Friday, May 03, 2024


I've said some unkind things here about cross hatching-- those intersecting lines that are used to add tone to a drawing.

Artists who aspire to something higher use line more descriptively, to add dimension, contribute vitality, describe form, or make some other kind of artistic statement.  Cross hatching, like stippling, is the kind of busy work that might be delegated to an apprentice, or even replaced by zipatone.

To illustrate my point, look at what the brilliant Joseph Clement Coll did where lesser artists might have used cross hatching.

Compare the vigor in these details (blown up larger than the orignals) with the quiescence of regular cross hatching.  Even when we step back and can no longer detect these tiny details, the whole drawing remains infused with energy:

In a generation of great line artists, Coll was one of the best.


Li-An said...

Great serie. All from my favorite artists :-) I wonder how they draw their thick lines, I never managed to do so.

kev ferrara said...

Another of the great imaginative draughtsmen of all time. Everything he did was vigorous: from his quirky image ideas and clever vignettes, to his menacing and writhing figures conceived of from odd vantage points, to his noir use of light and shadow, to the electric abandon of his pen work (that achieved - mainly in my view - that feeling of dazzling reflective light in his shade and shadow areas or radiating light in the lights, and interposing atmospheric air otherwise. But also the rough and tumble nature of many of his characters in the way their clothes were etched and scumbled into being.)

I love the way he carved into the paper to get some of his textures. Assuming you are the proud owner of these masterpieces, I've often thought that the white back/far rim of the martini glass in the first picture (in front of the gun trigger) was at least partially done by tearing into the paper in a thin line.

MORAN said...

Coll is awesome.

xopxe said...

Some of those are very great-masters-looking.

But my favorite is the bandaged head.

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- You're correct about the rim of that glass-- Coll used a knife point to etch it out of a black background. That's a good example of why people seem to like these small details blown up several times; they can learn about practices they can't see in the printed versions.

I was really struck by the area a couple of inches above that glass. Apparently Coll applied ink with a thick brush, then converted the area to a half tone by raking it violently with a knife. A pretty bold experiment for such a large portion of the drawing.

Li-An-- It was a great period to choose from.

MORAN-- Agreed.

Anonymous said...

Oh, lovely. Thanks very much for sharing these. (Recently saw Walt Reed's Coll archive which is amazing, but lo-res tears, so delighted to see these)

kev ferrara said...

"Recently saw Walt Reed's Coll archive which is amazing, but lo-res tears, so delighted to see these)"


If you are talking about the Walt Reed tearsheet archives put online by Washington University in St. Louis via Artstor:

You can zoom in on a specific printed work using the + (plus) magnifying glass at left, and then under download at right select "download detail view". And, after agreeing to the terms in a pop up window, that will download that specific close up you had on your screen into your downloads folder. So if you really wish to see a whole printed work at high resolution, you can download several closeups (at equal magnification) and then piece them together in photoshop to make the full high-res tearsheet.

Only takes a few minutes to do if you want to put in the effort on a particular piece.

kev ferrara said...

"I was really struck by the area a couple of inches above that glass. Apparently Coll applied ink with a thick brush, then converted the area to a half tone by raking it violently with a knife. A pretty bold experiment for such a large portion of the drawing."

I've peered intently at that texture too.

My take is that coll had laid in a mechanically-rhythmic texture that was too dogmatically-formalized (without having an actual object to represent), attention-grabbing, and dark... and so he just rhythmically tore at it until it lightened up and loosened up, carving out the silhouette edges of the back of the lower head and the side of the top head in the process.

Among other reasons I guess this is because the texture is really interesting and works great as a midvalue playing against both the rest of his linework in the picture (including the adjacent crosshatching) and his high-contrast chiaroscuro heads. Yet he never again, as far as I can tell - and I've looked - used the same textural effect.

So my guess would be he never made the same underlying field-texture mistake again that led him to improvise this particular texture from it.

Have you seen this same texture in any other of his works?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Kev - that was the one.
I'd already downloaded a couple of detail shots by accident in that manner but those particular examples were particularly poor (reproduction/paper-wise) so didn't see any increased sharpness. Had another go there and it worked - thanks !
Some really beautiful pieces in the collection.


kev ferrara said...


