James Edmund "Edd" Allen was born February 23, 1894 in Louisiana, Missouri. His father, William Henry Allen, was born in 1840 in MO. His mother, Annie May Scoggins, was born in 1847 in MO. His parents had two children. His younger brother, Elmer Leroy "Lee" Allen, was born in 1896.
In 1897 the family moved to Anaconda, Montana, where the father worked for a lumber company owned by relatives.
In June of 1912 he completed high school in Montana. He was interested in art but worked at the lumber mill.
In 1913 he moved to Chicago to study at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he became a friend of J. Allen St. John.
By 1915 he was studio assistant to his art teacher, Alexis Jean Fournier (1865-1948), a painter, illustrator, and lecturer on the Barbizon artist Jean Francois Millet (1814-1875). Fournier had studied in Paris. His art studio was in the Fine Arts Building in Chicago, and he also had a second studio in East Aurora, NY, which is near Buffalo.
In 1916 James E. Allen moved to Interlaken, New Jersey, which is near Asbury Park. At that time the community was popular with artists. He was soon selling freelance illustrations to magazines and book publishers in nearby Philadelphia and New York City. His work appeared in American Boy, Red Cross Magazine, Metropolitan, and McClure's.
On June 6, 1917 he reported for draft registration during The Great War. He was recorded at the time to be tall, medium build, with brown eyes and brown hair. He requested exemption from military service "on account of complications." Nevertheless, he served in France and was honorably discharged at the rank of Second Lieutenant at the end of 1918.
In 1919 he resumed his career as a freelance illustrator.
On January 8, 1919 he married Grace Louise Parmele in Chicago. She was born on April 6, 1893 in Hamilton, Ohio. Her mother, Charlotte Maria Parmele, was born in 1858 in Illinois. The newlyweds moved to Frasmere Avenue in Spring Lake, New Jersey, which is also near Asbury Park. From this location the artist commuted to New York City and Philadelphia to sell freelance illustrations to publishers in both cities.
On November 4, 1919 their daughter Charlotte May Allen was born. She was named after her widowed maternal grandmother, who came to live with them.
On June 24, 1923 their second child, Joan Allen, was born.
During the 1920s his work was published in the pulp magazines, such as Top-Notch, Brief Stories, and Blue Book.
By 1924 his greater market was in NYC, so he rented an art studio at 939 Eighth Avenue, on West 56th Street. His studio was one block from the Art Students League, where he attended classes taught by Joseph Pennell (1857-1926).
He placed advertisements in annual directories of graphic artists, where he listed his specialty as illustrating fiction and advertising
In 1925 he traveled to Paris, France, where he became fascinated with the printing processes of etching and lithography.
On November 17, 1925 they returned to New York City on the Steam Ship America.
In 1928 he studied with Harvey Dunn at the Grand Central School of Art on the top floor of the busy metropolitan train station.
His work was published in prestigious nationwide magazines, such as The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, The American, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and Successful Farming.
He moved to 41 Mayhew Avenue in Larchmont, NY, near the popular artist community in Mamaroneck and New Rochelle, NY.
During the 1930s the Great Depression brought hard times to most American businesses as well as citizens. Periodicals that depended on advertising were devastated. Many struggling artists found employment with the WPA art project, an enlightened government program. Although the prints of James E. Allen were blessed with critical acclaim, which brought him glory, honors and awards, he was barely able to make ends meet and support his family with a decent income.
He was too old to serve in the military during WWII.
In 1946 he became an art teacher of printmaking at the National Academy of Design in NYC.
In the 1950s he retired from illustration, but continued to exhibit his prints and paintings at fine art galleries.
James E. Allen died in Larchmont, NY, at the age of seventy on September 9, 1964.
© David Saunders 2013