Monday, December 28, 2015

Eugene Mumaw (1930-2006)

Fred Eugene Mumaw was an artist almost unknown in his time and in ours. That was and is an unfortunate state of affairs, for he was a talented man with a unique style. Born on April 3, 1930, Mumaw loved cartoons and cartooning, evidently from an early age as so many cartoonists do. He graduated from Muncie Central High School in 1948 and worked in quality control for Ball Corporation for forty-seven years. Mumaw also created posters for the Muncie Civic Theatre for a quarter of a century. You can view them at the Ball State University Libraries Digital Media Repository, here. A member of St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Muncie, Mumaw died on September 12, 2006, in Muncie and was buried at Elm Ridge Memorial Park in the city of his birth.

Time was when kids who wrote to well-known cartoonists would receive in return a piece of original art. Here is an example from Eugene Mumaw's collection, a daily comic panel of Toonerville Folks, inscribed to him "with the compliments of Fontaine Fox."

Mumaw's cartoony illustrations are marked by simplicity, humor, and a sure touch. This and all the illustrations below were done, I believe, with gouache or opaque watercolor.

Mumaw's art has been selling on the Internet for some time. His undated pinup-type drawings are especially popular.

These might fall generally into the category of "good girl art," one that was popular in the 1940s and '50s among comic book artists and magazine illustrators.

The renowned "Vargas Girl" from Esquire magazine is an example of good girl art. Eugene Mumaw's pin-ups may have been his take on the Vargas-type girl.

To me, they are far more innocent.

And I think you an tell that the artist was having great fun drawing them.

Here's to remembering a nearly forgotten Indiana illustrator, Eugene Mumaw of Muncie.

Revised and undated January 12, 2020.
Text copyright 2015, 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Max Altekruse (1921-2015)

Max Lavern Altekruse was born on August 16, 1920, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to William P. and Ola B. (Wyrick) Altekruse. His father was an electrician and his mother a housewife. As a child Altekruse enjoyed copying Norman Rockwell's cover illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post. Decades later he returned to Rockwell-like scenes in his work for makers of collector plates.

At North Side High School in Fort Wayne, Max Altekruse, nicknamed "Blondy," was a member of the Camera Club and won a scholarship in art. After graduating high school in 1938, he attended the Fort Wayne Art School, where he studied under Homer Davisson (1866-1957) and Forrest F. Stark (1903-1977).  He then got a job as a commercial artist at the Bonsib Advertising Agency under Louis William Bonsib (1892-1979).

In the summer of 1942, Altekruse married Mary Jane "Kathy" Long and enlisted in the United States Army. Returning stateside after three years in the South Pacific, he attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at his wife's urging. He went on to study at the Art Students League in New York City under Frank J. Reilly (1906-1967).

Altekruse spent fifty years as a commercial illustrator. His clients included Eli Lilly, Ford, Chrysler, Goodyear, the Franklin Mint, the Collectors Studio, and others. For many years he worked at McNamara and Associates, a Detroit advertising agency. He also taught illustration and composition at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit. 

After retiring in 1995, Altekruse returned to painting. His awards over the years included first prize at the Scarab Club Annual Watercolor Show (Detroit, 1962 and 1963), the Annual Merit Award from the Society of Illustrators (1980), and inclusion in the National Parks Academy of the Arts Annual, Top 100 Paintings (1998) and Top 200 paintings (2004). 

A resident of Franklin, Michigan, Altekruse was president of the Franklin Historical Society. During his tenure, Franklin became the first city in Michigan to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Max Altekruse died on February 21, 2015.

The Broughton House, a drawing in pencil by Max Altekruse from circa 1980.

Two illustrations by Altekruse from the August 1983 issue of Ford Times.

Max Altekruse served in the U.S. military during World War II. Forty years later, in 1995, he provided this illustration for the cover of the book Weapon Systems.

Altekruse was also known for his illustrations for collector plates. This one is called "Walking in the Rain" and is from the Wonders of Childhood Plate Collection from The Collectors Studio.

Max Altekruse appears to be an undiscovered artist. Considering his fifty-year career, I think there is a lot of his art out in the world, yet little of it seems to have found its way into books or onto the Internet. I would like to correct that oversight. If anyone has art or images by Altekruse, I would like to see them and post them here.

Updated August 9, 2020.
Text and captions copyright 2015, 2020 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, December 11, 2015

Indiana Pioneers-Transportation

Today the Hoosier State of Indiana enters its two-hundreth year, for on December 11, 1816, it was admitted to the Union as the nineteenth state. Of the forty-eight contiguous states, Indiana is the smallest located west of the Appalachians. Nonetheless, it has made outsized contributions to the nation's culture and history, being first, most, and only in many categories, including agriculture, military service, manufacturing, automobiles, aviation, space exploration, education, literature, and art.

Ours is a state of pioneers. Whether in a flatboat, covered wagon, airplane, or spacecraft, Hoosiers have led the way. In observance of Indiana's pioneering efforts in transportation, I offer a number of illustrations by an artist who was herself descended from Indiana pioneers, Clotilde Embree Funk (1893-1991) of Princeton.

Postscript: The New York Times has cited my biographical article on Clotilde Embree Funk. The Times' article is called "Draw, She Said," and the author is David W. Dunlap. Mr. Dunlap's article is dated December 9, 2015, and it includes a photograph of Clotilde. In her hand is what Rooster Cogburn would have called "a big horse pistol." Believe it or not, when the picture was taken in 1926, Clotilde was target shooting in the basement of the Times Tower.

Happy Bison-tennial, Indiana!

Text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley