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The World of Vatican II: An Artist's Report

Featuring the paintings and drawings of Franklin McMahon

The World of Vatican II: An Artist's Report, the fall 2012 exhibition at the Mary-Frances and Bill Veeck Gallery, features the on-site paintings and drawings of the late, renowned artist-reporter Franklin McMahon. Approximately 40 works of art will be included in the exhibit. The content covers: Vatican in Rome, Council Activation – Ministries and Meetings, and Civil Rights.

Mr. McMahon was in Rome for the opening day of the Second Vatican Council, and he went on to chronicle that major event through 1965.  He followed Papal journeys and Council activations and ministries in the Church through the 1970s and 1980s. Many of the exhibit's paintings and drawings are from this period in time.

Thanks to U.S. Catholic for the creation of a slide show featuring Franklin McMahon's work. To view, click here.

More about the artist:

Franklin McMahon (1921-2012), of Lake Forest Illinois, was an artist reporter whose on-location work took him all over the world.  Primarily created for print media, his paintings and drawings have graced the pages of Life and Look, Commonweal and Jubilee, and the covers of the Chicago Tribune Magazine – to name a few.  The London Sunday Telegraph featured McMahon in April, 2008 as ‘The Man Who Drew History’ – highlighting his coverage of U. S. Presidential Politics.  Over 400 McMahon paintings and drawings are collected in the Chicago History Museum.  In 2010, the United States Library of Congress purchased fifteen McMahon paintings and drawings for permanent collection.  He is also collected for national prominence and local history at the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda, Illinois. Highly recognized, he is the recipient of three Emmys, a Peabody Award for Broadcasting, and the Art Institute of Chicago Renaissance Prize.

Franklin McMahon covered U. S. Presidential Politics through 2008, and attended every Democratic and Republican Convention since 1960.  In the 1990s, he was in Chicago and South Africa with the Parliament of the World’s Religions.  He was present at Mission Control, Houston, for the first landing on the Moon.  McMahon's images come from press box and platform, from elegant theatres and architectural monuments, from inside the Oval Office and Air Force One, and outside in the midst of protests.  His coverage of American civil rights includes the Emmett Till trial in Sumner, Mississippi, voting rights demonstrations in Selma, Alabama, and The Million Man March on Washington D.C.

His first artworks were grammar school posters in Beverly Hills, California, and cartoon drawings for the newspaper of Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Illinois.  In World War II he was a navigator in B-17’s over Germany, was shot down, and spent the last months of the War in a prison camp – drawing the guards when a pad of paper was available.

In 1955, the editors of Life magazine sent Franklin McMahon to cover the Emmett Till murder trial. McMahon's drawing of Moses Wright, the boy’s great-uncle, who stood to point out the men who had come that night to take the boy, became the central drawing in a Life magazine spread that was influential in the American civil rights movement.   Franklin went on to cover aspects of the movement from within the Halls of Congress, noting simple conversations between lawmakers, to the signing of the Voting Rights Bill in 1965.   He refers to this as the most momentous time in mid-to-late 20th century U.S. domestic history. 

Franklin McMahon’s 1960 political drawings include Adlai Stevenson at his Libertyville home, President Eisenhower, Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.  The series on presidential politics would intrigue him for 13 elections to the present ones.  His intact political body of work is like no other in existence.  It has significant historical value both for content, but also for style, i.e. the artist’s fresh, on-site reportorial drawing.

The McMahon family hopes to place Franklin McMahon's individual or collected works in an appropriate site where the works can continue to inspire reflection and active participation in our culture. For further information, contact: Kathleen Van Ella, Curator,