Below, a scan courtesy of TI list member Tom Whitmore, Coby Whitmore's son, who writes: "Eric [is] one of my favorites and one of my father's as well as I recall. This drawing by Eric was done in 1917 when he still signed his work Carl Erickson. I have no idea who it depict, or what the job was. Although it has considerable water damage we love it." Many thanks to Tom for sharing this beautiful image with us.
In 1917 Carl Erickson was working in New York as an advertising illustrator, a career he had pursued in Chicago until 1914.
The idea of Erickson working in advertising brings me to an excellent comment left on yesterday's post from Melanie Reim, the Chair of the MA in Illustration program in the School of Graduate Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology, that bears further examination. Melanie wrote, "rarely is there a class in gestural figure drawing, fashion illustration, nor documentary art at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where I teach, that the likes of Eric, Rene or Jack Potter are not mentioned, amongst other fashion/lifestyle greats. The knowledge and foundation of their understanding of the figure resonates under the deceptively simple line."
Melanie's reference to "lifestyle" illustration really made me stop and think...
As someone who has only ever given fashion illustration a passing glance, I had never thought of fashion artists like Eric as lifestyle illustrators. This, to me, is the realm of the advertising artist... but Melanie is absolutely correct -- its because artists like Eric were such keen observers of the form and so adept at translating the figure into "deceptively simple line" that their work is so remarkable - and so well suited for interpreting lifestyle.
Several people have commented to me privately this week that they don't really 'get' fashion illustration (and I'll bet there are many more). But consider that some others with whom we may be far more familiar (and perhaps relate more directly to) similarly embraced the philosophy of keen observation and a "deceptively simple line"...
Was Eric an influence on such artists as Austin Briggs as well?
All of this brings us to what I think is a rather remarkable circumstance.
Carl Erickson died in 1958. That year he received an Award of Distinctive Merit from the New York Art Director's Club for his work on a direct mail pamphlet for CBS Television.
I find it not a little ironic that the artist who spent a lifetime portraying the elegance and sophistication of the fashion world in the pages of Vogue received, as his final honour, recognition for his interpretation of a lifestyle as mundane as the act of watching television.
Here we see no "chic femininity" -- just the backs of people's heads as they stare, transfixed by the "boob tube".
As we know, television would soon choke the life out of the magazine industry upon which illustrators of all types relied for their livelihood
There's an almost allegorical quality in the passing of Carl Erickson, the epitome of the illustrator of an earlier time, portraying, through his sophisticated style, the rise of America's new most popular medium.
* My thanks to Tom Whitmore for sharing his beautiful Eric original and to Melanie Reim for helping us to better understand the importance of the work of Carl Erickson. * Please note that there is a permanent link in the sidebar for those interested in further exploring the Fashion Institute of Technology's website.
* My Eric Flickr set.