Friday, November 28, 2014

The "Lifestyle Illustration" Books

Besides the occasional biography of an important illustrator, illustration fans each year can find new books containing collections of illustration art. Some deal with an individual artist (usually one specializing in science fiction and fantasy book covers, it seems), others feature multiple artists dealing in a common genre -- again, often science fiction and fantasy.

Over the past few years Taschen has published many art books, including a series titled "Illustration Now." I don't own any copies because I don't like most of their content, being more a fan of 1895-1965 vintage illustration.

Speaking of which, there are now two books edited by Rian Hughes full of works by British and American illustrators:

Lifestyle Illustration of the 60s appeared in 2011 and Lifestyle Illustration of the 50s came out in 2013.

I find the titles puzzling. What the books contain are mostly full-color romance story illustrations that appeared in British magazines for women. Page after page is filled with beautiful women paired with handsome men in various situations related in one way or another to romance. This is pretty limiting, yet the illustrators were somehow able to introduce enough variety that I didn't notice any two pictures being identical. Along with this, a few fashion and even furniture/decor illustrations can be found; I suppose this tiny intrusion was taken to justify the "Lifestyle" part of the titles. I think a more descriptive title might have been "Romance Story Illustrations of the XXs," but maybe there were good reasons for not using something like that.

American illustrators' work is included because publication rights were sold following publication in American magazines. In that way, British readers got to see the likes of Coby Whitmore, Jon Whitcomb, Joe DeMers, Edwin Georgi and Lynn Buckham (who actually worked in England for a while).

David Roach, in his introduction to the 1950s collection, notes that early in that decade British illustrators' work lagged behind what the Americans were doing in terms of style and pizazz. He contends that the Brits had pretty well caught up with the Yanks by 1960. I agree that the cream of American illustrators noticeably outclassed the British for much of the 50s, and disagree that they had caught up by the end. The gap had considerably narrowed in my judgment, but hadn't quite closed.

The 1960s book is interesting in that, despite the romance story focus, the shift in illustration fashion to modernist designs where representationalism was degraded is clearly documented. By 1970 the silly succession to classical illustration was now (and remains) dominant.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Walter Beach Humphrey: Murals and Magazine Covers

Useful though the Internet is, sometimes it can be frustrating trying to locate information about artists and illustrators I wish to write about. And so it is with Walter Beach Humphrey (1892-1966). A brief Wikipedia entry is here, and a few more details can be found here.

It seems that Humphrey was an Ivy League guy, being a member of Dartmouth College's class of 1914. He then was at New York's Art Students League to complete his training under Frank DuMond. After that, he had a successful career as an illustrator and mural painter for the next quarter century or so. However, his career after the early 1940s is essentially a mystery to me for now, though he is known to have taught.

Humphrey's style was hard-edge, something of a necessity for mural work. Yet he was able to ease off ever so slightly, resulting in works that are not overly stark and held together well.


"It's the thieving federals again" - story illustration
I'm guessing this was made around 1920, but can't be sure because the subject is historical, not contemporary, so I can't use dress for estimation purposes.

Saturday Evening Post cover 13 January 1923
A blurred image, but I include it to show that Humphrey did hit the illustration Big Time.

Liberty cover - 16 August 1924
Humphrey was one of the early cover artists for Liberty magazine.

Liberty cover - 17 October 1925

Liberty cover - 7 November 1925
Ever loyal, Humphrey hints that this scene has to do with a Dartmouth College football game (note the Dartmouth green uniform and the letter "D" on the girl's pennant).

Reflection - 1929


Scaring Mother

The Elks Magazine cover - July, 1931

Section of Dartmouth College mural
A useful background link to a Dartmouth Review article on the mural (controversial, especially for those practicing political correctness) is here.

Patriotic Montage mural - ca. 1943

Monday, November 24, 2014

Edwin Dickinson: In His Own Catergory

Edwin Walter Dickinson (1891-1978) was a modernist of sorts.

