John Franklin Earhart

Selected Works




Known as a Cincinnati landscape painter, wood engraver, designer, and printer, John Franklin Earhart was the son of George H. and Mary R. Earhart.  He was born near Columbus (Franklin), Ohio, March 12, 1853, and raised on a farm in Reynoldsburgh (Franklin) Ohio.  He learned the printer’s trade at the Columbus Ohio State Journal, worked as an engraver in Dayton, Ohio in 1877, thentook a job as engraver and pressman in Chillicothe, Ohio at the Scioto Gazette.  In 1880, he settled in Cincinnati and became absorbed in a lifelong investigation of color theory as applied to printing, painting and human feeling.  In 1892 he published The Color Printer, in itself a tour de force of color printing, in an edition of 2,000, requiring 1,625,000 impressions from 625 different forms. 

Over the years, he distilled his observation into a few basic principles of “color and contrast,” as he explained in a lecture: the first being that “color is one of the most alluring and illusive mysteries in the world.  It does not exist outside the mind.  It is only a mental sensation produced by waves of light beating upon the nerves in the retina of the eye.  Color may properly be called the spirit of light �" light being the source of all color.” 

In 1898, Earhart retired from the printing business and devoted himself to painting landscapes at his studio-home in Fernbank, Ohio, beside the Ohio River.  His watercolors and pastels were included in the spring 1898 exhibition of the Cincinnati Art Museum, at the annual showings of the Art Institute of Chicago (beginning in 1900), and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1903.  He was still active in 1930, teaching a course in color at the Cincinnati University School of Applied Arts.