Illustration as American as Apple Pie
Maybe the news was light three days before Christmas. Or perhaps the painters who illustrated America’s major magazines were, as a group and certainly individual stars too, more respected then than now. Newsweek‘s cover for Dec. 22, 1952, featured an un-Christmasy self-portrait to illustrate a cover story on the illustrative arts titled “Artists With Brush and Talent Paint Americana for Americans.”
“This week millions of Americans were looking at the latest work of scores of fine illustrators,” read the story inside. “The pictures were on tables in parlors and kitchens, in bunkhouses and clubs, in waiting rooms, airliners, trains and ships. In these places were more than 38,000,000 current copies of about a dozen magazines …” Take that, Abstract Expressionists!
Illustrators told a very controlled and idealistic story of Americana for Americans who believed in some white-bread mythology. And it was important to maintain this pristine postwar view because it spoke to American exceptionalism. Ultimately, this method was rebelled against, but without the comfort offered by heroic and romantic realism, illustration fell from grace in the United States.
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