Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sanford Tousey (1883-1961)

Thomas Sanford Tousey was born in 1883 into the wild and wooly West, into a world full of cowboys and Indians, horses and horsemen, and gents who sported big whiskers and carried pistols in their hip pockets. Growing up on a thoroughbred ranch in east Kansas must have been exciting for the future artist, but when Tousey was just eight years old, his family gave up life in the West and moved to Indiana. Throughout his childhood, Tousey returned to his great-grandfather’s ranch near the Potawatami Indian Reservation, to relive the western way of life he had left behind. He later recounted his experiences in his first children’s book, Cowboy Tommy (1932).

Sanford Tousey (as he came to call himself) graduated from high school in Anderson, Indiana, in 1902.  For two years prior, he had earned seven dollars and fifty cents per week drawing daily chalk-plate cartoons for the Anderson Morning Herald. Most of that income went towards schooling at the Art Institute of Chicago under J.C. Leyendecker and Frederic William Goudy. After that, Tousey went further east, to Wilmington, Delaware, for studies under Howard Pyle, and to the Art Students League in New York. He finished art school in Paris and before long settled into a career as a freelance illustrator and cartoonist in New York. For the next twenty years or so, he made sales to leading popular magazines, including Ballyhoo, Collier’s, Harper’s, Judge, Liberty, Life, Puck, The Saturday Evening Post, and Scribner’s.

During the early 1930s, Tousey gave up freelancing and turned to writing and illustrating children’s books. Over forty titles followed the publication of Cowboy Tommy in 1932, most involving cowboys, Indians, horses, and the Old West. Tousey became one of the bestselling children’s book authors of his day. In addition to authoring and illustrating a series of biographies of famed westerners such as Kit Carson, Buffalo Bill, and Jim Bridger, Tousey illustrated books by others, including Boy on Horseback (1935) by Lincoln Steffens.

Tousey retired in the mid-1950s and died on June 28, 1961, at his home in Monroe, New York. His papers are at the University of Kansas.


Before The New Yorker came along, magazine cartoons typically looked like this drawing by Sanford Tousey from Judge, circa 1910. Take away the caption (and the fanciful element) and this cartoon could be an illustration for a short story.

Puck, Judge, and Life--the three great humor magazines of the time--were published in New York for a big city, East Coast crowd. Class and money were frequent topics of the cartoons and illustrations they published. So was new technology. Sanford Tousey specialized in depicting the automobile and the comic aspects of early motoring, as in this cartoon, also from Judge, also from about 1910.

Horseman Hal, Sanford Tousey, 1950
In his middle age, Tousey returned to the world of his youth, away from high society and automobiles and to the Old West. Cowboy Tommy (1932) was his first book for children. Many more books on cowboys, horses, Indians, and explorers followed over the next two decades. If Tousey is remembered at all today, it is for his books for children. 





Copyright 2010 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, November 15, 2010

Detectives


"Sherlock Holmes Umpires Baseball," a spoof of the popular character, ran in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1906, illustrated either by Dok Hager (1858-1932) or his son, George Hager (1885-1945), both of whom were Hoosiers and both cartoonists.

Perhaps in answer to Sherlock Holmes, E.W. Hornung created Raffles, a "gentleman cracksman" who lived on the opposite side of the law. Frederick Coffay Yohn (1875-1933) was the illustrator for Raffles' American editions. Hornung by the way was the brother-in-law of Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes' creator.

Turn-of-the-century humorist John Kendrick Bangs wrote comic versions of popular books and characters. A frequent collaborator was illustrator and cartoonist Albert Levering (1869-1929), who drew this picture for Mrs. Raffles (1905), Bangs' account of the adventures of Raffles' widow. Yohn drew the straight version, Levering the takeoff. Both were Hoosiers.

John McCutcheon (1870-1949) and George Ade (1866-1944) were friends and schoolmates at Purdue University. They spent much of their lives in Chicago, though, and collaborated often. Their book, Bang! Bang! (1928), recounted the investigations of boy detective J.P. Davenant, pictured here. From The Murder Book: An Illustrated History of the Detective Story (1971) by Tage la Cour and Harald Mogensen.

Astrogen Kerby, "Astro," was a different kind of detective, a palmist and fortuneteller who investigated crimes. He appeared in The Master of Mysteries by Gelett Burgess (1912), with pictures by Indiana illustrator George Brehm (1878-1966). From The Murder Book.

Finally, The Strange Case of Mason Brant by Neville Monroe Hopkins (1916) with illustrations by Gayle Porter Hoskins (1887-1962).

Captions copyright 2010 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Paul Adam Wehr (1914-1973)

During the middle part of the twentieth century, one magazine and one artist dominated the look of illustration in popular magazines. The magazine was The Saturday Evening Post. The artist of course was Norman Rockwell. Countless journals had disappeared during the Great Depression and the lean years of World War II. Many others had turned to photography for their main source of illustration. The Saturday Evening Post marched ever onward, though, with art created not only by Norman Rockwell but also by a younger generation that included John Falter, Stevan Dohanos, Mead Schaeffer, and many other realists working at a time when realism was no longer the fashion in art.

