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Classic Covers: Celebrating Valentine’s Day

Published: February 14, 2011

Secret Valentine by Harry Hintermeister

Secret Valentine by Harry Hintermeister

Secret Valentine
Harry Hintermeister
The Country Gentleman
February, 1938

Sometimes it’s best to remain a secret valentine. Case in point: when you’re sending a valentine to a special boy and he’s sending valentines to every girl in town! The little girl’s face is priceless – she doesn’t know whether to cry or jump up and strangle him. This is from our then-sister magazine, Country Gentleman from 1938.

Lady buying Valentine Card by Ethyl Franklin Betts

Lady Buying Valentine Card by Ethyl Franklin Betts

Lady Buying Valentine Card
Ethyl Franklin Betts
February 13, 1904

One of our earliest Valentine’s Day covers shows a lady shopping for a card in 1904.This cover was done by an artist named Ethel Franklin Betts. Is the gentleman behind the shopper wishing the card was for him? Betts was a student of the illustrious (in every sense of the word) Howard Pyle, and did mostly illustrations for children’s books. Luckily for us, she also did four Saturday Evening Post covers.

First Valentine by Richard Sargent

First Valentine by Richard Sargent

First Valentine
Richard Sargent
February 11, 1956

More than fifty years later, this lad is picking out just the right card for someone special. Cover artist Dick Sargent did forty-seven covers in the 1950’s and early sixties. This is a typical slice-of-life example, with a boy clearly not wanting to be seen doing what he’s doing. Let’s hope his buddies don’t catch him while he’s at it – poor kid will never hear the end of it.

Giant Valentine by Tom Webb

Giant Valentine by Tom Webb

Giant Valentine
Tom Webb
February 13, 1937

The things we do for love. Tom Webb is another mostly forgotten artist, but he did six Post covers. This one is from 1937. One wonders about the lady’s reaction.

Couple in Heart by Bradshaw Crandall

Couple in Heart by Bradshaw Crandall

Couple in Heart
Bradshaw Crandall
February 17, 1934

Artist Crandall did nine Post covers of pretty girls or handsome couples. I love the thirties hairstyles and fashions here. Crandall was known for painting romantic ladies…along with pin-ups too risqué for the likes of The Saturday Evening Post.

Older Woman Casing Cupid by J.C. Leyendecker

"Older Woman Chasing Cupid" by JC Leyendecker

Older Woman Chasing Cupid
JC Leyendecker
February 29, 1908

When it came to romance in the 19th century, men did all the pursuing. A “loophole” was Leap Year, when ladies were supposedly permitted to propose to a man. So watch out, Cupid! This lady (I’ll kindly refrain from calling her a spinster) is on a mission. This crazy 1908 cover was by J.C. Leyendecker.

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  • Chris Roberts

    The father of all these covers is Norman Rockwell. And so what he has left behind is this:

    In a small sitting room, I am the guest of the town arbitrator. I cross my legs and settle back on a comfortable burgundy settee. Hereafter the old woman will be referred to as the matriarch and she is quite at home with the moniker for to be the arbitrator is merely a titled position and to fully round out the circle, her age and title combine to make of her the matriarch and this is as it should be and probably always will in the cycle and mores of all small towns with there houses that settle and creak with authority into the proverbial good, good earth.

    The Painter Norman Rockwell captured this similitude of horror and each of his works is a master stroke of banality though, that was not his intent, which of course makes his efforts that more interestingly delusional and his pursuit of capturing Small America he was and is eclipsed by Mr. Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and so Rockwell’s works are best consigned to the antiquated American woodshed. Suffice it to say that I must expend too much type and effort in critiquing this artiste, when in fact he is a mere analogous referencing to a homogenous heartland.

    The denizens claim him as their own when in fact this entire nation of villages, burghs and townships are equally unflattering as portrayed in monotone flat-scapes by Rockwell and where is the seed of originality or inspiration in such a repetitive rendering of America’s small towns such as train stations that are stationary, the locomotive in the foreground is meant to pose not to move and too his caricature of characters, who as a lot seem to know they are being painted, and live that moment only for the brushstroke and rather uniformly they are attired whether it be a military uniform, business suit or to go full circle the uniform of a filling station attendant all are drawn from the same pattern and this haberdasher N.R. makes his cut and fit decidedly unshaped or mostly off the rack as they say and what one character wears in one painting the very same ensemble is found on another in the next canvas with the slight variation of the color of the clothes.

    This transparent technique passes muster and is accepted wholeheartedly by the terrible masses who are down to a one are equally paraded for what passes for slice of life America homage. The colors are changed and are equally devoid of animation only it is less tangible than his depicted prop train and so to the last Norman Rockwell is, was and remains a thoroughly nominal artist in the best light. I use the word artist in a bewildering manner as that is how I feel when the very many legions across this nation attest to his artistry. It really is a small matter, a dickering affair for when this overrated illustrator is himself physically taken to the woodshed and buried beneath it what he has left for us in his work is the anti- nuance which is worse than any Anti-Christ and a mass market calendar art with its down home hokey so called realism.