Exploring Illustration: Essays in Visual Studies

At the Front, WWI

Rockwell

July 28, 2014 is the one hundredth anniversary * of the beginning of what the British called, The Great War. While America had already experienced the vast destruction (of humans and land) during our mid-19th century Civil War, World War I was the first time Europe experienced the broad devastation of land and people in the grinder of modern warfare.  Not surprising, contemporary illustration reflected the conditions of the battlefields [...]


Making Us Laugh

Macy Parade puzzle

While you might not be aware of the illustrator Tony Sarg (1882-1942) by name, some of his work still influences our lives. Sarg was born in Guatemala to a German father and an English mother. Despite his training for a career in the military, Sarg rebelled and instead focused on illustration art moving to London in 1905. In the early teens, Sarg designed over thirty posters for the London Transport, [...]


Illustrating Jazzzz

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In the early part of the 20th century, American artists looked to contemporary music as a viable exemplar of time and motion to apply to their visual expression giving the more static traditional forms of painting and sculpture a new energy and a sense of movement. Ragtime, the Blues, and Jazz provided new snappier or soulful tunes that compelled artists in Europe and America to seek their own versions [...]


Japanese Lanterns

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In 1916 the illustrator Everett Shinn was commissioned to create the first of June cover illustration for Vanity Fair magazine (see below). To express the frothy entertainments of summer, Shinn portrayed an upscale dandy with his boater in his proper right hand and his elegantly dressed companion seated among or straddling the bough’s of a tree, poised against a rising moon. The faces of the couple dressed in their pale-toned summer [...]


Are We All Illustrators Now?*

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In John Sloan: Drawing on Illustration, my new book from Yale University Press, I use the work of Sloan—an early twentieth-century American artist and member of The Eight and the Ashcan School–as a lens through which to consider the subject of illustration more broadly. As such, while the book focuses primarily on the several decades around the turn of the twentieth century, I repeatedly link this historical content to matters closer [...]


Illustration Spurs Fashion–Fashion Spurs Illustration

Parker Ladies Home Journal

As we have seen in a previous Exploring Illustration entry, during the late 1930s and 1940s, Al Parker created a series of cover illustrations for the Ladies Home Journal that featured mother and daughter characters dressed in same type and style of clothing.*

 

Parker’s mother daughter illustrations encompassed a wide variety of indoor and outdoor activities: ice skating, roller skating, swimming, baking, trying on hats, changing a tire, skiing, building [...]


All Women are Beautiful: Seeing and Believing

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Lynn Buckham (1918-1982)
[Embracing Couple]
Story illustration for “The Heady Career of Samuel Watkins” by Edward Lanham in Good Housekeeping (October 1967)

If you believe the images created for magazines and advertising illustrations in the third quarter of the 20th century you would think that all women from that time were beautiful; they always dressed impeccably; their waists were universally cinched; their hair was always perfect and their lipstick never needed to be [...]


Anthropomorphic Tails

Walter Harrison Cady

Proctor and Gamble Company of Cincinnati first sold Ivory Soap in 1879. As you can see in the ad here on the right, early advertising illustration was produced in a minimalist way and from a purely practical aspect—so what you see is a pair of hands use a thread to divide the double-sized bar soap at the processed demarcation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walter Harrison Cady (1877-1970)                         Unknown artistIvory Soap, early 1900′s                                            Ivory Soap, 1882 Advertising illustration [...]


Bluebirds and Happiness

ZULA_KENYON_Song_of_the_Bluebird

The Gerlach Barklow Company produced art calendars and advertising materials in Joliet, Illinois from 1907 through the late 1950s.* Their popular calendars were typically personalized for the businesses who purchased them to distribute to their customers as gifts. Many of the company’s illustration artists were women, some even residents of the local area. One of these, Zula Kenyon, studied art in The School of the Art Institute of Chicago along [...]


Return of the Silhouette

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During the 18th and well into the 19th century silhouette portraiture was a popular means for Americans to preserve likenesses of themselves. Often created by itinerate artists and with the aid of various devices, silhouettes were produced as unique works or at most in limited numbers of copies.*  By mid-19th century photographic techniques rapidly displaced silhouette portraits and the art forum disappeared. In 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne placed a daguerreotypist in [...]


Hats Off

Nast Indian Question

Hats keep you warm, provide cooling shade, are revealing, concealing, and sometimes purely decorative. A hat usually provides the finishing touch to a person’s dress, complementing an ensemble and unifying the appearance. Whatever their purpose, a hat reveals something about its wearer: their sense of style, purpose, activity, or class.

Illustrations that include hats allow us to use them as hieroglyphs—as a readable symbol demonstrating a person’s relationship to the larger [...]


Promoting Books

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Howard Chandler Christy (1872-1952)The Bookman, Feb. No., 1895Advertising posterDelaware Art Museum, gift of Helen Farr Sloan, 1993-132

The literary magazine The Bookman began publication in February 1895. Produced by the New York publishers Dodd, Mead and Company, The Bookman* was a compilation of articles, book and author news, book reviews, and book advertisements focused on the American publishing industry. While a large number of the ads were for Dodd, Mead publications, [...]