Paul Adam Wehr was one of those realists. Tall, boyish, and mild mannered, Wehr was an extremely talented watercolorist and an accomplished illustrator and commercial artist. He was born on May 16, 1914, in Mount Vernon, Indiana. Encouraged by his father, Wehr entered the Herron School of Art at age nineteen and received his bachelor of fine arts in 1938. He began teaching at Herron in 1937, and in two stints at the school (1937-1946 and 1952-1954), he rose to head of the commercial art department.

After World War II, Wehr struck out on his own as a commercial artist with the Stevens-Gross Studio of Chicago. Working at home and sending his artwork by bus to Chicago, Wehr provided art to a variety of clients including Braniff Airlines, Coca-Cola, Ford, International Harvester, Libby, Parker Pens, Standard Oil, Swift, the U.S. Air Force, and he observed, “practically every brand of beer made.”  Collier’s, CoronetCountry Gentleman, Popular Mechanics, Redbook, Sports Afield, This Week, and True were among the many magazines for which he created crisp, idealized scenes of American life. It is this style, exemplified by the work of Norman Rockwell, that has given us our popular and nostalgic image of the 1940s and '50s. I'm not sure that Wehr’s work ever made its way into The Saturday Evening Post, but he was certainly of that school.  Perhaps more than anyone, he deserves the title “the Norman Rockwell of Indiana.”

Wehr’s commercial art paid the bills, but he was also a fine artist, traveling extensively and working in watercolor and casein. His large painting, “The Molders,” won him honorable mention at the Prix de Rome, held at the Grand Central Galleries in New York in 1936, while he was still a student. He won many more prizes and competitions during his near forty-year career. Paul Wehr's untimely death came on October 2, 1973, in Indianapolis. He was just fifty-nine years old.
Pictures like this were the bread and butter of magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, Collier'sLiberty,  and Coronet after World War II. Paul Wehr, with his sure hand and painstaking technique, fit right in with artists such as Norman Rockwell and Stevan Dohanos.

An example of Wehr's commercial art and proof that he could work just as well with a contemporary subject as with an image of the nostalgic past.

Wehr's commercial clients included the makers of every kind of product, including in his words, "practically every brand of beer made." Drewry's was brewed in South Bend, about as far as you can get from the artists's native Mount Vernon and still be in the Hoosier State.

Is it fine art or commercial art? The distinction isn't always clear. In any case, this painting by Paul Wehr, from an unknown date, revisits the subject of his prize-winning "Molders" from 1936.

Text and captions copyright 2010 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, November 1, 2010

Harry Grant Williamson (1866-1937)

Illustrator and landscapist Harry Grant Williamson was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on March 31, 1866. He began his art studies at the Art Students’ League of Cincinnati, probably as a teenager.  He then followed the example of a group of older Hoosier artists--T.C. Steele, William Forsyth, John Ottis Adams, and Samuel Richards among them--by studying at the Royal Academy in Munich from about 1887 to 1888. From there it was on to Paris and The Hague, where Williamson became enamored of the Dutch landscape and the Dutch art that reflected it. Upon his return to his native country, Williamson enrolled at the Indiana School of Art, where he studied under Steele and Forsyth from 1891 to 1894.

In 1890, Williamson co-founded--along with Steele, Forsyth, and Adams--the Portfolio Club of Indianapolis. The club promoted art in Indianapolis with lectures, meetings, papers, and exhibits throughout the 1890s. Williamson joined his instructor, T.C. Steele, in Vernon, Indiana, in 1893 to paint landscapes. That same year, he contributed a charcoal drawing to the first issue of J.M. BowlesModern Art, published in Indianapolis. He also studied under Charles L. McDonald in Indianapolis during the mid-1890s. At about the same time, he worked as a cartoonist for the Indianapolis News.

Williamson’s love of Dutch art drew him back to The Netherlands around the middle of the 1890s. He lived there for some time before returning once again to the United States with a Dutch wife, Sara (or Sarah), and a son, Marshall. During the early 1900s, Williamson lived in New Jersey and worked as an illustrator for Harper’s, Pearson’s, The Saturday Evening Post, and Success. He illustrated or co-illustrated several books including A Son of the Sun by Jack London (1912). Williamson was a member of the Salmagundi Club and the Society of Illustrators. In later years, he painted landscapes.

Williamson died on November 9, 1937, in Edgewater, New Jersey.

So much of the interior illustration for magazine fiction during the early 1900s was done with dark, gloomy charcoal. Harry Grant Williamson's work was no exception. However, as his frontispiece for Vaiti of the Islands by Beatrice Grimshaw (1908) shows, he was capable of working nicely in color media as well.

We look upon illustration of the golden age with nostalgia, realizing that we have lost something in our headlong rush into the future. But the world that read finely made magazines also did its laundry with a tub and a washboard, as in this warm and charming picture by Williamson from 1905.

The previous picture anticipates developments in illustration for the twentieth century. This one harkens back to the nineteenth.


Copyright 2010 Terence E. Hanley