Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Clarence F. Underwood: Prolific Then, Unknown Now

Clarence F. Underwood (1871-1929) was born in Jamestown in western New York State, trained at the Art Students League in New York and the Académie Julian in Paris, returned to America around 1901, and then pursued a career in illustration.

That's just about all I could find regarding him.

But if you Google on him and go into Images, you will find quite a number of examples of his work. It seems that Underwood was prolific and appeared in leading magazines of his day, including the Saturday Evening Post, the top general-interest magazine for more than half of the 20th century.

I have to admit that I don't care for most of Underwood's work. The scenes he depicts are usually bland (though that might have been because of the stories he illustrated). His compositions aren't usually very interesting, either. While he could draw well when he chose to, often enough his brushwork was just fussy enough to counteract the drawing. From Google, it seems that he used gouache, watercolor or possibly colored inks a good deal, this and the vignette style he often used suggest that he worked fairly fast. Given the quality of printing during his 1902 - early 1920s heyday, it's possible that the reproduction process smoothed over some of the rough brushwork.

For a quick look at some examples of his work in addition to what is displayed below, click here. The images shown below are what I consider among the best of his work.


Couple ice skating
Many Underwood illustrations deal with well-dressed couples. Apparently this is what the stories and art editors required.

Seated young women in overcoat
I think this is one of his best efforts.

Lady getting her hair arranged
When given the chance or when in the right mood, Underwood could be witty.

Elegant couple - Saturday Evening Post illustration
A nondescript painting with large amounts of dead space surrounding the subjects. Was some of that covered with print in the publication?

Couple in back seat of limousine
By the woman's hair style, I'll assume this is one of Underwood's later works.

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