I've found a number of mistakes in the way the archive has been catalogued/attributed. And just now found the worst of all errors in looking up Coll. Instead of Joseph C. Coll, the archive lists a ton of his work under "Charles J. Coll".

chris bennett said...

My take is that coll had laid in a mechanically-rhythmic texture...(without having an actual object to represent)...

There's a similar, smaller area above the demon's left shoulder. Assuming it is a demon, or something supernatural, could those two areas be a pair of wings?

Anonymous said...

I saw that, Kev - I'd stumbled on to the archive around a week ago, and had keyed in 'Coll' not really expecting there to be much.
Over 420 results, at least two thirds were pieces I hadn't seen before.
Felt like hitting a seam of precious metal -

Among these were about three images by other artists, I presume the same letters somewhere in their descriptions added them to the results. But very few duplications among the rest. Did you know there were so many ?

I saw the 'Charles J. Coll' as well, but I just presumed there was a mistake made by the poor soul who had to put all those thousands of images, descriptions, etc. up.
(If I had keyed in 'Joseph Clement Coll', I wonder would as many results have been returned ?)


Anonymous said...

(Sorry about that link - but it works ! Bill)

kev ferrara said...

Assuming it is a demon, or something supernatural, could those two areas be a pair of wings?

No demons pictured. Just Collified dastardly plotting brigands and scalawags. (However, the figures in all great art take on an aesthetically-induced supernaturality, right? Imagine if you were made of poetry!)

"I just presumed there was a mistake made by the poor soul who had to put all those thousands of images, descriptions, etc. up."

I believe the scanning/data-entry project was taken up by the whole of the graphics department at that university, including the students. It wasn't all on one ink-smudged wretch's shoulders. Presumably volunteers were involved. It took several years to get it to its present state, as I recall, which may be its final one. An amazing resource (incidentally, don't forget to click "search within results" when seeking out a particular name in the Walt Reed collection, as there's other stuff on that site that is unrelated).

As far as errors in the project, I saw Walt Reed's tearsheet archives in person in NYC long ago (he let me scan his entire Walter Everett tearsheet folder and buy his Everett tearsheet doubles), and it was fairly organized. So, presumably it was one careless student at the university that de-named and miscollated the collected J. Colls.

Other errors are more understandable, where tearsheets were unfoldered or misfoldered, credits were missing and the responsible artists were being guessed at.

Dorian JR said...

In his latest post, the great James Gurney says: ....The challenge is to dissolve the surface and see into the depths. If people praise my brushstrokes or my canvas texture, something is wrong with the painting... (end of quote)

This immediately brings to mind our David Apatoff regularly praising or commenting on brushstrokes, texture and such.

It's rather difficult to know what to think on this at the moment. It just strikes me as being worth of mention, and hopefully you'll agree.

Oh, and one more thing: Let me say that I'm extraordinarily grateful for the conversations on this blog, they enrich my life very significantly.

Al McLuckie said...

Anyone know if Booth and Coll were acquainted ?

xopxe said...

Dorian, I see no contradiction there. Most of the target population of a piece of art will stop at the level of the expression, which is actually the artist's intention. Be it a painting, a novel, or a piece of music, most people don't care, and many artists try to hide the building blocks from which they are made.
But some people, out of professional interest, love, or fascination, will go beyond to great lengths to understand, expose, and fawn over the scale changes, rhythmic schemes, and brushwork.

squeen said...

I have come to believe this type of pen & ink drawing, that uses contoured hatching to depict simultaneously form, light, texture and style is perhaps the hardest to master.

Have you seen much of Gary Gianni's work?

David Apatoff said...

Al McLuckie-- I've seen no evidence that Booth and Coll were acquainted. Booth socialized with a number of his contemporaries; his studio at 57 West 57th street in Manhattan was close to Gruger, Flagg, Brown and a dozen other illustrators who got together regularly but Coll was not in that group. Coll was not a member of the Society of Illustrators in 1911 when Booth was, and worked for a different market. Illustration scholar Alice Carter wrote a superb, comprehensive biography of Booth for the book, Silent Symphony, and makes no reference to a relationship with Coll.

Perhaps of greater interest, the relationship between their two bodies of work has been the subject of essays by Gary Gianni (who called them "worlds apart in temperament and approach") and Al Williamson and Mark Schultz.

