Distinguished artist Boggs recalled in Beloit, beyond

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Frank Boggs of Beloit, who passed away Saturday, painted this color mural that was hung in the Corral Restaurant located at Henry and Park Avenues for years. The mural was saved and is owned by a private collector.

He was one of 12 artists commissioned to paint the story of army medicine during World War II. He was featured in a PBS documentary. And he’s responsible for building the present-day art programs at Beloit College.

Those are just some of the things for which world-renowned artist W. Franklin “Frank” Boggs, who passed away Saturday at the age of 95, will be remembered.

Born July 25, 1914 in Warsaw, Ind., Boggs was a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Boggs also studied in Europe.

Before becoming a professor at Beloit College, he was one of the last combat artists from World War II, serving as a war correspondent with paints and brushes, in the South Pacific.

These accomplishments were detailed in a 1998 PBS documentary entitled “They Drew Fire,” and many of his wartime paintings are still on display in the permanent collection of the Pentagon.

In 1945, Boggs was invited to Beloit College as an artist-in-residence. He became a permanent professor at the college working until 1979 where he also served as chairman of the art department and founder of the Art League.

Boggs is recognized for building the college’s first art department, hiring additional studio professors and teaching classes in advanced painting, drawing, mural painting and special topics.

He also created the first studio art program to which O.V. Shaffer, former director of the college’s Wright Museum of Art and a former student of Boggs, said:

“Looking around, he took what little space and equipment was available at the time and created a department of ‘ideas.’ He was a problem-solver and taught his students to think in terms of ideas, then find a way to give form to those ideas using whatever material was at hand. There was always excitement when Boggs was around.”

Beloit College President Scott Bierman in a statement called Boggs a “dynamic and influential” member of the college community.

“He was a socially conscious individual who was as much a historian as he was an artist,” Bierman said. “His murals and paintings here and abroad document small towns, farms, war and medicine. His joyous works in schools celebrate seasons, magical forests and children; his socially sensitive works attack book burning, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, drunk driving and the Ku Klux Klan.”

Many of Boggs’ works have been displayed in some of America’s most prominent museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Chicago Art Institute. Over the course of his career, he also received commissions to create works in Finland, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Guatemala and Uruguay.

Besides being named one of the best young American painters by Life magazine in 1947, Boggs also regularly won awards in Wisconsin’s Gimbal Art Competition.

Boggs also specialized in depicting images of work and life in Wisconsin, and much of his work is on display throughout the state.

For example, his images of Wisconsin’s leather tanning industries were exhibited in the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958, and he created a stained glass mural for a Milwaukee architectural firm and a frieze in the Columbia Correctional Institute in Portage.

Yet, the largest collection of his work can be found here in Beloit, where Boggs spent most of his life.

“One of the prominent American artists of his generation, he brought distinction to Beloit,” Bierman said.

Boggs is survived by his wife, Sondra, six children, nine grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and one sister.

Per Boggs’ wishes, there will be no services.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.daleymurphywisch.com.

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