Saturday, September 23, 2006

THE TRIBUTE OF A SIGH

In 1748, Thomas Gray stood alone at dusk in the crumbling remains of a small cemetery in the English countryside. He thought about the generations sleeping beneath the moss-- farmers and plowmen from humble villages where fame or fortune never visited. Soon the ivy would cover the last vestiges of their time on earth.

Gray wrote a beautiful
Elegy to these "unhonored dead" who have no monuments to commemorate their lives. He reminds us:
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire.
Their neglect, says Gray, is the way of the world:

Many a flower is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

I think of Gray's elegy when I turn the yellowed pages of old magazines or newspapers and see the valiant work of thousands of now forgotten artists: staff artists for newspapers, draftsmen working in the bullpens of commerical art studios, freelancers eking out a living. Much of their art is best forgotten, but many of these artists were great. They remain anonymous today for reasons unrelated to quality-- born too soon, born too late, drank too much, or perhaps just never caught that lucky break.







Before long, these brittle pages will turn to dust. The beautiful work of these artists will be remembered for only another generation or two by their families before passing on to obscurity. I have no idea how many of these artists are still alive, or what became of them, but I am posting a token handful of commendable drawings so the internet might rescue them from undeserved obscurity.







Gray wrote that in the absence of grand memorials, those who came before us at least deserve "the passing tribute of a sigh." I agree, and this is my sigh for these and other commercial artists who labored so hard in the name of excellence.



18 Comments:

Blogger leif said...

If you ever give up lawyering there must surely be a worthy career waiting for you in writing of one sort or another, David. A lovely piece. I echo your sentiments. And a fine selection of images to accompany it.

Bravo! ;-)

9/23/2006 7:06 PM  
Blogger Theory_of_me said...

Would they even want "trophies and grand memorials"? Good grief. How embarrassing.

9/23/2006 7:34 PM  
Blogger Irene Gallo said...

Bravo, in deed!

9/23/2006 9:22 PM  
Blogger anendorf said...

Thanks once more, Don David. I've been touched.

9/23/2006 9:33 PM  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i feel that feeling about waves breaking sometimes. every single time a single wave breaks against a rock it makes a design like no other, and think just how many go unseen.

i think there's another reason why many don't achieve fame: lack of ambition. i've known a lot of poets, for example, as good as those who have become famous, but who just don't have the drive on the business side.

9/23/2006 11:18 PM  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

oh i just remembered something i had wanted to add--that sometimes i think that's what the internet is--that we're saving it all.

9/24/2006 1:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tks for the wonderful reminder ,David. And also sharing these few sketches with us..

9/24/2006 8:17 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Leif, you do more than any person I know to salvage and preserve on the internet good illustrations that would normally never see the light of day again. I am awed by the loving attention you devote to neglected illustrators of the past, and I am grateful for your reaction to my posting.

9/24/2006 8:36 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Thanks very much Irene, anendorf and anonymous. It's good to hear from people close enough to the art process that they feel a tug for the efforts of previous generations.

9/24/2006 8:47 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

lotusgreen, if I've learned one thing so far, it's this: whether you are talking about waves or snowflakes or art or people, attention is rewarded.

9/24/2006 8:49 AM  
Blogger Robert Hunt said...

There have been so many great, unsung illustrators...some of them were my teachers. It took me a long time to appreciate the effort and commitment it took to work a lifetime in the trenches as a journeyman illustrator, to struggle in relative annonymity. Your tribute to them is moving.

9/25/2006 2:23 PM  
Blogger SpaceJack said...

I love the one with the guy jumping off the gangplank.

9/25/2006 11:52 PM  
Blogger sudeepdas said...

thanks david i've been touched,as an illustrator i appriciate that someone out there respect our profession working very hard so that others also start appriciating our hard work. thanks again

9/26/2006 2:54 AM  
Blogger Justin said...

Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, powerful post.

10/01/2006 12:02 AM  
Blogger Bill Vann Art said...

As a long time collector of Original Art from the Golden Age up to present days, it always makes my spirit soar to see there are other people who live for, and appreciate solid foundational drawing skills that are not displayed that often these days in the Graphic arts industry.
Thanks for the great research and time spent on displaying this work on your Blog.
Bill Vann Art (my Blog display name)

10/13/2006 5:31 PM  
Anonymous Timothy Duong said...

Great post! Thank you so much for this find :D

7/14/2009 5:29 PM  
Blogger Glen Story said...

I had an immediate flash of recognition when I saw the first, and then the last illustration in this post. I grew up in Chicago loving the drawings J. Downs in the Daily News during the sixties.
He must have done thousands of drawings for the paper, and each one I saw was a small pleasure and inspiration to me.
Sadly, I know nothing about him... but I would, in a second, recognize any drawing by him.

Glen

6/16/2010 7:36 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Glen-- delighted to hear from you! I grew up in Chicago as well and, like you, even as a little kid I loved the drawings of J. Downs. His work really stood out.

It's nice to hear from someone else who appreciated him at the time. Now of course he is gone, and his newspaper, the Daily News, is gone too. Sigh.

6/16/2010 11:10 PM  

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