That is, he wasn't really a traditionalist painter even though many of his images included realistic details.

By the feel of some of his images, he might have been considered a Symbolist. Except it can be difficult to point out what was being symbolized.

Given some odd juxtapositions and choices of subjects, he might be considered a Surrealist. But only in a vague kind of way.

It seems Dickinson is hard to pin down when it comes to the evidence of his paintings.

Even verbally, he could be vague or impenetrable. At one point, he gave a lecture at Yale that left many in the audience puzzled. And then there's this interview regarding William Merritt Chase and Charles W. Hawthorne as his teachers, which contains bits that I found difficult to follow during a quick read.

Many of the links to Wikipedia dealing with obscure artists are brief, lacking the amount of detail I prefer to have. In Dickinson's case, his entry is huge. Then there's a fairly new online Dickinson Catalogue Raisonné that can be found here. If you want to read even more, there's John Perreault's take on Dickinson here and some observations by Mary Ellen Abell here.

Perhaps because he doesn't fit easily into the Modernist Establishment Art History Timeline handed down to me at university, and also because of the difficulty categorizing his work, I was totally unaware of Dickinson until very recently. So far as I know, I've never seen any of his paintings. But given what I found on the Internet, I would really like to, because many of them seem fascinating.


Elizabeth Finney - 1915
A fairly early work.

An Anniversary - 1920-21
This seems to symbolize something ... but what?

Biala, Née Janice Tworkov - 1924

The Cello Player - 1924-26

Frances Foley - 1927

Frances Foley, Second Portrait - 1928
Foley became his wife in 1928.

The Fossil Hunters - 1928
When this was first exhibited, it was hung sideways. That's understandable, given the odd perspective Dickinson gave his subjects here.

Woodland Scene - 1929-1935

Composition with Still Life - 1933-37
These two paintings seem vaguely Surrealist ... or maybe vaguely Symbolist ... or something else.

Elsbeth Miller - no date

Self-Portrait in Uniform - 1942
Hmm. I had a great-grandfather who was a musician-stretcher-bearer in the American Civil War.

The Ruin at Daphne - 1943-1953
Yes, it took Dickinson about a decade to complete this painting.

View of Great Island - 1940
Dickinson did many landscapes in premier coup mode starting as a student under Hawthorne.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Some Judge Magazine Covers

This post is part of an occasional series dealing with magazine cover illustration. Here we feature Judge, an American humor magazine published 1881-1947 (Wikipedia entry here). To me, its most interesting covers appeared in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Judge was not a major magazine; circulation was well under that of Saturday Evening Post, Collier's and other general-interest magazine. Nevertheless, Judge did feature cover art by some talented illustrators and cartoonists -- and others who were less so. Here are some examples.


By Lou May - 17 May, 1924
I think that's the artist's name; the signature is a little hard to read.

By John Held, Jr. - 3 January 1925
Held is considered the archetypical 1920s cartoonist. His highly stylized flappers and friends helped to define that era for many Americans then and later, including me.

By David Robinson - 16 October 1926
A lesser effort.

By an unknown artist
Well, I'd know the artist's name if I could decipher that squiggly little signature. Reader suggestions are appreciated, because it's a cute cartoon, though a bad pun.

By Enoch Bolles - 13 August 1927
Bolles did a lot of cover illustrations in those days. Most of them don't appeal to me, but this is better than most.

By George Eggleston - 28 September 1929
What would cartoonists do without desert islands?

By Ruth Eastman - 21 December 1929

By John Holmgren - 24 January 1931
Nice drawing. I wrote about Holmgren here.

By Gilbert Bundy - August 1933
Bundy's career peaked from the late 1930s into the early 50s, before his suicide.

