Friday, January 18, 2008


This drawing by Orson Lowell appeared as a double page spread in Life Magazine on January 28, 1909. Lowell depicts the characters waiting outside a stage door for some chanteuse to emerge after her show. The original is over 100 cm wide. In an era before television, people had fun "reading" the clues in these pictures. For example, you can tell a lot about the high class nature of the show from the posters on the wall:

Lowell gives us a psychological profile for each person in line; each has a different history and a different reason for being there.

Not everyone in line is a suitor or a chaperone. One gentleman is concealing a court summons, undoubtedly involving some lawsuit for alienation of affections.

The story is cute, but of course it takes more than cute to qualify for the famous "one lovely drawing" status. If you look closely, I think you will find some truly excellent linework here.


Anonymous said...

This drawing is utterly gorgeous, and I kind of wish magazines still used illustrations like it. I wish I could use hatching as well as Lowell could.

Thanks for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

just wanted to say that i really really like this site!!
can't wait till the next update!
greetings from holland

David Apatoff said...

Thanks, Celia-- I enjoyed your website.

Anonymous from Holland, I am delighted to hear from you. I had a great time visiting Holland.

Catherine A. Moore said...

Be sure to catch the stern woman on the right-hand side of the drawing! A hoot. ^_^

Mark said...

I was wondering about that lady too. Maybe she's from the local league for decency, and going to give her the whatfor for corrupting the local youth or somehting. Great stuff, I too wish I could master that kind of line work.

mark kennedy said...

Yeah, I love the woman on the right, she's like the "punchline" of the piece.
Great site, David, wonderful stuff you're posting and I love your analysis.

illustrationISM.... said...

thin...thick....thin....thick....exquisite line work!
truly a master! you can really (thanx for the magnified shot) feel his rhythm and slice of style...almost! i'm now an instant fan!

mark @

Anonymous said...

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dugbuddy said...

Found your site last fall and have been a loyal reader since. Thanks so much for the detail shots. My Goodness what a command these folks had. Loving Booth, Coll, Lowell, Frost, Abbey, this site and your research and willingness to share what you know and have found is a real treat for all of us. Thank you. Doug

chuck pyle said...

Lowell is always standing in Gibson's shadow, when in truth, they are equals in their technique and draftsmanship. Lowell's sense of humor and observation of humanity's personality quirks exceeds the great CDG.

Gary said...

Great drawing !!!

I dug out my Rotring drawing pens just before christmas and have been enjoying a monochrome world ever since so I appreciate this appreciation of the fine art of hatching.

I'm currently typing this covered in ink as the dip pen and bottle has also made a re-appearance - there's nothing quite like uncontrolled blotting, smearing and running ink to inspire creativity !

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

What a knockout.

chuck pyle said...

To all my students, when you are done looking at these fabulous chunks of Lowell's work, check the rest of this blog. You will not be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

David, please, please, please post more of Orson Lowell's work. Please, please, please, please. I'm such a slut for pen and ink work and this man's linework just sings. Please expose us to more of his work.

Oh by the way, I discovered that my uni has a large but incomplete collection of Studio magazine. I tell you, it was like finding buried treasure. There's no school like old school.