Thursday, May 30, 2019

Fred Cole's Suggestively Incomplete Car Illustrations

Fred Cole (1893-1983) was an illustrator who seems to have specialized in automobile advertising. I could find little about him on the internet and nothing in my own reference library. Fortunately, the Web did have this link which provides useful information regarding his work and personality.

Among other things, Cole provided the illustration for what many in the advertising trade consider one of the greatest and most influential ads of all time: the Jordan Motor Car Company's "Somewhere West of Laramie."

The are two somewhat opposing advertising content strategies. One is to make a rational case for the product being advertised by dealing with its features. The other is the Jordan approach, eliciting positive emotion regarding a product or the company that makes the product. In practice, most advertisements offer some of each, though in recent decades the tendency is towards emotion, rather than rationality. A case in point are the TV commercials aired during the annual Super Bowl football game.

As for Cole, his car illustrations were unusual in that he left out parts of cars rather than being conventional and depicting the whole thing. That is, cars were suggested rather than portrayed. Even more interesting is that Cole did similar illustration for several carmakers, even during the same model year. One would expect that advertising managers and sales directors would want ads looking distinct from those of competitors. But that was 90 or so years ago, so perhaps the game was played differently then.


The famous advertisement from 1923.

Cole illustrated advertisements for the luxury Lincoln brand, this example from 1925. Here most of the car is shown, but not all. This approach works well with the vignette style of the advertisement where incompleteness is expected.

Another Jordan ad, this for a not-sporty 1926 Victoria sedan. Note that Cole entirely omitted the rear wheel.

Chrysler ad from the same year. Here Cole shows only a fragment of the subject.

Yet another 1926 advertisement, this for Oldsmobile, a Chrysler and Jordan competitor.

Artwork for a 1932 Dodge ad that nicely evokes speed..

Most Cole car illustrations imply speed. In this instance he does this by fading out the aft part of the 1935 LaSalle.

LaSalle publicity for 1940. A more solid looking car as Cole makes use of the airbrush rendering style popular around that time.

Dodge truck ad from 1947. Trucks are not flashy, speedy cars, so here Cole's illustration is conventional.

Cross-posted at Car Style Critic.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Jules Guérin, Illustrator and Muralist

Jules Vallée Guérin (1866-1946) illustrated books, delineated architecture and painted murals. He is best-known (to me, anyway) for his renderings of the 1909 Burnham Plan for Chicago and for his book illustrations of architectural subjects. As an iconic American delineator, Guérin ruled the early 1900s much as Hugh Ferriss did in the 1920s and early '30s.

Guérin's Wikipedia entry is here, covering the main points of his career but lacking in personal information, including his place of death.

Below are examples of his work. Click on images to enlarge.


Aerial view of Burnham Plan showing how it would fit into the city's street grid and topographic features. The Civic Center part of it is at the lower center of the rendering.

The Civic Center and its setting as view on high from the direction of the lakefront.

Focal building of the Civic Center.

Two images of the Château de Chenonceau  in France's Loire Valley.

Lake and ruins, Karnak, Egypt.

Faneuil Hall, Boston.

Madison Square, New York City.

Washington Arch, in Washington Square, New York City.

Panoramic view of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition, San Francisco.

Lincoln Memorial murals. Color is probably not accurate.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Charles Edward Chambers, Highly Competent Illustrator

Charles Edward Chambers (1883-1941) was a highly skilled and successful illustrator, though not as famous as some others active 1915-1940 who had more distinctive styles. His Wikipedia entry is here and Society of Illustrators 2010 Hall of Fame induction statement is here.

The Chesterfield billboard illustration above shows Chambers doing some of his best work for an important client. More examples of his illustrations are below. Given the length of his career, I wish that more of the Internet image sources had dates for them. They didn't, so I do a lot of guesswork in the captions.


Story illustration from around 1915, to judge by the woman's clothing.

Original art shown here. My guess is it was painted near 1920.

Color illustration from around 1915.

This is called "Fire Dancer" on the Internet and was given c. 1920 as its date.

Man Playing Guitar, from the Kelly Collection. The painterly style suggests influence from early 1920s Dean Cornwell illustrations.

