Painter. Known for imaginative subjects and for portraits, Watkins remained an individualist whose work resists easy classification. Although born in New York, Franklin Chenault Watkins lived in Kentucky and North Carolina during his early years and spent most of his adult life in Philadelphia. After two years at the Groton (Massachusetts) School, he studied at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville during the 1910–11 academic year and at the University of Pennsylvania the following year. At that time, he took his first classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he subsequently studied full time and later taught. During World War I he served in the U.S. Navy. In the 1920s he developed an emotional, expressionistic style of distorted forms and vigorous brushwork. Suicide in Costume (Philadelphia Museum, 1931) earned his first critical acclaim. In a rough, sketchy technique, it presents a reveler who has toppled backward onto a table, smoking gun in hand. With time, employing a more subdued approach, he became known as one of the finest portraitists of the day. At their best, his likenesses recall the insight and dignity of Thomas Eakins's work. In later decades he also painted still lifes and occasional religious subjects. He died in Bologna, during a visit to Italy.