Monday, March 28, 2016


In the 20th century, illustrated magazines went from being smaller, primarily black and white publications with line art...

... to larger color magazines with lavishly painted illustrations.  By the 1960s,  magazines such as McCalls and Ladies' Home Journal featured huge, double page spreads in bold, bright colors.

The new printing technologies had opened up all kind of expressive capabilities for artists, making traditional pen and ink work appear stale and old fashioned. Cross hatching, stippling and other relics from the era of wood engraving all but disappeared.

It seemed that magazine pages couldn't possibly get any bigger or more colorful.  But just like a supernova shines most brightly as it collapses on itself and explodes,  magazines such as Collier's, Look, The Saturday Evening PostLife, and American Magazine all went out of business during this period, victims of television.   McCalls, Redbook and Ladies' Home Journal all began turning from illustration to photography.

As magazines became smaller and more specialized, markets for lavish illustration shriveled.  Budgets for color printing declined.  The demand for double page spread illustrations disappeared as magazines turned to spot illustrations.

Then there arose in the land a new generation of cross hatchers who went back to small pen and ink drawings.  "In the days of the frost seek a minor sun." The new generation didn't employ the vigorous, flamboyant lines of a Robert Fawcett, a Charles Dana Gibson, or a James Montgomery Flagg.  Instead they created dense micro-drawings, using cross hatching to create coruscating fields of value.

These artists included the great Alan Cober : 

The talented Brad Holland:

And the superb Jack Unruh:

Other cross hatchers that emerged in this era included Marshall Arisman...

...and Murray Tinkelman.

 Although the cross hatched illustrations were more compact and monochromatic than the illustrations of the early 60s, some of the new cross hatchers-- particularly Unruh, Cober and Holland-- achieved just as much potency through their powerful editorial content and the intensity of their cross hatching and other patterns.  They revived a medium that had been largely abandoned and adapted it to prosper for decades more in a changed marketplace. 


Robert Cook said...

I live on the same block as Marshall Arisman. I see him walking around with his wife often.

Laurence John said...

looking at that 'Wild Nights' spread, and the Andy Virgil in your previous post, it's interesting to see how close mainstream illustration came to pop art in the 60s.

Anonymous said...

more Unruh, more Unruh, more Unruh. Please.

kev ferrara said...

It is just so gratifying to feel the humanity of the handcrafting. I feel real goddamn people behind these wonderful things and I love dearly them for just that.

Sometimes it feels to me that the mindless anodyne cleanliness (From Chris Ware to Mass-Market Graphic Designs to Hi-Def Photos to computer interfaces to CGI) that has taken possession of the culture has resulted in our time's products, as a mass, feeling like a horde of thorazine victims staring slack jawed and doll-eyed at us; "you are safe, unoffended... I am clean, smooth, placid, unobtrusive and free from questions... what would it harm you to see me, to buy me, to have me, to join me..."

David Apatoff said...

Robert Cook-- Well, he's quite an estimable fellow in the world of illustration. Is he as dark in real life as he seems on paper?

Laurence John wrote: "it's interesting to see how close mainstream illustration came to pop art in the 60s."

Or rather, how close pop art came to mainstream illustration. Friends keep assuring me that pop artists weren't stealing when they directly lifted comic book images, product labels and other commercial art, because pop artists added something important to the pre-existing image. You can't see it, but they added intangible irony and invisible self-awareness. I was never very impressed with that answer. I guess I attach a different market value to irony than some other people do.

Anonymous-- I love Unruh's work too. He's very ill and hospitalized right now, so send good thoughts his way. I think I'll post some up close scans from his originals so that people can appreciate his great gift.

Robert Cook said...

David, I can't answer your question, as I don't know Arisman and I haven't spoken to him. But, as I say, in nice weather I see him out walking with his wife quite often. They seem perfectly pleasant. I did meet someone a few years ago who had been a student of Arisman's and he thought very highly of him.

(Actress--and daughter of Keith Carradine--Martha Plympton also lives on the block, and I have been seeing her out and about in the neighborhood since she was an adolescent, often walking her dog.)

Laurence John said...

David, to me the 'Wild Nights' spread (and the similar sketchy, multi-panel layouts by Fuchs which probably preceded it) look as if they've been influenced by Robert Rauschenberg.

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- I agree, although I think it's interesting that these "clean, smooth, placid" styles that are so "unobtrusive and free from questions" are often employed to depict the most intimate aspects of "the human stain"-- sexual, scatological, pathological, psychological-- all drawn in this thin, antiseptic style. Depictions of sex by Chris Ware or Brunetti, or Chester Brown's drawings of his encounters with prostitutes, are as lifeless and clinical as an Ikea instruction manual. Their predecessors rarely touched upon such confessional topics, but had so much more humanity in their drawing. I wonder why.

Robert Cook-- I'm glad to hear that Arisman (or anyone else) continues to go for long walks with their wife. In the case of Arisman, he has a history of doing weird, chilling pictures with distorted faces. (In fact, I thought of including his art in my discussion of "weird pictures" a few weeks ago.) I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, some of the most unsettling pictures have come from domestically contented artists.

Laurence John-- I wouldn't be surprised. Rauschenberg began doing his "combines" in the late 50s. Fuchs began doing his conglomerate pictures in the early 60s. Consciously or not, I think they both owed a lot to the cubists and their use of collage.

Christopher Panzner said...

The cross-hatchers are back... a mash-up I did of (mostly) Gustave Doré's works for Nietzsche's "Thus Spake Zarathustra," 100+ illustrations in pen and ink to resemble prints (as if Doré had done them for "Zarathustra," only he didn't live long enough to see its publication.)

A dozen in HD:

And all of them in not so high rez:

Alex Green said...

These are great and agree about the over proliferation of vectorised identikit illustration, but to call Chris Ware clean is ignoring the psychological states that he achieves by the very flat/ still scenes he creates in Jimmy Corrigan, which are reminiscent in composition and tone of Edward Hopper and manage to get across his sense of loneliness in the same way.