By Gregor Duncan - June 1937
Could this over-stretched analogy cover be symbolic of Judge's decline?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Robert O. Reid, Shooting Star Illustrator

For a very brief time -- about three years -- amusing, cartoonish illustrations by Robert O. Reid appeared on Collier's magazine covers and internal story illustrations as well as some advertisements.

Before and after that blaze of professional glory, little of Reid can be readily found on the Internet. There are images aplenty on Google, but those are the sort of items just mentioned. As for reliable biographical information -- there seems to be none. My go-to hardcopy reference, Walt Reed's "The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000" has nothing on Reid. One of The Norman Rockwell Museum's recent emails mentioned a "Robert O'Reid," but illustration credits for some of the Reid images I downloaded have it "O." and not "O'". One Web site suggested that Reid was more interested in theatre than illustration, so he abandoned art. Another had his years as 1921-2009, but this implies that his work was appearing in a major publication when he was about 17 years old; possible, but not likely.

As for Collier's, it was probably the number two general-interest magazine in America in the 1930s, 40s and in the 50s until its 1957 demise. For illustrators, appearing in Collier's was the next-best professional thing short of having work published in the Saturday Evening Post. So Reid came out of nowhere, was published a lot in Collier's, especially 1938-1940, and then disappeared.


Collier's cover - 1 October 1938

Collier's cover - 17 December 1938

Collier's cover - 4 March 1939

Collier's cover - 29 July 1939

Collier's cover - 25 March 1940

Collier's cover - 1 June 1940

Collier's story illustration - 6 May 1939

Collier's story illustration - 17 June 1939

Collier's story illustration

Collier's story illustration

General Tire advertisement illustration ca. 1941

Pre-posting update:

Aha! While researching content for another post, I stumbled across this 27 October 1934 Collier's cover by Reid. So he was nibbling at the Big Time at least four years before his 1938-40 surge. And for sure he wasn't born in 1921. Any solid biographical information on him would be greatly appreciated. Please post as a comment.

Monday, November 17, 2014

James Tissot: Painting the Elegant Life

Jacques Joseph (James) Tissot (1836-1902) was an anglophile French painter whose best-known works were done while living in England from 1871 to 1882 or shortly thereafter. Biographical information on him can be found here.

Before leaving for England, Tissot was a painter of Paris society, a practice he continued with English society until the death of his beloved Irish mistress who was the mother of his son. During the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War and its Paris Commune aftermath, he was in Paris and helped fight in its defense. The Wikipedia biography linked above is unclear as to why he left France. One explanation is that it was because he fought on the Communard side, and the Commune was, of course, violently crushed by French forces. The entry offers the suggestion that Tissot joined the Commune side as a means of protecting his assets. This makes some sense because he almost universally featured well-to-do people and their haunts in his paintings, something unlikely for a committed revolutionary. Plus, towards the end of his career, he switched to making watercolors of religious subjects, something favored by conservative and Royalist groups in late 19th century France.

Tissot's mature oil painting style can be described as generally hard-edged so far as his subjects are concerned; background objects were often treated less distinctly. Perhaps because of his sharp rendering, his London-era paintings are a useful resource regarding aspects of England in the 1870s and early 80s.


The Thames - 1867
Tissot visited London years before he moved there.

Too Early - 1873

The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth) - 1877
According to its Wikipedia entry, the Calcutta was an 84-gun second rate (in terms of broadside) Royal Navy vessel. Being thoroughly obsolete years earlier, it became a gunnery training ship at Devonport in 1865. Devonport is a ways west of Portsmouth, so either the painting's caption is wrong or it's Wikipedia at fault. Regardless, it seems that the stern of the ship was still serving as a site for social functions when Tissot depicted it.

Mavourneen - 1877
The word is from the Irish, and means "my darling." The women pictured is Kathleen Newton, Tissot's mistress.

Croquet - c. 1878

On the Thames - 1882

Le bal - 1880

The Reception - 1885
Note the similarity of the subjects in these two paintings.

The Traveler - 1882-85