Home / Cover Art / The Art of Work

The Art of Work

Published: April 17, 2009

“A man is a worker. If he is not that, he is nothing.” – Joseph Conrad

Work! Some people claim to love it. Others vow they hate it. Some are notably better acquainted with it than others, but we won’t name names.

“What work I have done, I have done because it has been play. If it had been work, I shouldn’t have done it,” Mark Twain said.

Thomas Edison observed, “As a cure for worrying, work is better than whiskey.”

The British humorist, Jerome K. Jerome, summed up many peoples’ view on the subject: “I like work. It fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”

Which brings us to our famous cover artists. From a place of relative safety behind their easels, unfettered by nine-to-five jobs and the usual drudgery (except when their wives pulled them away to put up storm windows), they were free to sit back and observe the American “workscape” in all its glory, from window washers and sign painters to plumbers and construction workers.

They even turned a lady riveter into the most famous cover girl of all.

In keeping with the theme of this issue, we put our own shoulders to the task and created this tribute to the art of work. Now we’re going to take a break while you sit back and enjoy it.

The laurel wreaths in the corners tell the story.  It was the working man who deserved the credit for making America great, as artist Joseph J. Gould made clear in his turn-of-the-century Post cover.

The laurel wreaths in the corners tell the story. It was the working man who deserved the credit for making America great, as artist Joseph J. Gould made clear in his turn-of-the-century Post cover.

Rockwell knew Post readers would empathize with this pair of plumbers rather than with the uppity owner of the fancy boudoir.  He hired two actual plumbers as models and asked them to bring their tools along.

Rockwell knew Post readers would empathize with this pair of plumbers rather than with the uppity owner of the fancy boudoir. He hired two actual plumbers as models and asked them to bring their tools along.

How praise worthy is this lad who thinks first and last of his work, and only wants to make sure that all work and no play does not make Jack a dull boy?  When called to comment on this painting, artist Dohanos wasn't home.

How praise worthy is this lad who thinks first and last of his work, and only wants to make sure that all work and no play does not make Jack a dull boy? When called to comment on this painting, artist Dohanos wasn't home.

Artist Ski Weld captured the drama of real work in America in his 1930s and 40s Post cover paintings.  Here he depicts the smoke and grit of a strip mine-somehow transforming it all into a work of beauty.

Artist Ski Weld captured the drama of real work in America in his 1930s and 40s Post cover paintings. Here he depicts the smoke and grit of a strip mine-somehow transforming it all into a work of beauty.

Thsi isn't a self-portrait, but we are pretty sure artist Stevan Dohanos coul identify with this fellow painter.  Some jobs just seem designed to lull a guy to sleep, and all those subliminal mesages don't help either.

This isn't a self-portrait, but we are pretty sure artist Stevan Dohanos could identify with this fellow painter. Some jobs just seem designed to lull a guy to sleep, and all those subliminal messages don't help either.

Who, including der Fuehrer himself, would dare to mess with Norman Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter?  Rockwell;s model was 19-year-old Arlington, Vermont, telephone operator Mary Doyle.  The artist later apologized to Mary for adding substantial weight to her slender figure.

Who, including der Fuehrer himself, would dare to mess with Norman Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter? Rockwell's model was 19-year-old Arlington, Vermont, telephone operator Mary Doyle. The artist later apologized to Mary for adding substantial weight to her slender figure.

Work can sometimes have its perks, as Norman Rockwell's "fresh" young window washer is well aware.  We have to give the daring fellow credit, suspended as he is 10 stories up.  Meanwhile, Miss Shapely may have missed a few lines of dictation, but her boss, J.J. Fuddy of Fuddy & Duddly, hasn't even noticed.

Work can sometimes have its perks, as Norman Rockwell's "fresh" young window washer is well aware. We have to give the daring fellow credit, suspended as he is 10 stories up. Meanwhile, Miss Shapely may have missed a few lines of dictation, but her boss, J.J. Fuddy of Fuddy & Duddly, hasn't even noticed.

Read More: