Emily “Lee” Franclemont (née Pfaff) is an American artist (b. 1918, d. 1988) from Buffalo in Western New York. Lee studied fine art at the Art Institute of Buffalo from 1939-41 and was most active in her art practice in the 1960s (after raising four children), mainly using oils or pastels in her portraits, landscapes, and still lifes.
Lee Franclemont is also my grandmother.
Sadly, I didn’t know her very well as I and my family lived hundreds of miles away, but I’m certain we are kindred creative spirits. So in an effort to get to know my grandmother a bit more, I’ve set up this site as a contemporary portrait of Lee Franclemont as an artist, to study and share her artwork and through that, I might understand more of her story.
It is easy to consider her paintings as some kind of kitsch… but then I wouldn’t be paying attention, so I must look again: by the number of faces she drew, I know she loved her family and friends (and they loved her, to sit so patiently for her to capture their likeness); she adored the great cats, sometimes making enchanting portraits that combined two favourites, lions and people. She seemed to have a keen longing for Niagara Falls, that mighty river near where she grew up, and the many landscapes with a waterfall share a memory of the place where she and her husband honeymooned.
Grandmother’s favourite colour was “aqua” – not green and not blue – and she strived to achieve this exact hue in nearly every painting. Even the walls of the sitting rooms in her home, where she entertained family and friends, was this very precise shade that must have meant some kind of happiness for her.
And she clearly enjoyed artistic license in much of her work, and would often dispense with what she saw in front of her eyes in favour of the vision in her rich imagination…the steely-grey of Niagara River were for her the vibrant aqua of more southern waters; she made forest faeries real in their secret merriment and with her drawings, she helped us see the gentle soul of a man in the eyes of a lion…
Every piece is a new discovery, a near-forgotten anecdote, and I and my family have found great delight in creating and sharing this portrait of my grandmother, Lee Franclemont.