Nature’s Spring Bounty and a Malibu Pioneer’s Artwork Converge
• Generations Are Bonded by the Desire to Share Their Love of the Area’s Special Beauty
BY JESSICA LOUISE DILLON
BY JESSICA LOUISE DILLON
My grandfather was a spring child. His love of gardens, flowers and landscape was powerful and evident in his passion for painting them. Sidney Arnold Franklin was born in San Francisco on March 21, 1891. However, he spent most of his adult life in West Los Angeles and Malibu.
Grandpa’s painting of the coreopsis was done in Malibu after he retired here after a 50-year career directing and producing in Hollywood. He had been vacationing in the area since the early 1920s.
My mother, Victoria Franklin-Dillon, also an accomplished artist, said about his career, “His early films are in the Library of Congress and museum collections. He worked for D.W. Griffith on “Intolerance” and made his first features under Griffith's guidance.”
She added, “[My father] had a career in the movie industry that spanned from its inception in Hollywood to his retirement, due to his wife Ruth’s illness in the early 1960s. It was then that he backed off the preparation of the production of “Ben Hur” and his friend William Wyler took over. This is when he seriously took up painting in oil.”
Franklin considered oil painting the activity of real artists. Moviemaking was more of a career and a business he served with pride and dedication. When he painted, that to him was real art, and the coreopsis painting was one of his favorites. It always hung in a place of honor in his home, and now does the same in our Carbon Mesa home.
“Coreopsis” is his rendition of flowers growing along Pacific Coast Highway, north of the county line. It was painted in 1970, a mid-career work created from many photographs taken on his commutes to Oxnard.
Painting was an avocation that Franklin took very seriously. He studied with William Shulgold and, later, with Harry Carmean from the Art Center College of Art and Design. He studied portrait, still life, landscape and the impressionist masters Degas and Manet by copying them.
Franklin painted nearly every afternoon in his specially built north-light studio on his Trancas ranch home property. It was there that he pursued his passions for landscape design and painting for over 20 years.
From the house and studio, he had a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean that looked over his personally designed putting green and rock walls later featured in the painting of his wife, Ruth. He was continuously building rock walls around the property and also had a chrysanthemum and cymbidium growing operation, both with the help of his foreman Johnny Ysorda. This love of horticulture has continued through generations as my aunt, Roxanne Franklin-White, tends to her orchids in her Malibu home.
Grandpa’s “Coreopsis” is perhaps the loosest and most lively painting he ever did. His training was formal and classically tight, which suited his very detail oriented personality. We all love this painting for its light brush-strokes and attitude.
My mother said, “He was so serious so much of the time that this was a wonderful moment recorded that showed his lighter more gentle side.”
Franklin died of ACS, arteriosclerosis, in 1972 at 83. The painting is truly is a family treasure, and the family is glad to share it. I continue his tradition of making art about Malibu by photographing the spring coreopsis on Point Dume.