Dorian JR wrote: "In his latest post, the great James Gurney says: ....The challenge is to dissolve the surface and see into the depths. If people praise my brushstrokes or my canvas texture, something is wrong with the painting..."

That is certainly true, and I would never contradict James Gurney, but he neglected to mention that his rule applies only on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Some days you look out the airplane window and some days you look through a microscope.

Anonymous said...

Dorian - Re- surfaces, pen and ink pushes not only to simplified values, but to condensed means of representing things; more so than in tonal or colour media.
So, the approach to 'surface' has to be different.
And, I think, that David here and elsewhere, hasn't highlighted the surfaces, strokes, etc., for how the treatment was implemented for their own sake but for how this problem was solved.
So, no real contradiction of what James Gurney was referring to, I think ?
I think he, too, was emphasising that brushwork should be sublimated in the service of representing the depths, spaces, surface types, etc. Rather than vice versa.


kev ferrara said...

I think, that David here and elsewhere, hasn't highlighted the surfaces, strokes, etc., for how the treatment was implemented for their own sake but for how this problem was solved.

Au contraire, mon frère. I think David shares with all too many of the illustrators of the 40s, 50s, and 60s the belief that the boring-from-a-photograph problem can be solved simply with jazzy lines and active surfaces. Irrespective of the conceptual-emotional-narrative content of the picture. And outside of any consideration of deeper compositional ideas. (As if a dull essay could be made better if written in more interesting handwriting.)

This leads him to praise and appreciate "the energy" in (for example) Coll's hatching outside of any narrative purpose. And to zoom in, far beyond the actual scale of articulation (let alone print size), in order to do so.

As I've said before, what happened in the mid century period (say 40s to 60s) in mainstream illustration was that commercial solutions to artistic problems led to other artistic problems which, not surprisingly, were also solved commercially.

If you wish, this can be translated to: A bunch of young, weakly-imaginative artists found that they could get lucrative work in the heady illustration industry (which had taken a serious dent from the Depression, and was, in actuality, reeling) if they heavily photo-referenced everything. Just completely rely on photography, and why not simply trace at that point, as the various projection devices had already been developed for the advertising hacks in prior generations anyway...

But, since photos have no consciousness at all - are dead snapshots of lightrays bouncing off frozen objects - things had to be re-livened for the distracted and flightly magazine readership. So exciting penmanship was added to the dull-as-dirt AI essays written by all the cameras... not for "its own sake", but because shallow excitement fools many people regarding deep boring.

The real issue is that some people can see through shallow excitement to the deep boring underneath, and some cannot. David himself told me that when Bernie Fuchs visited the Kelly Collection - a museum of great Golden Age American Illustration - he remarked that his generation of illustrators were not in their league. So even Fuchs, the leading light of his generation, saw it.

Anonymous said...

Even earlier - Mancini's impasto came to mind.
And the smears, blurs and tricks in a lot of current photo-influenced work. Mancini usually had some poetry, though.

(Absolutely stunned by many of the Colls in that archive, btw. Was looking at the one that had appeared under his entry in The Illustrator in America, for instance; where it was too-heavily printed, at least in the copy I have of the earlier edition. A lot was lost from those hands, for instance. And that drawing in turn must have been degraded substantially in the reproduction from something on a par with the examples here [!] )

Anonymous said...

(< 'As did the smears, blurs', etc.)

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- It's true that Bernie Fuchs said, "We weren't in the same league with these guys," but I saw that more as a reflection of Bernie's very humble, self-effacing nature. He also said that his favorite car painters in Detroit were more talented than he would ever be. Bernie was a funny guy; on the one hand he would be embarrassed and take exception when adoring fans would compliment him but on the other hand when it came to defending his artistic gambles to mulish art directors and clients, he was tough and confident, and for 40 years he was proven right.

