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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

68 sets and counting

Friday, December 30, 2005


As the year draws to a close I've continued adding old Today's Inspiration scans to my Flickr account. There are now sixty eight sets of scans, organized alphabetically by artist and topic, and I'll continue adding more sets as time allows until the entire TI back catalogue is uploaded so check back often and enjoy!

Dorne, Johnson, Whitmore...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


I'm really enjoying the process of uploading my old TI scans to my Flickr account. Its great to have a quick visual reference of all these images and - whatayaknow - I finally got around to organizing the sets alphabetically!

This should make it much easier to locate the artist or topic you're most interested in checking out.

The latest sets uploaded include Albert Dorne, Coby Whitmore, and a terrific Canadian illustrator named Bruce Johnson, whom I think will impress you with his tremendous stylistic range.

There'll be more sets coming over the next few days so be sure to check back often - and remember, you can always see the images at a larger size by clicking on the "All Sizes" tab. Enjoy!

New Sets Added on Flickr

Monday, December 26, 2005


Thanks to everyone who has commented here at the TI blog or emailed me in private. I know from the counter that many people visit but hearing from you is always a treat.

As promised, I've been adding new sets of old scans to my Flickr account. You can now see examples of work by the likes of Bob Peak, Edwin Georgi, Joe De Mers, Jon Whitcomb and quite a few others - including many unidentified illustrators which I'm cataloguing by subject.


Check back often and be inspired all through the holidays!

A Surprise Christmas Gift

Sunday, December 25, 2005


Not too many people are aware that award-winning illustrator Louis Glanzman and his lovely wife Fran have been members of the Today's Inspiration list for some time now. Some people may already know the name Glanzman as that of Sam Glanzman, Lou's brother, who has drawn comics for many years, and is especially well known among fans of war comics.

I first discovered Louis Glanzman's work in the pages of True Magazine in the summer of 2004 and started hunting around for enough other examples to make up a week's worth for Today's Inspirations. As soon as I was ready, I searched online for info about Louis Glanzman and was thrilled to discover that he had a website. I contacted the Glanzmans and have had many wonderful exchanges with them ever since.

While preparing for this year's "Countdown to Christmas" I discovered this beautiful piece Lou had done for Collier's back in 1955. I emailed the Glanzmans hoping they could tell me a bit about this piece and about working for Collier's in general. Unfortunately, Lou has not been feeling too well and the last couple of weeks before Christmas came and went, but just after I had sent out the last piece for 2005 a reply came via Fran. Despite feeling under the weather, Lou had gratiously answered my questions, and so we are able to enjoy this surprise Christmas gift, just in the nick of time.

Despite fifty years having passed, Lou did remember doing this piece. It was done for Collier's art director, Bill Chessman through the assistance of Lou's art agent, John Locke - a well known agent at that time.

Lou did work for both Collier's ( a short story illustration plus a feature ) every week during that period, but this did not interfere with his getting work from The Saturday Evening Post, where he did several covers as well as inside illustrations.

Two neighbourhood boys were the models for this piece, and Lou used them often for other illustrations.

He considers working for Collier's a high point in his long and illustrious career, but his big break in the field had come some five or so years earlier when he had done a montage illustration of Louis Armstrong ( with a manuscript by Louis Armstrong! ) for True magazine.

I just want to thank Lou and Fran for taking the time to provide this gift of fascinating information. I feel very fortunate to have made their acquaintance and I know everyone who reads this wishes Lou a speedy recovery to good health. Best wishes for the rest of the holidays!

You can see some other examples of Lou's work on his site as well as at my Flickr.

Merry Creepy Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2005


Lord only knows what artist Tina Cacciola and the editors at Coronet were thinking back December 1956 when they chose this macabre black and red colour scheme for their story of the Littlest Snowman. Very festive... for Hallowe'en, perhaps!

