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Gannon, Clell Goebel
b. January 10, 1900; d. 1962
Discipline: Drawing/Illustration, Painting

Born in Wisner, Nebraska, Clell Goebel Gannon moved with his family to a farm near Underwood, North Dakota in 1908. His upbringing there exposed him to the many elements of nature and outdoor life that later inspired his paintings.

After high school, he moved to Chicago to study at the Art Institute but had to withdraw after two years due to chronic bouts with rheumatoid arthritis. While hospitalized, he further taught himself to draw and paint.

Upon his release, he settled in Bismarck and took a position in the office of the superintendent of the Soo (railroad) Line. He continued to paint during his spare time and contributed several murals to public buildings in the community. These include the Burleigh County Courthouse, the Bismarck High School Library, and the backdrops for the Habitat Groups in what was then the State Historical Museum.

He also painted the covers for the Oscar H. Will Company’s annual seed catalogues and illustrated two books of poetry: Yet She Follows by Edna LaMoore Waldo and For Many Moods by Eva K. Anglesburg. (Himself a poet, Gannon published two books of his own poetry, which he also illustrated: Songs of the Bunch Grass Acres and How Christmas Came to North Dakota.)

In 1951, a state flag commission recommended that North Dakota’s flag be replaced by a design of Gannon’s. That suggestion was turned down, but elements of Gannon’s design – which featured a sunset and a sheaf of wheat on a green and gold background – became part of what is now known as the Governor’s Flag.

In 1948, Gannon received the Citation Award, which added his name to the Honor Roll of the American Artists Professional League. Locally, both he and his wife Ruth have been recognized with an art gallery named after them at Bismarck State College (where Ruth taught English and Spanish).

He died in 1962.

- Ben Nemenoff 


Barr, Paul E. North Dakota Artists. Grand Forks: University of North Dakota Library, 1954.

Helm, Merry. “Flag Day.” Dakota Datebook. Merrill Piepkorn, host. Bill Thomas, producer. North Dakota Public Radio. Originally broadcast June 14, 2004.

Palmer, Bertha Rachael. Beauty Spots in North Dakota. Boston: Bruce Humphries, Inc., 1939.

Taylor, Edwin Mrs. Catalogue of Art Workers Within North Dakota. Bismarck: American Association of University Women (local branch), 1945.

Other Sources:

State Historical Society of North Dakota

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