When Bernie first made a splash in Westport, Al Dorne singled him out from the new crop and arranged a lunch between Bernie and Norman Rockwell. Dorne viewed it as a meeting of the best of the new and old generations, a passing of the torch. Bernie said he and Rockwell were vaguely complimentary to each other (Rockwell had put one of Bernie's illustrations on Rockwell's "wall of fame" next to Pyle and Rembrandt) but it quickly became clear to both that they were living in different worlds and had nothing to say to each other. Bernie worked much smaller, in faster drying water based paints for much tighter deadlines. His clients were looking for something different from what Rockwell could offer. You're correct, Bernie appreciated the golden age painters but he also realized that there was no longer a purpose (or a market) for Rockwell's classical approach, or for traditional illustrations painted academy-style in oils on great big canvases. An illustrator would starve to death trying to emulate Rockwell (or Howard Pyle or Harvey Dunn or Leyendecker or Dean Cornwell) in the 1960s, just as those artists would have starved to death trying to emulate their own earlier heroes such as Abbey. Bernie proved to be right; great artists such as Leyendecker, Cornwell and Parrish, along with a whole generation of younger artists who blindly tried to follow in their footsteps, had trouble finding a job at the end. There just wasn't a large enough audience stuck in the Kev Ferrara mental straightjacket to pay the rent.

You may be interested to hear that I just finished writing something about Gustave Doré, the first international celebrity illustrator. Even in the mid-19th century, artists were fighting this same battle; classic academy painters and art critics, who resented being eclipsed by Doré's wealth and fame, took umbrage at what you call "shallow excitement"-- Doré's exaggerated figures, theatrical distortions and lurid excesses-- arguing (like you) for "the deep boring underneath." John Ruskin wrote a scathing critique that sounds like you: Doré's illustrations were “loathsome… as if seen through the distortion and trembling of the hot smoke of the mouth of hell.” There was not a single illustration of which Ruskin approved: “Of all the 425 illustrations there is not one which does not violate every instinct of decency and law of virtue or life, written in the human soul.” Fast forward 150 years and Doré seems to us like a classical standard.

As usual in these debates, I find the world of art more open, and the criteria for quality more diverse, than you seem to permit. In my view, if you compare the simplest, most elemental sketches by Fuchs ( see e.g. with the pencil sketches of Franklin Booth (starting at page 140 of the Silent Symphony book) it is apparent that Fuchs had a great gift for design and the nuance of line that makes Booth's sketches seem sad and stolid by comparison. For me, Fuchs' economy of means and the directness of his application, the sensuousness of his style, the inventiveness of his approach all rank him highly against Flagg or Booth. Your mileage may differ.


David Apatoff said...


As for your point about "zooming in" on details of pictures, most people have only seen older illustrations in a greatly reduced size. Covers for the Saturday Evening Post were often 25% of the size of the original. Tearsheets from old magazines have often been further reduced in scans on the internet. I didn't want this blog to offer the same scans that people have already seen 50 times. Close ups of details from the originals often seem to transform the perceptions about what an artist was doing. (for example, these details of Robert Fawcett's drawing completely change the nature of the drawing as published: )

Anonymous said...

"...about "zooming in" on details of pictures.."

The details are appreciated, certainly by anyone wondering about the 'how' when looking at the reproductions.
On the closed hand of the whispering Ismail character I mentioned, for instance - in the reproduction in the Walt Reed book it is a solid looking block, the subtleties of the drawing can be felt but not seen. In the example in the archive the contour lines survive better and go further to show the overall forward thrust and the countering muscles holding this in check. But we don't have the original drawing which I imagine would be more again (?).

We do have that when you include close ups here

Excerpting a section might be done for either purpose of (i) to give attention of one figurative component or collection of these in a picture, or (ii) a more 'dissective' attention given to the manual 'utterance' of the thought of the artist on whatever particular(s).
It's micro-syllabic, then, and merits attention; but shouldn't be abstracted from either its particular or the larger, overall meaning.

Anonymous said...

(Not sure what scrambled the order in my comment above, which I can usually muck up all by myself, hopefully the jist is gett-able. Lucky nothing else crossed its stream in sultaneity in the ether, or could've been a case of
/ Bill )

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous / Bill-- Yes, for so many decades, the technical inadequacies of the reproduction process forced viewers to "feel but not see" important details of an illustration. Looking at that Coll drawing in the Reed book, we just know from the crude larger shapes and lines that the fine lines and details, if we could only see them, would be well done.

