Artist Lloyd Branson studied at UT and moved to New York in 1873 to study at the National Academy of Design, where he won first prize in 1875. He returned to Knoxville in 1876. After traveling abroad, he returned to Knoxville in 1878. Branson won a medal at the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta in 1895 and won a gold medal in 1910 at the Appalachian Exposition in Knoxville for Hauling Marble. The painting is in the collection of the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture. He is especially noted for his portrait painting.
In 1892 he designed the confederate memorial at Bethel Cemetery for the Ladies Memorial Society of Knoxville and oversaw the carving of a large Confederate sentry on top of the monument’s shaft. In 1897 he designed the official Knoxville city flag to fly over the Tennessee Building at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition (held in Nashville, 101 years after Tennessee became a state). He was the driving force behind the Nicholson Art League (1899–1923). He reviewed and modified the bas-relief of President Brown Ayres for the plaque commissioned for Ayres Hall.
Branson’s most commercially popular specialty consisted of Negro folk pictures. At the time of his death, according to Frederick C. Moffatt (in The Life, Art, and Times of Joseph Delaney, 1904–1991), some critics considered Branson’s most memorable work to be Fast Mail, which portrayed “an old Negro mail carrier asleep in the shade of the tree while his mule dozes nearby.” Between 1880 and 1903—with photographer Frank B. McCrary—Branson established an art academy. He served as the first art teacher of Buford Delaney.