Monday, February 6, 2012

In the Beginning: Robert Fawcett

Up until now, the items I've posted on early works by artists dealt with painters -- mostly modernists who began their careers painting in a more traditional manner. But recently I've been doing a little research on illustration art from the 1920s and 30s and stumbled across some early examples of work by illustrators mostly known for their later styles. So I thought I'd expand the concept to include illustrators.

The main source for the present post is the Annual of Advertising Art, an awards publication of the Art Directors' Club of New York (its history is here). The first volume appeared in 1922 and succeeding volumes have continued to the present. I found a number of early volumes in the stacks of the University of Washington's main library and took photos of selected pages: these photos are the source material for the "beginning" art in this post. Ideally, I should have made scans, but that wasn't convenient so I hope the inferior quality of the images won't be held too much against me.

Illustration for Sherlock Holmes story

Above is a characteristic illustration by Robert Fawcett (1903-67), one of the most successful illustrators in his day. A number of items about Fawcett can be found on the Web, and here are links to blog posts by Charlie Parker, Leif Peng, and David Apatoff -- the latter wrote the text for a recent book about Fawcett that I reviewed here.

Note Fawcett's mature style in the image above and compare it to some of his early work below. I cast dates as "c.1929" and so forth; my conjectural date is for the year preceding the year the Annual in which the image appeared was published.


Illustration for Rayon advertisement - c.1929

Illustration for Knox Hats - c.1929

Lesquendiu lipstick advertisement illustration - c.1929

Illustration for Cadillac - c.1931

Illustration for Cadillac - c.1931
Note that the depiction of the couple in this illustration is nearly the same as in the illustration below. I don't know which was created first, but Fawcett was able to leverage his effort and his art director apparently either didn't notice what was going on or else didn't mind it.

Illustration for Cadillac - c.1931

Fawcett was in his late twenties when he did the work shown above. To be included in the Annual of Advertising Art was a major feather in an illustrator's career cap, so the young Fawcett was no slouch even though these works are unrecognizable to casual Fawcett observers.

Keep in mind that he was building his career in those days, not maintaining it. He was experimenting with the styles of around 1930, creating salable works while evolving towards the classical Fawcett idiom.

1 comment:

Jesse Hamm said...

Thanks for posting these rare samples from Fawcett's early career!! Fawcett's a favorite of mine, and I'd never have seen these otherwise.