Woman receiving a gift neckless. More smoothly painted, and her dress and hairstyle suggest early 1930s.  It's suggestive of J.C. Leyendecker's style, but without the hashing.

Illustration for Pearl Buck's "The Good Earth."

1932 Red Cross poster.  The model is PaulineTrue, who became Chambers' second wife.

This story illustration is titled "She Answers the Question." I'm a bit puzzled because the officer's uniform is Great War vintage while the woman's clothing and hairdo are hard for me to date -- somehow seem more modern than 1918. (Though such uniforms were used in post-war years for a while.) The illustration was probably made in the 1930s, based on other examples of Chambers' work

Monday, May 20, 2019

Umberto Boccioni, Futurist

Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916) was a leading painter and sculptor associated with the Futurism movement initiated by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1909, around the time when other modernist literary and artistic movements were bubbling up.

His Wikipedia entry is of sufficient length to provide a reasonable sense of his life and career. Some of the paintings shown below are discussed, along with two of his early, largely representational paintings.

Boccioni was serving in the Italian army when he died as the result of an accident. As the Wikipedia entry notes, this was when he seemed to be drifting away from Futurism. From the images shown there, it seems he was beginning to experiment with styles being used in Paris. How he might have developed had he survived the Great War is unknowable, of course.


A 1912 photograph of Boccioni (at left) and Marinetti: two well-dressed aesthetic revolutionaries.

La risata (The Laugh) - 1911
This painting is partly shown at the left of the photo above.

The City Rises - 1910
An early Futurist painting by Boccioni.

Visioni simultanee - 1912

Horizontal Volumes - 1912
The Wikipedia entry has this dated 1915 and cited as a sign that Boccioni was drifting from Futurism. However, most items relating to this work found via Google have its date as 1912. This seems to make sense because this is clearly a Cubist-style portrait similar to what Picasso and some others were painting around that time. Boccioni must have been experimenting here.

Elasticità (Elasticity) - 1912
An important element of Futurist painting was attempting to depict motion.

Testa + luce + ambiente - 1912

Dinamismo di un giocatore di calcio (Dynamism of a football kicker) - 1913
More motion.

Dinamismo di un ciclista (Dynamism of a Cyclist) - 1913
Again, motion.

Carica di lanceri (Charge of the Lancers) - collage - 1915
Futurism was in favor of warfare.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

John Singer Sargent Group Portraits

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) was perhaps the leading portrait artist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Wikipedia entry here). I've written about him several times on this blog, so use the Search tool at the right if you are interested in locating and reading those posts.

As expected, most of the portraits he painted were of one subject only. Occasionally he would include two subjects and there were times he dealt with three or more. This post deals with examples of the latter case.

The focus is on composition: how his subjects were posed.

At this late date it's probably impossible to be sure whether those arrangements were by Sargent or if they were influenced by whoever commissioned the paintings. However, odds are it was Sargent's doing, so I'll treat the compositions as his. The images are in chronological order aside from the final one, which was painted first. Click on them to enlarge.


The Misses Vickers - 1884
Here we find a sort of V-shape or checkmark shape composition. The young ladies are dressed in different colors and are looking in different directions. The one at the right appears to be looking at the viewer -- if she weren't, then she would tend to drop off the canvas due to her semi-isolated position.

Mrs Carl Meyer and Her Children - 1896
A zig-zag composition starting with the children' faces, proceeding to Mrs. Meyer's face, and then zagging down across her dress towards the lower left. Clearly Mrs Meyers is the prime subject and her kids are incidental because there is little of them to be seen.

The Wyndham Sisters - 1899
This is interesting because the canvas is split diagonally with the upper, dark background and the lower, bright dresses of the subjects. Again, the subjects are looking in different directions. Anchoring the scene is the pretty one in the middle who is gazing back at us.

The Sitwell Family - 1900
This painting is almost completely different. Rather than having the subjects lumped into compositional areas, here they are mostly separate. The main sense is diagonal, though much weaker than in the previous image. Here it runs from towards the upper left to the lower right where the young children are. The red dress of the daughter anchors the upper left because the dark clothes of the father blend with the dark background there. Contrasting the diagonal are the two strong vertical elements of the standing people.