The entire golden age of illustration was the direct result of technical improvements in the printing and distribution process. There would be no money to pay the illustrators, or to hire the authors to write the stories and articles being illustrated, or to print and mail the magazines and books in which the illustrations appeared. If improved accuracy and higher resolution in the printing process could achieve all that, then why shouldn't we continue to share the latest, highest possible resolution images of details as the reproduction process continues to improve? Who can tell where that will lead?

Anonymous said...


"... as the reproduction process continues to improve?" etc. -

Reproduction can also take a step or two backwards, as well, for all its improvements
E.g. Modern printing of certain kinds of artwork; line work - on its own or with colour - has lost the crisp edges of earlier lithographical printing, and the lovely seperation of layers, which had some of the qualities of woodblock printing (though cruder). And gets some qualities from the original across which are lost in digital printing.

As for screens, as with all this technology, I think it is only ever useful as a pointer to the original - even with the brilliant detailing you've given us with the examples here. Whereas even poor, over-dense reproductions on paper are in some degree 'artefacts' (things made) in themselves in a manner related to, eg, hand-pulled prints, and do have some kind of magic that only occurs with a viewer and a physical surface with physical markings on it.

I don't think I've ever seen a photogravure of a pen and ink drawing 'in person', but I've seen modern photo etchings which are amazing as physical reproductions in every sense.
I presume the process is either identical or very close ?
How do these fare in terms of fidelity to the pen and ink originals ?
(I have seen photos online of an album of Edwin Austin Abbey's drawings, but the lines looked very broken with some quite lost, which could be due to over-wiping maybe)


Anonymous said...

About line art quality in printing: A whole generation of designers that have never seen an old-style mechanical line art repro on photographic paper thinks scanning 600 dpi is fine (even the ones that don't print it with a screen afterwards). Or at best they use some interpolating 1200 dpi desktop scanner. They have no idea how truly lousy the reproduction actually is. In art books!

Anonymous said...

Addendum: 30 years ago, when newspapers were still using analog repro cameras, line art reproduction even on newsprint was magnificent. Syndicated comics might not fare so well for a number of reasons, but if you did line art directly for a newspaper it would be printed razor sharp, much better than what any scanner would give you even today.

Anonymous said...

Thanks anon.
I know very liitle about the processes, I had picture books as a child with magnificently reproduced line art which might have been reproduced using some similar method - the very slightly raised ink was a little like screen printing.
Today, I was looking at a book printed in the 30s with a beautiful frontispiece unlike anything printed today.
Can you suggest any books or resources online that go into the older methods ?


David Apatoff said...

Anonymous / Bill-- This sounds like one of those endless debates between audiophiles about which has better sound quality-- vinyl or CD, mono or stereo, analog phones or digital. I know experts who pride themselves on having super sensitive hearing capable of appreciating the nuances in music who reach opposite conclusions and are prepared to fight to the death. Some split the baby in half, claiming one medium is better for jazz but another is better for classical.

I have seen (and posted here) a fair amount of newspaper line art printed on newsprint using "analog repro cameras" and have found the results erratic. There was probably no better test of fine line reproduction than Lee Conrey ( )and some of his work did indeed turn out pretty darn good. Other newspaper line art favorites, such as J. Downs ( ) and Franklin McMahon ( )
tested the sensitivity of analog repro cameras in different ways. But the quality of reproduction was affected by a variety of factors, such as the reduced quality of newsprint 30 years after Conrey, which yellowed and degraded and didn't hold ink as well, or the alcoholism of the employee calibrating the register or inking the plates.

My own experience with syndicated comics from the 1930s is that the printed version might have an aesthetically pleasing mellow softness (and smell!) to it, but could not compete with the accuracy of a "razor sharp" line captured with a scanner. Note the difference between these printed Flash Gordons by the great Alex Raymond
( ) and this scanned original from the same era:
( )

Anonymous said...

Thanks David. Yes, it could get pretty anal.
But there's no denying that an image laid down by a matrix that applies the ink in certain 'impressed' ways beats some of the modern methods hands down.
I'm not qualified to even identify most of what is going on, though.

But, incidentally, since you mentioned Doré - nothing we have now approaches the engraved lines from those plates. Totally labour-intensive and uneconomical though it is (and the rendering method itself used tonally while beautiful and subtle may become tedious, but that's another issue).
Wood engravings produce far more beautiful images than offset (but are either mediated from the original art to the medium, or from a method specifically adapted to the blocks by artisan artists) , offset beats digital, etc.