Illustration Grounded in Story

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William Glackens (1870-1938) She wheeled about and stamped her foot. “Silence pigs!” she screamed. Story illustration for “The Play’s the Thing” by Albert W. Vorse in Scribner’s Magazine, v. 26 (Aug. 1899): 171. Wash, Gouache, and Chinese White Collection of the Society of Illustrators, 039.002

 

 

 

In the Society of Illustrators permanent collection records, the description that accompanies this illustration is,

Women’s Rights “She wheeled around and stamped her foot, ‘Silence [...]


Lautrec Posters

1891 Moulin Rouge - La Goulue

Henri Toulouse-­‐Lautrec (1864-­‐1901) Moulin Rogue: La Goulue, 1891 Advertising illustration for the Bal du Moulin Rogue, Paris Color Lithographic Poster

 

In 1891 Henri Toulouse-­‐Lautrec created a series of promotional posters commissioned by the Bal du Moulin Rouge as advertisements for the dance hall. In the poster seen here, Lautrec limited himself to line and a few areas of flat color. He designed the lettering in the style and color of the [...]


Dreaming of Robots

Fuquajpg

Robots are now a real part of our world: automobiles are constructed at least in part by robotic devices; home-focused robotic devices vacuum our carpets and clean our floors; and other robots are being developed to make our lives easier.  So, where and when did the idea of robots become a part of our culture and one of our cultural goals for the future? And how have their looks changed [...]


Art of Darkness

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Jules Guérin (1866-1946) A Bit of Broadway: The cavernous maws beneath those blazing boards nightly suck in throngs of amusement seekers Story illustration for “The Lights and the Stars of Broadway” by John Corbin, in Scribner’s Magazine (February 1905) : p. 133.

 

Here we are again at the dark of the year: days are short, so nights are long. This is also the season of gray dark days, sometimes heavy with [...]


Massing of Nature to Set the Stage

Charley Harper

Charley Harper (1922-2007) Gregor Mendel Transferring Pollen from One Flower to Another, 1961 Illustration in The Giant Golden Book of Biology (Golden Press, 1961)

In Charley Harper’s Gregor Mendel Transferring Pollen from One Flower to Another created to illustrate the portion of the Book of Biology text that deals with DNA, genetics, and inherited traits, his rather flat technique serves the story well. Mendel’s work pioneered this field of science through [...]


As Easy As Pie

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J. C. Leyendecker (1874-1951) Thanksgiving Number Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post (November 21, 1908)

 

Artists may sometimes choose to revisit a particular theme they’ve worked on before. When they do it is interesting to see what they choose to keep the same in a composition and what they decide to change. Illustration art seems particularly prone to this sort of reuse in part because typically illustrators are faced with [...]


Perceptions of the American West

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Georges Barbier (1882-1932) L’Amérique, 1920 Illustration from a 1920 calendar

In the late teens and 1920s the French illustrator and designer Georges Barbier produced series of images that were used to decorate annual calendars.* One series focused on the seasons, another on the continents around the world. The image Barbier created to represent the Americas was, as you can see above, a cowboy on a gently rearing horse, waving goodbye to [...]


Witches Night Out

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Owen Smith (b. 1964) Halloween New Yorker, 2000 Cover illustration for The New Yorker (November 6, 2000)

 

Halloween, or All Hallows Eve,  is one of the times that harmful spirits are said to be active. In the U.S., we take that concept to mean that witches, among other spirits, are out that night seeing what mischief they can get into. Since we link witches and Halloween together, it is not uncommon [...]


Who? Cushman Parker!

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Maybe you’re like me and when you think of the 20th century illustrator Cushman Parker, you think of the myriad of advertising illustrations he created in the teens and 20s of cherry cheeked children enjoying a variety of Beech-Nut products.*

 

 

  Cushman Parker  (1881-1940) Beech Nut Advertisement,  c. 1920 Advertising illustration for Beech Nut Peanut Butter Paint on paper Norman Rockwell Museum Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Steven R. Hirsch, [...]


Imagining Zorro

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  Unknown Artist The Curse of Capistrano, 1919 Cover illustration for “The Curse of Capistrano” by Johnston McCulley in All-Story Weekly (August 9, 1919)

Nearly a hundred years ago the pulp story writer, Johnston McCulley (1883-1958), created the masked character of Zorro, the secret identity of the nobleman, Don Diego de la Vega, who lived during the Spanish colonial period in California. McCulley’s first Zorro story was called “The Curse of [...]


The Web A Woman Weaves

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C. Coles Phillips (1880-1927)
Holeproof Hosiery, c. 1920s
Advertising illustration for Holeproof Hosiery Company

Seeing a woman’s leg from her ankles to above her knees was once a rather daring notion. In the early 1920s, illustrator C. Coles Phillips was producing advertising illustrations for the Holeproof Hosiery Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. These ads featured scantily clad woman wearing silk stockings visible from her feet to above her shapely knees. While these advertising [...]


Being a Scholar

JW Smith

 

Jessie Willcox Smith  (1863-1935) ‘Then the Scholar’ With eyes severe, and hair of formal cut.’ 1908-09 Black and white poem illustration for ”The Seven Ages of Childhood” by Carolyn Wells in Ladies’ Home Journal (April 1909) and color version of illustration in Carolyn Wells, The Seven Ages of Childhood (New York: Moffat, Yard & Co., 1909): facing p. 34.

Here we are again as the calendar turns and so too the [...]


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