Yet this odd little tale, which probably scared the dickens out of every little child whom it was read to, is strangely appealing to me. Probably my German heritage, where St Nickalaus brings coals and a willow switch for bad little children, the better to whip them with. No jolly Sundblom santas there, St. Nickalaus cut an intimidating figure, always slightly stern-faced. Menacing even...

You can find the entire eight pages of pictures and story here.

And so another year of Today's Inspiration draws to a close. I'll be taking a hiatus 'til after the New Year - but check in regularly for updates of old TI scans on my Flickr account. I promise you'll find at least one new set each day between now and January 1st, 2006.

Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to comment on the TI blog or emailed me in private - your words of encouragement mean so much to me... I truly appreciate it!

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

So little time left...

Thursday, December 22, 2005


...and still so much to do - and so many Christmas related illustrations still to share with you! I guess I'll have to save them for next year.

Everywoman's Christmas '55 calendar has some hilarious suggestions that are woefully out of touch with these modern times... "Stag Party (!) with dishes for men to cook themselves" is suggested for December 8th.

"Start Christmas house-polishing" on the 7th and "complete basic house-polishing" on the 16th. If that's the basic house-polishing I wonder how long the deluxe house-polishing would take!



Did 50's moms read through this list and roll their eyes, thinking, "Yeah, right"? Or was it really a Leave It to Beaver world back then?

December 18th: "Serve a Reunion Brunch for college students after church"

Yeah, right!

For the legible version got to my Flickr and click on the "All Sizes" tab.

Taking a Circuitous Route

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I like both these pieces for very different reasons. I find them to be really kind of odd, because they don't fit neatly into the impression I have of the time period from which they came.



The Santa delivering Reader's Digest by helicopter has a 50's kitchyness about it but was actually produced in the 40's, while the winter scene is reminiscent of the delicate and quiet charm I've often come across in work from the 30's, yet it harkens from the age of tail fins and atomic power. Who knows what was on the minds of the editors of Reader's Digest?

An illustrator who did a lot of work for Reader's Digest was Denver Gillen. I haven't shown the group any of his work for that magazine, but I have previously presented his work for others, especially his Saturday Evening Post pieces. I'd have loved to have used this Gillen piece in the Countdown to Christmas, but unfortunately I used it earlier.



While surfing around the Vintage Childrens Books pool at Flickr I came across these images by Gillen from the 1930's, and that got me thinking of him, and that motivated me to upload my Gillen scans to my Flickr account, and that's when I realized I actually had a Gillen Christmas image but had already used it.

And remembering he had done a lot of work for Reader's Digest I decided to see if I could find any other Gillen Christmas images, and that's how I found these two images instead, and that's the whole long circuitous route I took to bring them to you today. *whew* !

A Santa Full of Soaky!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


This image gives me the opportunity to plug, once again, the ever growing collection of Dan Goodsell, aka grickily, who virtually every day delights us with his latest acquisitions of kid-related retro packaging, toys, art and related ephemera. Most recently Dan added a bunch of astonishing Cracker Jack prizes to his Flickr photo-stream, including some tiny story and joke booklets that took me back to those childhood visits to the supermarket with my mom and dad. There were similar booklets of a miniscule size so close and yet so far, on the other side of the glass of several gumball machines by the grocery store doors.

My pennies were dear in those days and though I willingly gambled them in the hopes of procuring one of those diminutive riddle books, Lady Luck was never on my side. Gumballs never tasted so disappointing as those that dropped into my hand after twisting that dial and lifting that silver trap door.

Well now we can all relive our youth through Dan's generousity - go marvel at his pop culture treasures! And make sure to visit Dan's blog, A Sampler of Things where he just posted about those Cracker Jack prizes.

William A. Smith (1918-1989)

Monday, December 19, 2005


According to Walt Reed's "Illustrator in America" William Arthur Smith was born in Toledo, Ohio, educated at the University of Toledo, the Grand Central Art School, The Art Students League, l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts and l'Académie de la Grande Chaumiere!

