Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Golden Years: John La Gatta

One of the most successful American illustrators of the 1930s was John La Gatta (1894-1977). His last name is also rendered as LaGatta, the way it usually seemed to appear in his distinctive signature block. But I see where his son has it as La Gatta, so I will use that version here even though I'll likely slip back to LaGatta in other posts dealing with him.

La Gatta was born in Naples, Italy, and came to America when he was a young boy. His art training was at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art. By the early 1920s he had begun to establish a reputation as an illustrator of beautiful women, and from the mid-20s through most of the 1930s his career was at its peak. His earnings allowed him to live on the posh North Shore of Long Island and own a yacht. More about his life and career can be found here, here and here.

Unlike many 1920s vintage illustrators, and perhaps because in some sense he was a fashion artist, he relied heavily on drawing with charcoal or other drawing tools, adding color when required using water-based or thinned oil paint washes. Examples of this classic La Gatta style are shown below. Of course, he also used other styles and media when called for, and I might deal with that in another post.


Fashion drawing - early 1920s

Life cover - 27 October 1927

Fancy dress couple - 1929

Life cover - 11 January 1929

"Great Gatsby" scene

Laros Lingerie advertising art

Ladies' Home Journal cover - March 1933

Ladies' Home Journal cover - October 1932

Young lady drinking tea - late 1930s?

Saturday Evening Post cover - 5 July 1930

"Milk and Honey" illustration - March 1933

La Gatta's iconic illustration

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