Lloyd Branson

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Lloyd Branson
Portrait of Branson (1873) by early Knoxville photographer T.M. Schleier
Enoch Lloyd Branson

DiedJune 12, 1925 (aged 71–72)
Resting placeOld Gray Cemetery
Knoxville, Tennessee
EducationUniversity of Tennessee
National Academy of Design
Known forPainting

Enoch Lloyd Branson (1853–1925) was an American artist best known for his portraits of Southern politicians and depictions of early East Tennessee history. One of the most influential figures in Knoxville's early art circles, Branson received training at the National Academy of Design in the 1870s and subsequently toured the great art centers of Europe. After returning to Knoxville, he operated a portrait shop with photographer Frank McCrary.[2] He was a mentor to fellow Knoxville artist Catherine Wiley,[3] and is credited with discovering twentieth-century modernist Beauford Delaney.[4]


Branson was born in what is now Union County, Tennessee, (then part of Knox County) to English parents.[5] His family moved to Knoxville in 1868, where Lloyd found work in a brickyard.[6] As a child, he impressed his friends by crafting small figures out of clay.[7]

Around the time of the Civil War, prominent Knoxville physician John Mason Boyd noticed a sketch of Ulysses S. Grant Branson had made on a cigar box, and provided financial assistance for Branson to attend East Tennessee University.[6] In 1871, Branson drew favorable attention for his exhibition at the East Tennessee Division Fair.[5] By the following year, his portraits had impressed art enthusiasts to the extent that the Knoxville Chronicle described him as Knoxville's "native genius."[7]

Hauling Marble

Branson moved to New York in 1873, where he attended the National Academy of Design.[5] Two years later, he captured first prize at one of the Academy's exhibitions for his drawing of a gladiator, which earned him a scholarship to receive further training in Paris. Some of Branson's later work showed elements of the French Barbizon school,[8] though it's uncertain whether or not he ever visited Europe.[6]

By 1876, he had returned to Knoxville, and quickly became a leading figure in the city's art community. Working in partnership with early photographer T. M. Schleier, he focused primarily on commercial portraits.[6] He became a regular at the masquerade balls attended by the city's elite at the Lamar House Hotel,[9] and spent time at resorts such as Tate Springs.[10]

In 1880, Branson and photographer Frank McCrary formed McCrary and Branson, a Photograph & Portrait Artists company that operated out of a three-story building on Gay Street in Knoxville. The company, which at times included Branson's brother, Oliver, and sister-in-law, Laura, specialized in oil-painted photographs, oil copies, crayon-and-oil sketches, and illustrated souvenirs.[6][8] Branson also taught art classes in the building, often to members of Knoxville's upper class.[8] Impressionist Catherine Wiley, Adelia Armstrong Lutz, and Mortimer Thompson were arguably his most well-known students during this period.[6] Branson's work was exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, the 1900 World's Fair in Paris, and the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo.[6] He won the gold medal for an exhibition at the 1895 Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta[2] and in 1896, he won a national competition for designing the Flag of Knoxville, Tennessee.[11][12]

Branson reached the height of his career in 1910, when his work, Hauling Marble, won the gold medal at Knoxville's Appalachian Exposition.[2] In the early 1920s, Branson began giving lessons to a young Beauford Delaney, whose sketches he found impressive. In 1924, he arranged to send Delaney to an art school in Boston to receive further instruction.[4]

Branson died of "chronic Bright's disease"[13] on June 12, 1925.[2] He is buried in Old Gray Cemetery in Knoxville.[13]


Branson was a stylistically conservative painter, especially in his early years, though some of his later works show elements of impressionism and modern styles.[6] Most of his work consisted of commercial portraits, but his most well-known tend to depict historical scenes of the Appalachian frontier. His work is on display in the Tennessee State Museum and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, and the Knoxville Museum of Art, the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, and the East Tennessee History Center in Knoxville. One of Branson's most popular paintings, The Battle of King's Mountain, was displayed in the Hotel Imperial in Knoxville, and was destroyed when the hotel burned in 1917.[5]

Historical paintings[edit]

  • Sheep Shearing Scene[14]
  • The Blockhouse at Knoxville, Tennessee[15]
  • Assault on Fort Sanders
  • Hauling Marble (also known as The Toilers or Rock Haulers), (c. 1890)
  • Women at Work, 1891
  • California to Oregon Stagecoach, 1900
  • Gathering of Overmountain Men at Sycamore Shoals, 1915


Branson's portrait of Ellen McClung Berry

Branson painted portraits of the following individuals:


Branson Avenue in Knoxville is named in Branson's honor. His house still stands along the road, and has been purchased for restoration by the preservation group, Knox Heritage.[6]

Further reading[edit]

  • Anderson, John A. The Art of Lloyd Branson: A Family Connection (Nashville: Branson Art Organization, 2012).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The year of Branson's birth is given variously as 1853 or 1854; his tombstone at Old Gray Cemetery lists his year of birth as 1853. Conversely, his obituary from a Knoxville newspaper clipping on file at the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection lists his age at his death as 70.
  2. ^ a b c d James Hoobler, Lloyd Branson. Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, 2009. Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  3. ^ Elizabeth Moore, Anna Catherine Wiley. Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, 2009. Retrieved: 28 June 2011.
  4. ^ a b Jack Neely, A Tale of Two Brothers. Metro Pulse, Vol. 7, No. 13 (3–10 April 1997). Accessed at the Internet Archive, 2 October 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d East Tennessee Historical Society, Mary Rothrock (ed.), The French Broad-Holston Country: A History of Knox County, Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn.: The Society, 1972), pp. 385-6.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jack Neely, "A Portrait of the Artist: Lloyd Branson," Knoxville Mercury, 4 November 2015. Retrieved: 10 November 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Native Genius," Knoxville Daily Chronicle, 11 July 1872, p. 4.
  8. ^ a b c Frederick Moffatt, Lucile Deaderick (ed.), "Painting, Sculpture, and Photograph," Heart of the Valley: A History of Knoxville, Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn.: East Tennessee Historical Society, 1976), pp. 426-7.
  9. ^ Dean Novelli, "On a Corner of Gay Street: A History of the Lamar House—Bijou Theater, Knoxville, Tennessee, 1817 – 1985." East Tennessee Historical Society Publications, Vol. 56 (1984), pp. 3-45.
  10. ^ "Knoxville at Tate Spring," Knoxville Daily Chronicle, 20 May 1880, p. 4.
  11. ^ "Statement as to the Adoption of the Knoxville City Flag," November 6, 1896, Knoxville Minute Book, Book L, p.380.
  12. ^ Jack Neely, "The Knoxville Flag's Mini-Revival," Knoxville Mercury, 21 October 2016.
  13. ^ a b "Tennessee Deaths, 1914-1966," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QPC9-RMXG  : 23 February 2021), Lloyd Branson, 12 Jun 1925; Death, Knoxville, Knox, Tennessee, United States, Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville.
  14. ^ Image
  15. ^ Image
  16. ^ "Ellen McClung Berry - Branson". tnportraits.org. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  17. ^ "Price. Abram Jones Price". knoxlib.org. Retrieved 17 October 2015.

External links[edit]