American Illustration in the 1950s

Folks

Stumbled on this. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

https://youtu.be/iP1Xr1hQ1uY
tassieguyArtGalanwesha

Comments

  • As one who lived through these years, I had no idea I was part of a "revolution" of sorts.  "Now-sight" is so clear once it becomes "hindsight"r.  Enjoyable and educational.
    dencal
  • enjoyed this video a lot! thank you for sharing :)
    dencal
  • I’m curious can the concept “illustrator” be defined solely by the content and process of the art or must a socio/economic marketplace aspect be present?

    Could a complete hobbyist (and by that I only mean not in the market, not selling) be identified and labelled specifically as an illustrator versus a painter or artist based on the kind of work they produced?  What would such work consist of to distinguish them so?


  • dencaldencal -
    edited January 5
    CBG

    This fragment of a UK job description says it all…

    As an illustrator, you'll work to commercial briefs to inform, persuade or entertain a client's intended audience, adjusting the mood and style of images accordingly. 
    So the work is purposely crafted for a specific audience, intending to increase sales or reputation.

    I know quite a few people who have produced free illustrations for books and newspapers, charity group posters and academic illustrations for journals. Some go on to being recognised as illustrators and receive regular paid commissions.

    Denis




  • @dencal

    Thanks Denis!  Sounds like it’s pretty much all in the social arrangement and not “in” the art.

    I love Norman Rockwell’s art BTW
  • dencaldencal -
    edited January 5
    CBG

    Yep, like any business you gotta find, mind and grind. Attend every function, opening, launch get your work out there and get to know the people (your customers). The art needs to be of a commercial standard and better sets new benchmarks for style and communicative appeal.

    If you are looking for some experience try illustrating some work sheets for the local school/s



    Build on this by proposing similar children’s adventures for National Park Bookshops and City Parks.

    Denis

  • This is an old discussion. When we get a 'commission' to paint somebodies dog,nephewor whatever. The is much less than doing an illustration. I did more than a thousand illustration assignments in my career. There were only handful of times I worked from a clients resource. That's not what my clients hired me for. I was hired for my imagination and my humor.  In the video of 50s illustration the narrator pointed out the much of Rockwell's work was characturist. Humor. I go to the Rockwell Museum every year. I marvel whenever I see his original paintings how great he painted. The brush work, the composition, the color. Color that didn't translate in print back then. He was a great painter. He also was one of the founders of the Famous Artist's School. If you want to learn or brush up on foundation principles find a set of FAS binders on Ebay.

    Think of many of the schools of realism. The painting are all illustrative. The Bouguereau school and The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Beautiful. But give me Haddon Sunbloom any day.
    CBG
  • @KingstonFineArt

    Thank you.  That clarifies much.

    It appears that the label "Illustrator", although primarily used in the market, also carries with it particular requirements and processes associated with the exercise.

    So although the term may not be typically applicable to say, a minister who sets himself out to conceive of and paint from imagination a narrative representation of a particular Christian virtue, or a whole set of them including Latin text labeling each, the entire process would be in most ways "illustration" except there is no client.  He has "employed" himself to do the work.


    I would guess that during or after your own tenure as an illustrator, you had tasked yourself, from time to time, with a project (a gift perhaps) for a friend or loved one, or for yourself (say ... for a web page)  which you would have had every reason to still call "illustration". 

    Even though it involved no client/exchange it qualified in every other respect.
  • edited January 6
    There's nothing wrong with illustration. But it doesn't often rise to the level of fine art. Norman Rockwell was different.  He was one of Art's greats. His best paintings transcended mere illustration. They are fine art masterpieces. He understood the difference between illustration and fine art. But he had to earn a living and so he had to illustrate for advertisements.  He did that better than anyone. But as he painted he knew he was doing something finer than just ads for magazines and billboards. And that's why he's now in the great art museums where you won't see run of the mill illustrators.  He is one of the few illustrators who rose above mere commerce and advertising to become a fine artist.  And, contrary to what @KingstonFineArt says, not all realism is illustrative. And few illustrations qualify as fine art. And that's why so few illustrators are represented in the great art museums. They don't paint for art's sake but for commerce, to get people to buy stuff,  and that's why illustration will always be a rung below fine art which has higher aims. When I look at a great painting I am moved to aesthetic wonder. When I look at an ad for soda ..., well,  I might by a soda. But it won't expand my appreciation of the visual world the way a great painting can. Rockwell's paintings rise above the humdrum, not to say grubby, world of commerce. 
    Annie
  • Most illustration from the late 1800s to the mid to late 1970s were not used to sell stuff. Before the improvement in printing technology and photography the only way to show imagery was though illustration. Illustrators learned how to make images that would print well in the limited current printing methods. From the early 50's to the late 70's illustration was the realm of the realists. After the demise of the editorial publishing industry many of the realist illustrators began to move to fine art keeping realist traditions alive. I worked mostly in the editorial market. Newspapers, magazines and books. A 

    Fine art is a definition of a market. As is illustration or commercial art.  