Smith was either being kicked out of one school after another for partying to hard or he must have had an insatiable desire to learn. I suspect it was the latter. Smith's work is of a quality that often reminds me of Robert Fawcett's work. I must not be alone in that feeling, because Smith has been honoured by having his work collected by the Met and the LA Museum, and has had exhibits in virtually every important museum in the U.S. and one-man shows in twenty European and Asian cities.

He won many top prizes during his career, taught at Pratt, and was post-humously elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. You can see other examples of Smith's work here.

TI Archives update

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Some people may not have realized it yet, but I've been quietly moving the Today's Inspiration Archives off my website and into their new home at Flickr. Over the coming weeks you might like to check back frequently as, bit by bit, I add past TI scans - some going back to the very first batch I sent out about four years ago when the group had only ten or so members.

One of the cool things about my Flickr account is being able to check how many times different images or sets of images are viewed. For instance, after posting the Sundblom image last week and uploading the other Sundbloms to Flickr, that set of images quickly became one of my most viewed sets. (And the Coke ad with the two young ladies sunbathing became one of the most viewed images. Hhmmmm....)



There's no denying people love the "masters" so I spent a bit of time this weekend uploading other sets in the same vein: you can now peruse sets by Robert Fawcett, Harry Anderson, Andrew Loomis, and today's inspiring illustrator, William A. Smith.

To see images at larger sizes first click on the image, then on the "All Sizes" tab. Robert Fawcett fans ( and I know there are many of you ) might want to take advantage of the "original size" for downloading. I have uploaded that particular set at 300 dpi so you can revel in the lavish detail ( and annoying dot pattern ) of that set of scans.

Illustrators' Christmas Packages

Saturday, December 17, 2005



Here's a curiousity I came across in the December 1953 issue of Good Housekeeping" "Eight of America's Most Famous Illustrators Design Christmas Packages You Can Copy".

A couple of observations about this article... first that in 1953 the editors at Good Housekeeping had enough faith in the public's awareness of illustrators that they would care what those artists devised as Christmas packages. But then, in the fifties, illustrators were actually fairly well known by the magazine reading public. Jon Whitcomb had a monthly column in Cosmopolitan called "Jon Whitcomb's Page", Al Parker was the subject of a cover story in that same magazine, Woman's Day sometimes featured illustrator's favourite recipes in a special "Recipes from our contributors" column, The Saturday Evening Post, on their last page, did short articles about the lives and processes used by their artists and writers, often showing photos of those creators, and letters to the editor often praised or criticized artists for their previous month's efforts.



So perhaps this article is not such an oddity after all.

Secondly, the illustrators chosen as "eight of America's top illustrators" all hale, I believe, from the Cooper Studio - with the exception of Al Parker. This might have been a function of convenience; Good Housekeeping regularly commissioned Cooper artists for its fiction articles, and the editors likely felt it would be expedient to send away this assignment to one address and know it would be handled professionally. No having to track down eight freelancers who might be here, there and everywhere.



But then to say, "Oh yes, and we better see if Al Parker can do one for us as well"?
That clearly confirms Parker's status as a most-in-demand illustrator.

Also, of all eight chosen, why include Stan Klimley? Though a very competent and successful illustrator he hardly strikes me as one of the "most famous" of America's illustrators.

Perhaps Albert Dorne and Robert Fawcett were too busy to participate.

If you care to see these images at a legible size, go to Vintage Christmas and click on the image, then on the "All Sizes" tab.

Merry Pepsi Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2005


Saturday Evening Post Dec 1955, originally uploaded by leifpeng.


Throughout the 1950's Pepsi ran stylish ads, often featuring sophisticated, fashionable women, but just as often showing boy/girl scenarios similar to those typically accompanying the romantic fiction articles in the same magazines. The similarity doesn't just end with the staging of these scenes, Pepsi often employed the talents of the same artists magazines like Ladies Home Journal and Saturday Evening Post most favoured for romance - Joe Bowler, Len Steckler, Lynn Buckham, and the like.

