Parker was famous for his diverse visual solutions. While other illustrators worked hard to create a single recognizable brand, Parker's hallmark was ceaseless experimentation. I can't think of another illustrator who could pick up and put down artistic styles with such ease:
Here's a sneak preview of the book: My essay says that Parker was the illustrator for the "interregnum"-- the power vacuum when the old gods of illustration (Norman Rockwell, Leyendecker, N.C. Wyeth, etc. ) were departing but the new gods (Pushpin Studios, Robert Weaver, Bernie Fuchs, Bob Peak, etc.) had not yet arrived. Everything was up for grabs; the styles of illustration which dominated the first half of the 20th century were becoming obsolete, but the new styles had not yet found their footing.
In that window of time, Parker became the leading illustrator who explored dozens of new paths and planted dozens of new seeds. He never stayed in one place long enough to harvest those seeds himself, but they made profitable careers for a number of illustrators who followed in Parker's footsteps.
|Good friends: Al Parker surrounded by Bernie Fuchs and Bob Peak|
Despite his diverse approaches to picture making, young art students and beginning illustrators had no trouble spotting Parker's work, and would rush to the magazine stands each month to see what Parker was up to. As illustrator / comic artist Leonard Starr reported, "Parker was the man, and all the guys knew it."
A book like this about Parker is long overdue, and I recommend it strongly to fans of illustration.
P.S.-- For those of you living in the Los Angeles area, the Nucleus Gallery is having an exhibition of original Al Parker work. The show will only remain up for another week, and it provides a rare opportunity to see his great talents in the flesh.