An ink line by X method (older lithography ? or some other...) leaves something on the paper that approximates an ink line placed there by a pen or brush. I'm not sure why current offset doesn't quite achieve the same thing
(Can the 'breaking up' of the recording of the image digitally before printing really affect the later result ? I wouldn't have thought so when the 'dotting' is so fine, but there must be some cause - the loss of 'analogue reproduction cameras' that Anon above mentioned ? Is there any change in how the ink is later applied mechanically to the page ?)

And anything from sprays of ink by a machine in digital printing, no - it just seems to go against anything resembling the strokes or applications of ink in the (pen and ink) originals. (Creates phenomenally accurate giclees of watercolours, charcoal and pencil drawings, though)

Apologies if this has diverged too much from this post and these amazing drawings.


Anonymous said...

(I'd forgotten that amazing Connrey with the cats - cheers ! The others, too
/ Bill )

kev ferrara said...

It's true that Bernie Fuchs said, "We weren't in the same league with these guys," but I saw that more as a reflection of Bernie's very humble, self-effacing nature.

Reminds me of when I brought up that Paul McCartney had declared Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows" not only his favorite song, but among the best ever written. You said, similarly, "He was just being complementary."

The clever lawyers in my life also know a slew of cognitively facile ways of dismissing inconvenient information. I seem to be among the few that catch them in real time.

"great artists such as Leyendecker, Cornwell and Parrish, along with a whole generation of younger artists who blindly tried to follow in their footsteps, had trouble finding a job at the end."

Due to massive print sales, Parrish was self-sufficient after about 1926 and severely curtailed his illustrations, mostly did landscapes for calendars for the next 40 years. Cornwell was a full time muralist after 1930 and only dipped back into the field to make quick money thereafter (a damaging mistake, in my estimation). Leyendecker's glitzy posh style - which was starting to flag toward a kind of plastic artificiality - went out of fashion in the gritty Depression. But he still got work, if less. And he died in 1951 at 77, so was not around for the tracing revolution.

I don't know who 'blindly followed' any of these guys. Do you? Far, far more artists blindly followed Fuchs because of the ease and speed of the technical end of it coupled with the collapse/narrowing in the market in the 1960s and 1970s.

"John Ruskin wrote a scathing critique (of Gustave Doré, the first international celebrity illustrator) that sounds like you "

I'm just as apt to critique Ruskin as Doré. So why not let me write my own critiques, instead of assigning them to me and then critiquing me on the basis of the critiques you assign to me? What is this, Kafka? (Doré is hardly a surface expressionist in the sense I was discussing. Nor did he trace.)

Close ups of details from the originals often seem to transform the perceptions about what an artist was doing.

Yes, if you screw with people's sense of the scale of articulation, you can screw up people's perceptions of the artist's intent. A Boris painting under a microscope looks explosive. The great wall of China from an airplane is just a line drawing.

In my view, if you compare the simplest, most elemental sketches by Fuchs

When you start calling scraps of tracing paper "sketches" I'm out.

Anonymous said...

About syndicated comics (back in the analog days) the picture reaching the newspaper reader would be several generations off. Something like: The art would be photographed, deeply etched into a metal cliché (my terminology is off), then pressed onto paper mats, sent out to the newspapers which would turn it back into a metal plate and then print it (sorry, don't have a reference, might be somewhere in the incredibly detailed description at

Working directly for a newspaper would have omitted some of those copying generations. Nowadays the scan could go right to a digitally produced printing plate, so with good scanning that might be a quality improvement.

Typesetting for professional printing uses 2400 dpi I think. That's the resolution you used to get (possibly still get, with high-end digital equipment?) when your B/W work was photographed by the printer. And with fine B/W linework it makes a difference compared to consumer-type scanners, most obviously when there's no reduction in size.

Also B/W line art scanning (not grayscale, but pure binary B/W) is not something consumer scanners are good at or designed for.

Kim Weston's Carl Barks books collecting mostly non-Disney stories are meticulously produced, and he apparently has excellent source material (analog repro copies). But either in the scanning or in the printing (digital print-on-demand?) the resolution is too low, the linework is just a little bit muddy, and thin lines tend to drop out or disaggregate at certain angles. The same source material has been used by a large Scandinavian comics publisher with flawless, top-notch results (using offset printing).

