There is Art magazine, there is Life magazine, and there is even Art/Life magazine. But if you want something really special, there is Art and Life. I’d never heard of it before, and I don’t know more about it than the fact that it was published in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the 1920s, but some fascinating covers can be found at an even more valuable website called MagazineArt.org. This is one of the best resources that I’ve found for obscure periodical illustration and photography.
The site is devoted to locating and documenting the great illustrators of the period 1850–1950, which had a tremendous influence on the world. “One of the most popular ways they presented their work was as the cover art for the mass and specialist magazines that were published under thousands of titles and in millions and millions of copies,” it explains. “We know today of Norman Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish, but there were hundreds and thousands of other artists whose work is now forgotten except by collectors and specialists. Some have been honored by art books about their work, but most are now simply unknown to the general public.”
Here is some more information about the website‘s mission and scope:
We scan and photograph magazine covers from this era: as many as we can find, of whatever subject matter. The only requirement is that the issue must -have- a cover design. We prefer the ones that change from issue to issue, but we’ll record them even if they simply list the contents of the magazine. We’ve had images donated, and we’ve picked them up where we can. At this time we have thousands of them, many of them suitable for display but all requiring some processing in Photoshop before they are presentable.
We’ve started to put them up here on the web, on our website www.MagazineArt.org. This will take a long time, since it’s not funded by the MacArthur foundation or the Pew Charitable Trust; or, for that matter, anyone but ourselves.
At the present time there are several hundred megabytes of cover images on this site, linked from the homepage and the pages linked to it. We also have information about magazines, their publishers, editors, artists, and publishing companies. More to come.
For more on magazine design, check out our DesignCasts from DJ Stout (“Variations on a Rectangle: The Art of Magazine Design”) and Arem Dupless (“Redesigning a Legendary Brand”), available for download at MyDesignShop.com.