The Acheson Sisters - 1902
This painting gives me the feeling of advertising illustrations from circa-1900. Here the subjects are dressed in the same color and fabric. The faces of the subjects are the apexes of a shallow triangle. Although all the young women face the viewer, their eyes are looking at different places -- a subtle touch that avoids a static feeling that the similar head positions might have created,

Essie, Ruby and Ferdinand, Children of Asher Wertheimer - 1902
Yet another composition of diagonals and triangles. Sargent added the three dark dogs probably at the request of the Wertheimers.

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit - 1882
Sargent painted this at age 26, a seemingly young age for creating such an intriguing, unconventional scene. The four girls (plus the doll) are arranged in a kind of trapezoid that overlays some diagonals. The center is largely a dark void, a bold, unconventional choice by the painter. Little seems obvious where the attitudes of the subjects are concerned. In fact, this enigmatic painting has been analyzed repeatedly over the years, and I have nothing new to contribute. A Wikipedia entry dealing with it is here. A review of the book “Sargent’s Daughters” by Erica E. Hirshler that deals with the painting and its subjects is reviewed here. It happened that in later life none of the girls had conventional adulthoods -- something that Sargent perhaps intuited, knowing the family fairly well.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Fred Ludekens, Big-Time West Coast Illustrator

Fred Ludekens (1900-1982) had a career that varied from the 1930-1960 American illustration norm for leading artists.

For one thing, most of his professional life was spent in San Francisco, far from the New York City media center (though he was there 1939-1945). Moreover, part of that career was as an art director for major advertising agencies. Less unusually, he seems to have been largely self-taught.

There isn't much information regarding him on the Internet, but two sources worth visiting are here and here.

Setting all that aside, Ludekens was skilled at his trade. He did some cover and other work for the Saturday Evening Post, America's leading general-interest magazine at the time. And one of his advertising art clients was General Motors' Chevrolet Division, whose cars were the best-sellers. So from a commercial standpoint, Ludekens was in the front rank.

He also illustrated for True, the leading men's adventure magazine in the 1940s and 1950s.

Below are examples of Ludekens' work.


Created about the time he became art director for the San Francisco branch of the Lord & Taylor agency.  Fortune was a leading business-oriented magazine, so Ludekens was already on the cusp of major-league illustration.

Two illustrations for Nash-Kelvinator advertisements towards the end of World War 2. The first shows a Marine with a flame-thrower used for attacking Japanese bunkers. The second shows soldiers in Holland taking a break. The Netherlands was largely in the British part of the push towards Germany in 1944, and most American activity there was in the hilly central and eastern part of the country. Ludekens' illustration depicts a flat background with windmills, and a little Web research reveals that the 104th Infantry Division campaigned in the Scheldt River Estuary briefly in the fall of '44. I do not know if Ludekens knew of this comparatively minor detail or simply painted a generic Dutch background for showing American troops in a war zone.

Saturday Evening Post cover.

Two Chevrolet advertisements, the first for the 1948 model year, the second for 1953 Chevrolets. The latter's setting is San Francisco's California Street heading up Nob Hill, so Ludekens didn't have to travel far to research this. The '48 Chevy is not quite depicted accurately (they looked a bit higher and stubbier in reality) while the 1953 model is considerably distorted. But that was normal for automobile publicity illustration in those days.

Cover for True.

Story illustration for True.  Ludekens illustrated many Western scenes.

Southern Pacific Railroad poster, probably from the early 1950s.  Since it's advertising, the train has more coaches that it likely actually had. Also, I'm not sure if the Oregon background is actual --  so let's consider the publicity photo below:

Ludekens probably used this photo as reference for the illustration and dramatized the scene to please his client -- or perhaps SP's agency's art director ordered the enhancements.

Another important Ludekens client was the large, Tacoma-based timber company Weyerhaeuser (pronounced Ware-howser in American dialect). He painted a series of illustrations for a long-running ad campaign. The scene might be generic Washington State or could be from a reference photo ... hard to say which. The mountain in the background resembles pre-eruption Mt. St. Helens.