Anonymous said...

Thanks, anon.

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- Gosh, I don't know how I could've possibly been so mistaken about the fate of those golden age artists. Perhaps it's from Rockwell's memory of Leyendecker, written after Leyendecker's lonely funeral: "Joe had been the most famous illustrator in America. Then the Post had dropped him; the advertising agencies had dropped him; the public had forgotten him. He had died in obscurity."

Or perhaps it's from what Walt and Roger Reed and Dan Zimmer reported about Cornwell's end-- drinking heavily, sleeping in his studio, unable to get a gallery show or a museum exhibition, missing the public adoration he enjoyed in the early days. According to Roger Reed, Cornwell's wife tried to sell his originals but had a difficult time finding buyers. Roger also recalled the story that Cornwell's assistant was instructed to clear out his studio by "throwing everything down a chute into the trash, but the paintings wouldn’t fit, so had to be broken in half." That makes the infamous yard sale of Leyendecker's originals seem downright lucrative by comparison.

When it comes to Parrish: after his career illustrating books and magazines ended, he fell out of fashion and was no longer famous in the eyes of the general public. He was no longer mentioned in popular song or Fred Astaire movies. However, yes it's true he was able to continue his life as a hermit artist, funded by calendar prints. It was just a different kind of existence.

You question my point about the fate of "the following generation" of illustrators. It's hard to imagine an illustrator working realistically in oils in the 1940s or 50s who was NOT expecting that the golden age gravy train would continue, and who did not train for the day when he or she would replace Rockwell on that path. There were dozens of them who missed the boat and never made it into The Illustrator In America. From the day the Famous Artists School began in 1948, the vast majority of students wanted to train under Rockwell to become another Rockwell. By the 1950s, the table scraps were going to lesser artists such as Dohanos and Dick Sargent. By the 1960s, when Bob Peak was driving a Rolls Royce and Bernie Fuchs was driving a Porsche, even super talented realistic oil painters like Stanley Meltzoff could not find work.

I'm not saying it was fair, I'm just saying that's the way it was. Leif Peng did a heartbreaking series of interviews with the widow of Andy Virgil, a talented, hardworking realistic painter who arrived on the scene too late. He led a desperate, unsuccessful effort to keep that era of illustration alive. Walt Reed used to talk sadly about how a whole generation of illustrators used to flog themselves thinking that if they only did a better job, they would bring back magazine circulation. Reed did credit the fireworks created by Fuchs and others in the "new crowd" with forestalling the demise of many magazines.

With respect to the quality of sketches by Booth and Fuchs, I think you're just being disputatious. In my view, and the view of most of the world, those drawings by Fuchs were graceful and lovely-- a far greater artistic achievement than the heavily labored scratchings of Booth's pencil drawings (or for that matter the pencil drawings of Maxfield Parrish, who was as dependent on photo reference as Fuchs).

Movieac said...

Even in the comments section of your site there are references to illustrators I had no knowledge of, that Andy Vigil stuff was fantastic. Even so isn’t a lot of art, “of its time” and due to sooner or later fall out of fashion?
Considering our current political climate wouldn’t it be timely to do a piece on court room sketch artists, I remember in my youth greatly admiring the work that was being published. The latest is quite sad.

David Apatoff said...

Anonymous / Bill-- Never apologize for diverging from the subject of a post. They are just springboards for the discussions that ensue.

I don't claim to have the technical expertise to understand all the various printing methods behind these illustrations. I can tell which pictures I like, and I'm pretty good with the kind of wood engravings that really started as a sophisticated tool with the great Thomas Bewick. They developed through Doré and Pyle in the 19th century. (At one time, Doré had a hand picked team of 20 engravers at once to keep up with his drawing output.) The problem is, by the mid 19th century the various types of engraving, lithography and other methods of reproduction splintered as people searched for the best methods. Then there was a great Permian extinction when many nascent limbs on the evolutionary tree of printing withered and died (even though some of them seemed to get great results).

The landscape began to clear up again for me with the Westvaco printers annuals of the 1940s, and Lithopinion, and Print magazine. But some of the images you're talking about fall within that hazy interregnum for me.

