Robert Warren Franklin, a nationally recognized fine art master printer, passed away on July 20, 2012 at his home in Germantown where he lived with his wife of 22 years, Carol. Robert was born in Long Island, N.Y. to Bennett Robert Franklin and Eleanor Lancaster on Aug. 11, 1930. Robert’s family moved to Philadelphia when he was four.
Franklin attended Martha Washington Elementary and graduated from Dobbins Vocational High School before entering the United States Air Force in 1952.During Franklin’s time with the Air Force, he served as a private in the 15th Recon Technical Squadron and trained to become a lithograph pressman. After two years of service, he was honorably discharged in 1954.
Post military service, Franklin worked at Ralph E. Harris mailing house, for 30 years as a press operator. In 1984, he befriended artist John Queen, who introduced him to Brandywine Workshop, a non-profit visual arts institution. At the time, Brandywine’s Offset Institute was designed to offer collaborative printing opportunities in a process that was basically restricted to commercial output. Trained by Jim (BJ) Hughes, Franklin quickly mastered the medium for original fine art publishing and spent the next three decades working with more than 200 national and internationally renowned visiting artists at Brandywine.
He was the master printer for artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Paul F. Keene, Jr., Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Sam Gilliam and Barbara Chase-Riboud. Franklin was still an employee at Brandywine, until he fell ill in May 2012. An interview conducted for the Hatch -Billops Collection in New York was published in its 2009 edition Artist and Influence . Franklin’s achievements as a master printer will be on display this fall during the exhibition Full Spectrum: Prints from the Brandywine Workshop at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (September 7-November 25th).
Franklin was a man of diverse experience and talents. Among his most favorite artistic accomplishments was drumming for the Ile Ife Center for the Arts and Humanities, and the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble, where he fell in love with the beat of the drum. Between printing and performance art, Franklin truly believed that art was Life.
He also loved boxing and had 13 professional bouts, including sparring with fighters such as George Benton. Basketball was another life-long passion. He played pick-up games with much younger players well into his early sixties and told stories of playing and beating Bill Cosby while both were living in the Richard Allen Projects.
When people met Franklin they would immediately grasp his warm personality and his giving presence. His smile lit up a room, and he possessed a rare quality of genuineness. Bob also had a playful side. He loved to laugh, joke and never hesitated to play “guess my age”.
He is survived by his wife Carol; children Eric and Hakim; sisters Eleanor “Marita” Boston and Patricia Burno; daughters-in-law Cindy Franklin and Elena Franklin; five grandchildren Eric Franklin Jr., Viviana Malek, Sahilis Figueroa-Smalls, Ashley Franklin and Aaron Franklin; five great-grandchildren; brother-in-law Donald Burno; and a host of nieces, nephews and cousins. He is preceded in death by his brothers James, Paul and Michael.
A memorial and birthday celebration will held Aug. 11 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Brandywine Workshop, 728 S. Broad St.