Eugene Mabus Frandzen was born in San Diego, California on April 13, 1893. His father, who was also named Eugene Frandzen, was born in Texas to Danish and German immigrant farmers. His father ran a printing press business in San Diego. His mother, Charlotte Elizabeth Davies, was born in Wales. There were three children in the family, Harold, Eugene, and their younger sister, Glenn. They lived at 1327 14th Street.
He spent his childhood in San Diego. His father suffered from Tuberculosis. At that time there was no cure for this fatal infectious disease. The most common treatment was the hot dry climate of the Southwest, so in the summer of 1900 his parents moved to his father's hometown, Hedwigs Hill, Texas. The children were left in the care of their maternal grandmother, Margaret Davies, a Welsh widower, who lived two blocks away on 3107 14th Street in San Diego.
On October 25, 1900 his father died in Texas at the age of thirty-seven. After the funeral his mother rejoined the family in San Diego. At that time Eugene was seven, his brother Harold was eleven, and little sister Glenn was only one. They were then raised by their mother and maternal grandmother.
By 1906 the mother had also grown seriously ill. She spent a year in a San Diego hospital and then died on January 12, 1907. Eugene was thirteen years old, his brother Harold was seventeen and his sister Glenn was only six. Once again this left their grandmother in charge.
On April 26, 1912 the grandmother died. This left the older brother Harold as the adult head of the household. He was twenty-two years old. One year later in 1913 Harold also died.
Eugene was now the head of the home, at the age of twenty. He and his sister Glenn moved to Chicago to live at 63 West Ontario Street. He used his inheritance money to enroll Glenn in a privaye school, while he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. At his graduation on June 15, 1917 he was awarded the First Place Goodman Prize for $50.00 for his oil portrait of his sister in a Spanish costume. Afterwards he taught art at the school's juvenile extension class in Longwood, Illinois.
After graduation he enrolled his seventeen year old sister in the Monticello Boarding School of Godfrey Illinois.
In 1918 he reported to his draft board and was recorded to be of medium build, short stature, with blue eyes and light brown hair. He served in the Army and was sent to France for the last two months of the war. He was a First Lieutenant in the Illinois Field Artillery Reserve Corps.
After the war he returned to Chicago and lived at 4617 Dover Street. He opened his own commercial art studio at 57 East Jackson Boulevard.
In 1921 he moved to New York City, where he opened an "illustration studio" at 241 West 13th Street.
In 1922 his pen and ink story illustrations began to appear regularly in The New York Times, often depicting scenes of destitute city children. He also authored several stories, one of which was about young boys who collect and sell scrap firewood, recycled from old crates.
During this time he studied at the Art Students League and the Grand Central School of Art. His teachers included Dean Cornwell and Pruett Carter.
In 1923 he illustrated several children's books, and in 1924 his work appeared in the nationwide magazines Boy's Life and St. Nicholas.
On May 3, 1923 at the age of thirty he married his wife, Emma Elizabeth Frandzen, who was twenty-two years old. They had met at the Art Students League. She was also an artist and illustrator. Like her husband, she was also born in California. They had no children.
In 1926 he illustrated articles in Police Stories magazine. In 1927 his illustrations appeared in The Elks Magazine.
From 1929 to 1939 his work regularly appeared as interior story illustrations and covers for many aviation pulp magazines, such as Airplane Stories, Flying Aces, The Lone Eagle, Sky Birds, Sky Fighters, War Aces, and War Birds.
In 1937 at the age of forty-four he and Emma moved back to California to live in Pasadena, where he painted landscapes.
During WWII at the age of fifty he was too old to serve in the military.
After the war he taught a small private art class in printmaking at his home with an antique press. He exhibited regularly in both local and national art shows.
From 1958 to 1960 he wrote two popular instructional art books, How To Paint With Casein, and Outdoor Sketching and Indoor Painting, which were published by the Walter Foster Company.
Eugene M. Frandzen died at the age of seventy-nine in Laguna Beach, California on July 5, 1972.
© David Saunders 2009