By contrast, Coke's ads often seemed clunky and stodgy - homey scenes by Amos Sewell and others. While Coke appears to have been trying to position itself as the drink of small-town middle America, Pepsi was telling its audience that young, urban, fashionable sophisticates drank their product. This strategy culminated in their "The Sociables Prefer Pepsi" campaign later in the fifties.

I wondered if, because Pepsi's ads were often done by Cooper Studio regulars, that the Cooper Studio had the contract to produce all these ads and if so, who at Cooper might have painted this particular piece. Chicago illustrator and Cooper Studio historian Neil Shapiro graciously offered his insight: "there's no way to know for sure, but my strong hunch is that the artist is Bob Levering. Bob did a lot of these Pepsi ads -- he had the 'Cooper Look' down pat."


For those who are interested in learning more about the famous New York Cooper Studios, Neil hints that some of his material will be appearing in an upcoming issue of Illustration magazine, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

If you'd like to see a few more Pepsi ads in this style, I've uploaded a few from past weeks of Today's Inspiration here.

Ric Grasso

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Ric Grasso is one of those second - tier illustrators of the 50's who fascinates me because he and his career are such a mystery. Clearly a competent illustrator with a tendency to try some interesting experimentation with technique and composition, Grasso's work, nonetheless, never seems to have won him a spot among the alummni of the top flight magazine illustrators. I've yet to come across a piece by Grasso in Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal, or the like. He has no listing in "Illustrator in America".

But he did a fair amount of work for this publication, Every Woman's, and the "men's sweat" publications - probably finding steady, though not high profile, work.

What was the secret to cracking the top rank, and how frustrated must illustrators like Grasso have been to always be relegated to the second string? The answer to that, like the work and name of Ric Grasso, may well have faded into obscurity.

Arthur Szyk at Illustration Art

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


A reminder to check in at David Apatoff's always illuminating Illustration Art Blog. David has posted another fascinating article, this time about the life and work of Arthur Szyk. The artwork is mind-boggling and the the story of Szyk's life is tragic.

"In all that Christmas is,


it has a special meaning for children. And for them, artist Art Seiden has recreated some of the most famous of these storybook immortals and has brought them together at a party given by Alice." - Collier's ( Dec '55 )

This piece from the "Special Christmas Issue" of Collier's reaffirms that Art Seiden had risen to the top of the children's book market in the public conciousness - the Maurice Sendak of his day, if you will.

If you missed my earlier post on Seiden, you can find it here.

For many more images by Seiden and other children's book illustrators of the fifties, check out The Retro Kid. The range and volume of material will astound you!


And you can read about a memorable contemporary of Seiden's, Bernice Myers, over at Eric Sturdevant's excellent blog, Fun All Around. Eric has posted many images and a photo of Myers and her husband and co-creator, Lou.
Go check it out!

Christmas Ski Party?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Colliers December 1955, originally uploaded by leifpeng.

Ok, I know its a stretch, but hey - this ad was in the December '55 "Special Christmas Issue" of Colliers so we must trust that the United States Brewers Foundation and its ad agency knew what they were doing when they chose this image for that time slot.

I wanted to include a Sundblom in the Countdown to Christmas but his Coca Cola santas have been reprinted so often there didn't seem to be any point - you've no doubt seen them all!

If not, there's one ( and a few other Sundbloms ) in my new TI Flickr archives here.

A Valentine for Christmas

Monday, December 12, 2005


Good Housekeeping December 1956, originally uploaded by leifpeng.

Again, an illustrative mystery-man. After looking through a couple of hundred magazines from the 50's I can honestly say I've never come across another piece by this Valentine. And that's so odd, because he's (she's?) really very good!

The designy collage treatment reminds me of Al Parker while the actual drawing style seems vaguely Frederic Varady-ish, while the linear treatment is reminiscent of James Williamson.

Perhaps some more knowledgable TI list member has heard of Valentine and can enlighten the rest of us!

Smokin' Santa!