    Fine Art is a marketplace selling art from prints to paintings to 3D to a variety of 'buyers'. Galleries are dwindling in number. Selling is done increasingly over the internet. I don't see and difference with the fine art marketplace of today than the illustration marketplace of the mid 80's. It's a tough sell. Tastes change seasonally. There's less money to spend on art.

    I like the definition of fine art as 'commercial' painting and 3d and digital- for a commodity fine art market.  Another segment is the investment fine art market. The top end. Which is a tiered market. This is the segment where you don't make any money until you die.

    Of course there is painting without any intension of selling. The definition of an amateur. I've given up on selling at least during covid. So I guess right now I'm an amateur. 
  • CBGCBG -
    edited January 6
    tassieguy said:
    There's nothing wrong with illustration. But it doesn't often rise to the level of fine art. Norman Rockwell was different.  He was one of Art's greats. His best paintings transcended mere illustration. They are fine art masterpieces. He understood the difference between illustration and fine art. But he had to earn a living and so he had to illustrate for advertisements.  He did that better than anyone. But as he painted he knew he was doing something finer than just ads for magazines and billboards. And that's why he's now in the great art museums where you won't see run of the mill illustrators.  He is one of the few illustrators who rose above mere commerce and advertising to become a fine artist.  And, contrary to what @KingstonFineArt says, not all realism is illustrative. And few illustrations qualify as fine art. And that's why so few illustrators are represented in the great art museums. They don't paint for art's sake but for commerce, to get people to buy stuff,  and that's why illustration will always be a rung below fine art which has higher aims. When I look at a great painting I am moved to aesthetic wonder. When I look at an ad for soda ..., well,  I might by a soda. But it won't expand my appreciation of the visual world the way a great painting can. Rockwell's paintings rise above the humdrum, not to say grubby, world of commerce. 
    @tassieguy certainly budget, essentially time constraints, place limits on the level of artistry most illustrators could employ, so it is understandable that in general most ads and commissions are not masterpieces. But limited time does itself impose any limit to the possible artistry which could be employed in an imaginative commission within the time given, and I think Rockwell proves this.  Perhaps he spent more time, or was just better with the time he had.


    I would ask, why can't illustration be both fine art and a painting "for commerce" "to get people to buy stuff", and I would ask, why couldn't illustration commissioned for the "grubby, world of commerce" rise above the humdrum and be fine art masterpieces, but we already know it can be both and it can rise to fine art, and that Rockwell proves this.


    The question that nags me is, aside from budget/time constraints, why aren't commercial entities pushing for more artistry in their commissions?  Like everything else, companies and their ads span a wide spectrum and the vast majority are poor quality, an appreciable number are good, and a small minority are exceptional.  But in general I would have thought, that the goal of every ad would be to make a viewer think and reflect about themselves, their values, their life, as well as to think and contemplate the item and how that item (e.g. soda) does play a part in the value and experience of that person's life, and hence that ad could constitute as potentially a sublime and memorable experience a person could have (while engaging an image)... in other words the epitome, the best of the grubby world of commerce's effort to get people to buy stuff should be fine art which moves people to aesthetic and personally meaningful wonder.

    Someone once told me they cried every time they saw a commercial for a brand of a common grocery store Baked Ham.

    I do wonder if that ever translated to the person buying that Ham...









    tassieguy
  • @GBG


    Illustrators in the early 20 century were rock stars. Enormously wealthy. My teacher and mentor, Milton Glasser, elevated commercial art into the realms of fine art in the 60's. 

    Sadly there are few outlets for illustrators today. Here are several outstanding working illustrators that I love. 

    Greg Manchess. This guy can draw. Has an imagination that is bound less. more..

    Jim Gurney. This guy can paint and draw and has a boundless imagination. When I first saw him on YouTube I said 'this guy went to the Art Center College'. I had work with a team who had all gone there. They could all raw and paint beautifully. If you want to learn how to paint outdoors watch his YouTube channel.

    An interesting site to browse. https://americanillustration.org/




    CBG
  • edited January 10
    I agree, @CBG. The finer the art the more commerce, and the world, would benefit. But in the world of commerce illustrations need to be just good enough to sell stuff and they must be produced as cheaply as possible so illustrators rarely get big salaries. Their works are almost all quickly forgotten (if they are even noticed at all for their artistry) and are consigned to oblivion unless they are of Rockwell quality. 

    @KingstonFineArt,  illustrators were never famous like rock stars and most were never "enormously wealthy". A good number of famous rock stars from the 60' come quickly to mind. And a good number of fine artists, too. But not many illustrators.  Apart from a very few like Rockwell, the vast majority did humdrum work for as little as employers could get away with paying them. And perhaps that's as it should be. Labels for soda cans are generally not high art, and aren't expected to be, so illustrators who design them don't get paid much. Illustrators can be good at what they do but what they do is generally not fine art.

    Did you become "enormously wealthy" as an illustrator? And why aren't you as famous as a rock star and in the great art museums like Rockwell?  ;)
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