I've read forlorn accounts from the 19th century about the slow death of the engraver's trade. Many of those engravers, as you note, were excellent; they developed a close bond with the artist, and when their craft became obsolete many bemoaned their end the same way they currently bemoan artists made obsolete by photography, photoshop and AI. Those old time engraver craftsmen slaved to make deadlines and to make their artists look as good as possible. What they did was an art; they signed Pyle's engravings right alongside the artist. When I have time, I'd love to write something about that declining era of wood engravers, and its relationship to the declining eras for illustrators.

You seem to have a pretty good handle on the type of reproduction used for black and white reproduction with newspapers.

Movieac-- Thanks, agreed, but some illustrations go out of favor much faster than others. It's the keepers you want to focus on. What do you think about the courtroom paintings of Donald Trump at the defense table with Jesus at his right side?

Movieac said...

David, about the Trump, Jesus painting. Is that one of the “keepers” you were talking about? Yikes!

Anonymous said...

Thanks David.
But "You seem to have a pretty good handle on the type of reproduction used for black and white reproduction with newspapers"
- that other 'anon' who gave those details isn't me !

kev ferrara said...


It is surely so that times change, the market changed, therefore techniques changed, new styles and shortcuts were developed to meet new demands, the old ways no longer cut it with ADs trying to hold onto a hip and distracted new readership, and so it goes, for better or worse. I'm sure Walt's take on the period is correct, that the radical new creative spirit of the artists - but also the photographers, designers, ADs, Ad agencies, entertainment conglomerates, etc. - kept the mainstream publishing business afloat for another decade or so. Which can be counted a cultural good.

When it comes to Parrish: after his career illustrating books and magazines ended, he fell out of fashion and was no longer famous in the eyes of the general public.

In the mid 1920s, it was estimated that 25% of U.S. households had at least one print of Parrish's work. There's a letter of his from the mid 1920s discussing that the sale of his prints were such that he would be completely free of the illustration business within a few months. He did not like painting figures and that is why he moved toward landscapes and calendars, new works of which were published through Brown & Bigelow from the 1930s into the 1960s, when Parrish's hands quit on him. (Thereafter reprints of his prints were sold through subsidiary houses.)

Parrish had well-attended retrospectives of his work (for which he was grateful) in 1964 and then again in 1966, and then he died. At The Oaks, his beloved beautiful rolling 45-acre estate in New Hampshire, which he had often rhapsodized about in letters.

(On him being a "hermit" - aside from the point that being an artist is an inherently hermetic enterprise - Frank Schoonover said that Parrish had TB as a child and so required open country air. His studio had moving walls to facilitate his oxygen needs.)

Coy Ludwig's hugely successful monograph on Parrish came out in 1973. Mike Kaluta talked about paying outlandish sums for old Parrish prints around that time. Since then, some 50 plus books have been published of Parrish's output. And since you can find bushels of Parrish prints copyrighted in the 50s and 60s online, my assumption is that he's never been out of print since the turn of the century. Such tectonic cultural penetration didn't evaporate one day in 1957 because the "fashion" in the shrinking publishing world changed. That magazine readership during the brief modernist interregnum in the declining mainstream illustration field was hardly representative of the entirety of the American culture.

Leyendecker was born into poverty, became famous, faded, felt sad, and died in a mansion. I’ve heard worse tales. Try to buy one of his yard sale paintings for a song now.

Cornwell's last assistant discussed his actual 1950s studio life in the Step By Step article on Cornwell. A more sober and judicious perspective is given than yours, I would say. I'm not much for discussing an artist's life and career by his "fate" - as defined by the sad sad story of his last shipwreck.

@JeanDurand_net said...

Hola, las imágenes las encuentran en "aceptable" resolución en la pagina hermana de JSTOR.ORG, Y ahora es más fácil descargar las imágenes haciendo clic en un botón.

Aunque el error de Charles J. Coll no se ha corregido, aunque quizás lo hicieron para evadir algún copyrigth

Saludos, muy buena observación de las líneas cruzadas.

nodnarB said...

Jean, I really like your Moby Dick Illustrations!

nodnarB said...

Or rather, I really like the the illustrations of Jorge Perez del Castillo on your website. Thanks for sharing them with the world.