Sunday, December 16, 2012

LEE CONREY (1883-1976)

 Few people today remember  Lee Conrey, but he drew thousands of lurid illustrations for  The American Weekly in the 1920s and 1930s.

The American Weekly was a cheesy supplement for Sunday newspapers, printed by William Randolph Hearst on pulp paper.

Week after week, Conrey drew ambitious, complex drawings with a lot of heart.

Most copies of The American Weekly have crumbled with age, but it would be a shame if Conrey's illustrations crumbled with them.

 You can tell that after thousands of drawings, Conrey still got the same child like pleasure from creating these overdone, dramatic pictures.  A fortunate artist indeed!


Blogger Smurfswacker said...

Wow! I have never heard of this guy before. This guy would've made a helluva comic book artist if he didn't mind the cut in pay.

12/16/2012 11:44 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Great find, David! Had never even heard of him before. Reminds me of a cross between Dan Smith and Alex Raymond.

12/17/2012 12:13 AM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Conrey is news to me too. I thought I knew all the good illustrators. His drybrush looks like Matt Clark.

12/17/2012 11:18 AM  
Blogger Chuck Pyle said...

a VERY underrated artist. I will have to email you his artists and models ball illustration. the bohemian life drawn large.. Thank you for putting these up.

12/17/2012 2:56 PM  
Blogger Gailavon Galloway said...


12/17/2012 3:50 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Smurfswacker-- I'm not sure how much of a cut in pay it would entail; Conrey was not a cover artist, he mostly did these interior drawings, and cranked them out at a prodigious rate.

Kev Ferrara and Moran-- I agree. Smith, Raymond and Clark all come to mind. Like Raymond and Clark in particular, Conrey really understood the forms he was drawing, and took obvious pleasure making the lines that curled around those forms and gave shape to them.

Chuck Pyle-- I wold LOVE to see it. Please send it my way, or post it so the larger audience can see it. I agree with your assessment: VERY underrated (that is, when he gets rates at all).

Gailavon Galloway-- Yeah, how 'bout that?

12/17/2012 6:07 PM  
Blogger alvaro barcala said...


12/17/2012 7:35 PM  
Anonymous northierthanthou said...

Pretty wild stuff. Lurid seems an apt description.

12/19/2012 3:03 AM  
Blogger PaliWaliDoodle said...

I never heard of him while going to art school! AWESOME!!! Thanks for posting this!

12/19/2012 1:51 PM  
Blogger JonInFrance said...

Wonder how his ""artist statement"" would read?

12/19/2012 2:29 PM  
Blogger Chuck Pyle said...

david, i will scan a half dozen conreys for you from my file. what sizing would you like, and how to post them to you? Dropbox? chuck

12/20/2012 2:14 AM  
OpenID craftchick said...

I've never heard of Lee Conrey before - thank you for the introduction to his work. It has an amazing amount of detail.

12/20/2012 3:40 PM  
Blogger Donald Pittenger said...

I too never head of him before. Where/when did you discover him, David?

12/21/2012 6:57 PM  
Blogger Chuck Pyle said...

David, I have those scans for you. how would like to get them? THREE not one! To my surprise, I have a lot more than that. Another Chicago fellow you might like:david hendrickson, have that too. chuckpyleart.blogspot

12/23/2012 7:12 PM  
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12/26/2012 6:18 AM  
Blogger Li-An said...

I'm still surprised to discover great illustrators I did not know. It's always a great pleasure to see that the World is bigger than you thought...

12/26/2012 4:41 PM  
Blogger Katherine Thomas said...

Wow, I never looked at Conrey's work before. It's incredible. This is a great blog. I like the most recent post too, about how so many people have lost their ability to appreciate a good drawing and to take the time to look at it and understand it beyond the surface image.

12/27/2012 6:44 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Chuck Pyle-- Thanks very much, I left a message on your blog.

Donald Pittenger-- I found Conrey the way I find most of this stuff: free and spontaneous meddling in volumes of aging clutter. I guess I'm always curious to see what's on the next page.

Alvaro Barcala, northierthanthou, PaliWaliDoodle -- I'm glad you share my reaction to Conrey. Thanks for writing.

12/31/2012 3:05 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Joninfrance-- Well, he looks like a pretty normal guy but I'm guessing his statement would be on the wild side.

craftchick-- I agree!

Li-An-- Yes, that's one of my favorite feelings. I've learned a lot from the people who hang out here.

Katherine Thomas-- Thanks so much, Katherine, for the kind words. I appreciate them.

12/31/2012 3:09 AM  
Blogger Eric Noble said...

These images are gorgeous!! His illustrations are so full of vitality and life. These images are more dynamic and professional than many modern comic book artists. It reminds me of how Walt Stanchfield spoke of fitting the anatomy to the gesture.

Some of the anatomy in the third picture looks a little off to me, but that's probably just me. I'm still a beginner.

1/02/2013 2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, when I saw that illustration of all the guys getting on and off that ship, I literally, said 'oh my god' in my head...that is one incredible illustration!

Ken Meyer Jr.

1/06/2013 12:12 AM  
Blogger Paul Chadwick said...

I'll bet Alfredo Alcala would've loved this guy. Kindred spirits.

1/12/2013 12:08 PM  
Anonymous Joe Procopio said...

Little late to the party here, but nice post, David, on an undeservedly forgotten great. I was turned on to his work in Jim Vadeboncouer's very first "B&W Images" book from around a decade back. Like you, I've managed to accumulate a handful of his images, mostly from American Weekly. Just a quick check on that color piece you included at the end: are you sure that's Conrey and not Pogany? I could be wrong on that, though...

2/02/2013 7:10 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Eric Noble and Ken Meyer Jr.-- Many thanks.

Joe Procopio-- The color on that last piece may have thrown you off a little bit. I haven't seen many of his works in color. But if you look at the ground near the face of the fallen princess, you can see Conrey's odd little signature.

I would love to see a book republishing Conrey's work.

2/04/2013 6:58 PM  
Blogger Dini said...

I have some original illustrations by Lee Conrey. They came to me by way of my grandfather in law who worked for the Pulitzers in St Luis. I'm trying to find the connection between Lee Conrey and fellow artist Berthold Widmann.

7/19/2014 2:32 AM  

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