Edward Vincent Brewer (1883-1971)|Lady Liberty at Night, c. 1907|Cover illustration for Life Magazine (January 23, 1908)|Mixed media|Thanks to Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas for the use of the original painting’s image.

 Edward Brewer was a Minneapolis born artist who trained first with his painter father, Nicholas Richard Brewer, and then in New York at the Art Students’ League taking the illustration class with Walter Appleton Clark.* In 1905, Brewer was in Minnesota to marry and returned to New York with his bride. While his commissions were slow in coming, he began to do illustrations for Abercrombie and Fitch and to receive commissions to do magazine covers for Life magazine. One of the earliest of these commissions was for the January 23, 1908 issue. Life was a humor and general interest magazine published from 1883 until 1936, when it was sold to Henry Luce, who transformed its focus.

Brewer’s submission for the Life cover is wonderfully dark in its composition: a silhouetted vision of the statue as seen standing out against the dark night sky; its lighted torch a star-like beacon in the gloom. The magazine’s publisher or art editor transformed the shadowy sky into a lighter brighter image, making the dark statue less mysterious and less dramatic. In trading the dark coloration of the sky for a rosy hue the whole of the composition shifts from compelling to rather bland in my opinion. Even the green of the harbor water was transformed till in the printed form it is lost in the dark murk below Bedlowes Island where the monument was installed in 1886.

As we have seen again and again, most illustrators must bow to a publisher’s changes. Brewer went on to paint other images of the Statue of Liberty, one where she is seen rising and spread her light over the skyline of New York city as part of a series of calendar subject he created for the Jensen Printing Company of Minneapolis.**

S. E. M.|Pour la liberté du monde, c. 1918

J. C. Leyendecker (1874-1951)|The Statue of Liberty|Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post (July 7,1934)

While Brewer’s Life magazine cover was hardly the first time the statue was illustrated, it may indeed have been the first time it served as the focal point of a popular magazine cover. Within a decade, the French caricaturist Georges Goursat (1863-1934), popularly known as S. E. M., would produce one of the most famous of the European created World War I posters, Pour la liberté du monde, c. 1918, that was eerily similar to Brewer’s vision. By placing the silhouette of the Statue of Liberty at the edge of the water over the horizon, S.E.M. reminded America that the war’s allied defense was for ‘the liberty of the whole world’ and not just western Europe.

The Saturday Evening Post ran a J. C. Leyendecker designed cover featuring The Statue of Liberty against a dark background with art nouveau waves in the foreground to celebrate Independence Day in 1934.

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)|The Statue of Liberty, 1946|Oil Sketch for cover illustration

In 1946 Norman Rockwell began to work on an another idea with The Statue of Liberty as the focus for a cover illustration with a group in the foreground admiring the monument, but this was never published.

Franklin J. Schaffner, Filmmaker|The Planet of the Apes, 1968

Filmmaker Franklin J. Schaffner would use a decrepit, partially buried variant of the statue to frame the tragedy the protagonist astronaut Taylor, played by Charlton Heston, discovers at the ending of The Planet of the Apes, 1968.

Istvan Banyai (b. 1949)|Muslim Democracy| Cover illustration for The Atlantic(2007)

And contemporary illustrator Istvan Banyai (b. 1949) turned the classical costuming of Lady Liberty on its head and called it Muslim Democracy in order to make a point about a potential future shift in territorial control of planet earth for a 2007 cover for The Atlantic. Notice how Banyai has placed an American flag on the crescent of the visible moon to indicate where the United States may have its future.

*From 1911 through 1926, Brewer painted many of the popular advertising illustrations for Cream of Wheat cereal.

**This illustration can be seen in a photograph of Brewer in his studio in the article by Patricia Condon Johnston, “Edward Brewer: Illustrator and Portrait Painter” in Minnesota Profiles (Spring 1980): 2.

January 14, 2010

By Joyce K. Schiller, Curator, Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies
Norman Rockwell Museum

By |2016-11-14T10:19:43+00:00January 14th, 2010|Essays on Illustration|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Mellie Claw 03/19/2011 at 8:43 pm

    Pretty cool article, I learned a few things I didn’t know about. I just happen across this site; it’s pretty thought provoking. I’m going to have to read some of your other posts.

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