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Classic Covers: Unexpected Visitors

You know that moment when you’re nice and comfy—or in a rush to get ready—and someone pops by? Post cover artist George Hughes knows.

“Home Showing” – George Hughes

Home Showing by George Hughes

"Home Showing"
George Hughes
May 26, 1962

She’s still in her robe and curlers trying to clean up while Junior and the cat make more messes. In other words, the real estate is in a real state. And here comes old Smiley, the real estate guy, with two perfectly turned out prospects. “Mrs. Smith, I know that we didn’t have an appointment, but we happened to be nearby and…” I don’t know the outcome of this 1962 visit, but I’m sure the refined lady of the house doesn’t end up shoving the vacuum nozzle up old Smiley’s nose. Pretty sure, anyway….

“Sunday Visitors” – George Hughes

Sunday Visitors by George Hughes

"Sunday Visitors"
George Hughes
February 6, 1954

I love the look on this man’s face. There’s no way he can avoid getting up for much longer. Artist George Hughes (1900-1990) worked as a fashion illustrator for Vanity Fair and other bastions of style while still very young. It wasn’t until 1942 that he landed his first Saturday Evening Post assignment, illustrating a fiction piece.

“Dog Walks Down Aisle of Church” – George Hughes

Dog Walks Down Aisle of Church by George Hughes

"Dog Walks Down Aisle of Church"
George Hughes
March 24, 1956

Here’s an unexpected visitor from a 1956 cover. The editors wondered: What the heck does Billy do now? Will an usher come and remove Towser? Will the dog hop into the empty space behind Billy? If so, what will the parishioner in that pew do? And if Billy gets up to walk Towser out, there’s no way his parents won’t turn and notice. A good Post cover engenders a lot of “what ifs.”

“Hitting the Buffet” – George Hughes

Hitting the Buffet by George Hughes

"Hitting the Buffet"
George Hughes
November 11, 1961

I laughed out loud when I first saw this 1961 cover. It took me a minute to find the unexpected visitor among the elegantly attired guests. Well, heck, it’s his house! After that 1942 fiction piece, Hughes was assigned to paint the top American Generals over wartime operations in Europe for a Post series called “These are the Generals.” Soon, he was considered as a potential cover artist.

“Bridge Party” – George Hughes

Bridge Party by George Hughes

"Bridge Party"
George Hughes
November 28, 1953

“Tough life, being a husband,” Post editors mused. “When, at breakfast, this one was warned about the bridge fest coming up, it didn’t sink in too well, because doesn’t a man have to concentrate on the morning paper?” This cover is kind of like the royal wedding: One can sit back and make fun of the hats. Having become more secure as an artist, Hughes moved to Arlington, Vermont, where he befriended other Post illustrators such as Mead Schaeffer and Norman Rockwell.

“No Chance to Be Alone” – George Hughes

No Chance to Be Alone by George Hughes

"No Chance to Be Alone"
George Hughes
August 8, 1953

“How unkind fate is to sweethearts,” Post editors complained, “how heartless painter George Fate Hughes was to bring this about.” And to whom is the guy at the top of the sand hill beckoning? No doubt his obnoxious brother-in-law and their six kids. This is from 1953.

“Sunday Visitors” – George Hughes

Sunday Visitors by George Hughes

"Sunday Visitors"
George Hughes
June 17, 1950

Now we can relax with the paper,” Mr. Conner thinks as he finally bids adieu to the Jones family. Alas, as they say in the infomercials, “But wait, there’s more!” Once again, we plaster on smiles and exchange “good-to-see-yous!” It’s Sunday, so is it okay to pray that this is over before the entire afternoon is shot? Hughes did 115 great Saturday Evening Post covers. Reprints are available at curtispublishing.com

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  • ‘Unexpected Visitors’ are all great covers by the great George Hughes! As usual I love your observations, but I’ve got a few of my own.

    ‘Home Showing’ Hughes really has “awkward” down to a fine art, hasn’t he? I don’t know the outcome of this visit, but you can bet it’ll never happen again. She was caught off guard to the point of curtains not covering ANYTHING for her. The car in the background looks like a new Ford Falcon. Mom had a light green ’61 Falcon station wagon back in the ’60s. Absolutely!

    LOVE ‘Sunday Visitors’! What a dilemma THIS unfortunate woman has found HERSELF in! She has to be ENRAGED with her husband but trying to hide it all the while thinking “Oh God, what am I going to do NOW?” “This can’t possibly be happening!”

    ‘Dog Walks Down the Aisle’ might engender a few ‘what ifs’ per your notes, but it’s pretty mild compared to the top 2!!

    ‘Hitting the Buffet’ is an all-time personal favorite of mine, just like ‘Doggy Buffet’ (by Richard Sargent). So it’s the HOUSE that’s the unexpected guest. Huh. And all this time I thought it was pajama boy! I also loved all the nuances Hughes put in that were state-of-the-art 1961, and look better than ever NOW!

    ‘Bridge Party’ Yeah, I think this husband needed to turn around immediately and kill some time checkin’ out the brand-new flashy ’54 cars just coming into the showrooms. I wish I could do that NOW!

    ‘No Chance to Be Alone’. Great cover!! Really, really awkward, BAD situation though. If they tried on purpose to have this happen it wouldn’t. You know that. Someone has some equivalent Karma coming his way. Dirty pool I say, even if it’s at the beach!

    ‘Sunday Visitors’. Great cover too. The irony of it is they probably had none or just a few visitors on the Sunday’s preceeding and following this one. Well, reflecting on such covers helps us tolerate our own versions that make us want to scream–but, alas, only up to a point.