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Classic Covers: By the Light …

… of the silvery moon? of a sparkling Christmas tree? of a glowing Jack-o’-lantern? The “star” in some paintings is not just the subject of the piece, but the lighting—a face lit by lamplight, a city bathed in sunshine, or the reflections of a snowfall. Post cover artists show intriguing use of light in all seasons—outdoors and some interesting, or even creepy, indoor lighting.

San Francisco is the city with the sunbathed background in the September 29, 1945, cover by artist Mead Schaeffer. Frisco was a jumping-off place during the war, and the sailors in the cover are all jumping onto a streetcar heading toward the Golden Gate Bridge. The angle of the sunlight and shadow is intriguing;

<em>Watching Chaplin</em><br />Norman Rockwell<br />October 14, 1916

Watching ChaplinNorman RockwellOctober 14, 1916

A good buddy of artist Schaeffer, a guy named Rockwell, knew a thing or two about lighting, and one of our favorite examples is from 1916. The whole family is watching a movie—notice the Chaplin programs. Rockwell, as we’ve said before, is all about faces, and their expressions are magical, enhanced by theater lighting.

One of the loveliest examples of lighting we found was the luminous glow of a Jack-o’-lantern in artist Pearl L. Hill’s November 1, 1924, cover. It’s hard to steal the scene from a pretty girl in a party dress, but the mean ol’ carved pumpkin is almost doing just that.

<em>Church Christmas Tree</em><br />Stevan Dohanos<br />December 27, 1952

Church Christmas TreeStevan DohanosDecember 27, 1952

The light casts eerie shadows in J.C. Leyendecker’s December 1, 1934, cover. We doubt the cook in this cover planned it this way, but she couldn’t have picked scarier lighting for her spooky story. She seems like a good storyteller, but let’s hope the little boy (and cat) doesn’t have nightmares.

We love the way cover artist Stevan Dohanos plays with light in his holiday cover from 1952. We have a voyeuristic view into a church where the Christmas tree is being decorated, and just enough light is spilling from the door to show us the hardworking man and boy bringing in armloads of pine boughs. Love the too-tall Christmas tree, but we have to say lighting is the star of this one.

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  • Janet Garritano

    I love how the lighting just showcases something special! I really like the “Party Pumpkin” lighting.