Friday, December 09, 2005


Colliers Dec 1955, originally uploaded by leifpeng.

Just look at that nicotine - addled expression. Those were the days.

I originally had something else planned for today's Inspiration but a shipment of old mid-50's Colliers magazines arrived yesterday morning and this Santa was on the back cover of one of them. Well, what could be better than a smokin' Santa?

Only a boozin' Santa, of course, and as soon as I come across one of them you can bet you'll see it here first!

Who-rero?

Thursday, December 08, 2005


Good Housekeeping Dec 1956
Originally uploaded by leifpeng.
There's a tiny signature on this piece that says "Herrero", but I've never heard of him/her or seen any other pieces signed with that name. The Lambiek Comiclopedia has a listing for a Brazilian artist named Carlos Edgar Herrero, who drew Donald Duck comics for Disney, but the listing says he started his career in the late sixties, about ten years after this piece was done.

Then I found this listing for Lowell Herrero. And, you know... I think this might be the same guy!

Joe Bowler

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Good Housekeeping Dec 1957
Originally uploaded by leifpeng.
One of the finest of the Cooper Studio artists, and a regular of the boy/girl illustrators in all the major magazines, especially in the second half of the 50's, was Joe Bowler. I could give you his bio but Bowler has a website so why not let him tell you himself. Go to Joe Bowler.com to read about the artist and see many more examples of his work. And check out my new Flickr group, Mid-Century in Print for more Bowler art from previous Today's Inspiration sets.

Art Education

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


That's what you'll get over at David Apatoff's Illustration Art blog. David's posted a new article on war reportage artist Ivor Hele that features some truly stunning drawings and paintings. Its not to be missed so go check it out.

Art Wanted!


I've been sending out Today's Inspiration for about four years now and the list has grown from its original nine or so members to well over two hundred! A lot of folks have never seen some of those early scans. Well now there's a place where you can peruse the contents of the TI vaults, plus many other images contributed and compiled by other scanologists. Mid-Century in Print is, as grand poobah and all around groovy grrrl, ticky tacky puts it...

"A place to post *anything* printed, for *any* audience, from the period spanning 1945-1965 (with a little latitude on either end).

This includes, but is not limited to, illustrations from magazines (including advertising), books, packaging, record album covers, etc."

Not only can you see, you can do! As in DO join and DO contribute the illustrated visual ephemera of the mid-20th century you have stashed in your dusty closets, attics and studios!

I signed on as Assistant-Chief-Cook-and-Bottle-Washer so I really hope you all visit, bookmark and join Mid-Century and rev up yer scanners and start uploadin'!

Art Found!


Dan Goodsell has found more amazing original and printed art with that retro groove than I ever would have thought possible. Now he's started a blog where we all get to live vicariously through his flea-market scouring adventures. Dan digs up the gold and puts it on display at
A Sampler of Things. Go bask in its shiny, sparkly retro-ness!

Jan Balet


Good Housekeeping Dec 1956, originally uploaded by leifpeng.

You may recall, when I asked Lowell Hess whom of his peers he admired this is the artist that immediately sprang to mind.

You can see three more images from this series at Vintage Christmas or at Retro Kid.

And speaking of Retro Kids...


The Road to Oz
Originally uploaded by Eric Sturdevant.
Sturdy Eric Sturdevant does it again with another awesome examination into the work of a fantastic retro kids book illustrator, Harry McNaught. Check out Eric's blog Fun All Around for the straight dope!

Gutsy

Monday, December 05, 2005


Good Housekeeping Dec 1956, originally uploaded by leifpeng.

If you asked me to describe Austin Briggs' work in one word, that would be it. I've yet to see a wishy-washy piece by Briggs. Even his tamest subjects have a sense of forboding about them. The guy could create tension by adding a certain twinkle in an eye or just the right curve in a brow. The young lady above is a perfect example.

