American Illustration and Comic Art Exhibit

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In the early part of the twentieth century, illustration came into its own. Simultaneously over on the newsprint pages of national newspapers, comic strips did as well. These were joined later in the decade by art for both pulp magazines and comic books. This golden age of editorial illustration and cartooning is currently on display in the exhibit “American Illustration & Comic Art” at the Sordoni Gallery, Wilkes University in Wilkes Barre, PA. The exhibition features 135 original artworks by more than 100 artists—N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Frank Schoonover, Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker, George Herriman, Harold Foster, Jack Cole, Milton Caniff, Norman Saunders, Harold Gray, Al Hirschfeld, Al Capp, Walt Kelly, Charles Schulz and many others. Wilkes Barre native son Ham Fisher, creator of Joe Palooka, is represented as well. While focusing on the golden age of illustration, contemporary artists, such as Anita Kunz, C.F. Payne, Bob Eckstein, Thomas J. Fluharty, Mike Lynch and Paul Davis, also have their place in the exhibit.

In that century it would have been rare to see work for the slicks (the upper tire of magazine publishing, such as Life, The Saturday Evening Post and The New Yorker) to be seen as equal to that printed on newsprint (the pulps and comics). There once was a pecking order within editorial illustration (slicks over pulps) and in cartooning (single panel over strips, strips over comic books), but times have changed. This all-inclusive exhibition includes work that appeared on magazine covers and interiors, advertisements, book jackets, album covers, daily and Sunday comic strips, cartoons, movie cels and comic books.

It all comes from the private collection of Andrew Sordoni III, whose mother helped found the gallery in 1973. The gallery was renovated last year and now sports 7,000 square feet of exhibition space. The show is up through May 20 and admission is free. It is accompanied by a 185-page catalog with myriad essays, including those by comic book artist and filmmaker Jim Steranko, David Saunders (Norman’s son) and New Yorker and National Lampoon cartoonist Sam Gross.

John Gannam, “Gone Girl,” Advertisement for Balanced Pacific Sheets, 1948

N.C. Wyeth, “Sir Launcelot,” The Boy’s King Arthur, 1917

Norman Rockwell, “The Fiddler,” The Country Gentleman, 1921.

C.F. Payne, “Donuthead,” 2003

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Rose O’Neill, “The Kewpies,” Delineator, 1928

J.C. Leyendecker, “Yule,” Saturday Evening Post, 1931

Thomas J. Fluharty, “The Mystery of Michael Bloomberg,” The Weekly Standard, 2007

Joseph De Mers, “It Didn’t Mean a Thing,” McCall’s, 1954

Rolf Armstrong, “Thinking of you,” College Humor, 1930

Frank E. Schoonover, “Privateers of ’76,” The American Boy, 1923

Walter M. Baumhofer, “Nobody to Write About,” Cosmopolitan, 1943

Paul Bacon, “Lady Oracle,” 1976

George Herriman, “Krazy Kat,” 1919

Ham Fisher, “Joe Palooka,” 1941

Milton Caniff, “Terry and the Pirates,” 1946

Charles Rodrigues

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