one for his watercolours at the T. Eaton Company gallery in Montreal in November of 1933 when The Montreal Star critic noted, “Mr. Allison’s subjects are principally the streets and buildings of old towns and, more particularly, towns in the south of Europe. The pictures are mostly large watercolours, painted with much breadth and freedom, full of the gay colour and sunlight of places in Spain, Italy, southern France and Morocco. The little town of Espalion (France) appears in several of these pictures and one of the best of them is of the big arch of its bridge. There are some other good bridges here and a very fine one is the bridge at Cahors, with its towers standing out in a blaze of sunlight against distant hills; and in good contrast with this is an English bridge, at Ludlow. The street scenes are many and good and one of a street at Pardines is especially happy in its colour. Rather different is the fine effect of red-roofed Corsican houses standing on top of a blue-green hillside.”
Allison won the Jessie Dow Prize for his watercolour painting Bab Djedid, Fez in 1933. He is represented in the following collections: Mount Allison Univ., Sackville, N.B.; Y.W.C.A., Saint John, N.B.; New Brunswick Museum, Saint John; City of Saint John, N.B.; Milliken Univ., Decatur, IL.; Decatur Inst. of Civic Art; Art Inst., Springfield, IL.; Peoria High School, IL., and many private collections in Canada and elsewhere. His niece, Mrs. Doreen (Allison) Tuomola of Toronto, has a sizeable collection of his work. A traveling exhibition of forty of his watercolours toured the Maritimes during the fall of 1985 under the auspices of the New Brunswick Museum. Frank Allison was a life member of the American Water Color Society (1933). He died in Saint John in 1951at the age of 78.
References: The Montreal Star, Nov. I, 1933 “ED. Allison’s Water Colors At Eaton’s”/ The Gazette, Mtl., Nov. 2, 1933 “Watercolors By Frank D. Allison” / La Presse, Mtl., Nov. 2, 1933 “Frank D. Allison” / Times Globe, Saint John, N.B., Nov. 6, 1933 “Local Man’s Paintings Exhibited in N.Y. (A.W.C.S. show at Vanderbilt Gallery, N.Y.C. / Mt. Allison Univ. Collection of Canadian Art, (catalogue), Mt. A. U., Sackville, N.B., 1965 RCAA Exhibition and Members, 1880-1979 by Evelyn de R. McMann, UTP, Tor., 1981, P.9 / Evening Times Globe, Saint John, N.B., Sept. 26, 1984 “Paintings Presented To City” / The Tunes-Transcript, Moncton, N.B., Oct. 3, 1985 “Allison exhibit opens during Convocation week” / MMFA Spring Exhibitions 1880-1970 by Evelyn de R. McMann, UTP, Tor. 1988, P.7 / NGC Info. Form dated June 12, 1942