Not by coincidence, I placed Briggs immediately after Alex Ross because he ( Briggs ) also had a connection to Alex Raymond. First he assisted Raymond on Secret Agent X-9 in 1936, then he apperently took over drawing the strip. The next part is a bit confusing... I've read conflicting reports that Briggs either created Flash Gordon but was not credited or ghosted Flash Gordon - then later drew the sunday strips while Raymond drew the weekday strips.

In any case, by 1948 he had left comics and comic strips and would spend the next 25 years as one of the most sought-after and successful artists in magazine and advertising illustration. Briggs was one of the senior faculty of the Famous Artists Correspondence School and is in the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. He died in Paris in 1973 of leukemia.

The Original Alex Ross

Friday, December 02, 2005


Good Housekeeping Dec 53
19 more Ross images here.
The first time I told the group I was going to feature Alex Ross I know a few people thought I was talking about Alex Ross the comic book artist. Well before that Alex Ross there was this Alex Ross, and although he wasn't a comic book artist he did have a close association with a most famous comic strip artist: Alex Raymond.

Professor Armando Mendez, in his wonderfully comprehensive website examination of the photo-realistic newspaper comic strip, The Rules of Attraction, writes:

"One of the few real people to be mentioned by name in the strip was Raymond's friend and Cooper Studio artist Alex Ross. Tom Roberts, Raymond's biographer, told me Raymond envied Ross and his glamorous lifestyle, Ross being a nationally known illustrator who earned his considerable living concentrating on two staples of American magazines, glamour illustration and angelic children for Good Housekeeping and other magazines."

And speaking of Ross's "angelic children for Good Housekeeping", its still boggles my mind to think that Ross did over 130 covers for Good Housekeeping during a twelve year stretch in the 40's and 50's - surely some sort of record, and an enviable one ( or perhaps not ) to anyone in the illustration community.

Its ironic, isn't it? I've read plenty of interviews with comic artists from the fifties who talk about how they hid the fact that they were drawing comics because of the low opinion most folks had about that career during those times. Meanwhile mainstream magazine illustrators were known and admired by the general public and their peers.

Fifty years later the original Alex Ross is all but forgotten, magazine illustrators are unknown by the public and another Alex Ross is one of the most successful, well known and best paid commercial artists in the world - drawing comics.

Retro Kid turns 1000!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

One thousand images, that is. If you love 50's style children's book illustration like the work of Art Seiden and want to be awash in visual candy, head on over to the Retro Kid - its a Flickr group started by the inimitable Ward Jenkins and bolstered by the efforts of many contributors including "Scan-Master" Eric Sturdevant - who recently started his own blog and is currently presenting art and info about the life of another 50's children's book legend - Leonard Weisgard.

Art Seiden (1923-2004 )


Coronet magazine Dec 1955
8 more images from this series here.
Art Seiden was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1923. He received a BA at Queens College and studied for eight years (!) at the Art Students League. Mario Cooper was among his instructors. Upon entering the illustration field he did corporate and advertising work for some of the largest companies in America: Phillip Morris, Hoffmann-LaRoche, General Motors and Hearst Publications were some of his clients.

But his distincive style and best and longest association would have to be in the realm of children's book illustration, where he cut his teeth illustrating "Three Mice and a Rat" by Margaret Wise Brown and Jean H. Berg in 1950. Seiden illustrated over 300 books and was both author and artist of at least 22 children's books for virtually every major publisher in America beginning rather appropriately with "My ABC Book" for Wonder Books in 1953. Seiden spent the following decades working with an alphabet of authors and coming back around to Margaret Wise Brown with one final book, "The Train to Timbuctoo" for Golden Books in 1999.

Seiden worked mainly in transparent watercolours and gouache and is a member of the American Watercolour Society and The Society of Illustrators, among others. His work is represented by the Kendra Krienke Gallery in New York City and he lived in Woodmere, NY.

* Special thanks to Terri Goldich, Curator of Archives & Special Collections at the University of Connecticut, for assistance with this information. The Art Seiden Papers contain a comprehensive listing of titles Seiden worked on.
 

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