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Classic Covers: Richard Sargent

Doggy Buffet by Richard Sargent from January 5, 1957

January 5, 1957

Artist Richard Sargent (1911-1979) painted 47 Post covers between 1951 and 1962, when photographs were rapidly replacing magazine illustrations.

A Midwesterner, he was born and raised in Moline, Illinois, and went to art school there.

He later became quite the world traveler, but he always remembered the all-American folk back home and loved putting them in situations that tended to go awry.

Take, for instance, Sargent’s cover from November 1953 (below). Mr. Jones is feeling like a tin can in a trash compactor, but squeezing out of his car may be easier than explaining why he was late for work because he missed the 7:35a.m. train in to the city.

“The trouble with painters,” said Post editors of this 1953 cover, “is that they build up awful situations like this, then blithely start work on another cover, leaving the victims to get out of the mess, if possible.” And leaving the observer to wonder what happens next.

Artist Sargent was a master at the pregnant situation: Will the man above be able to squeeze out of his car and make the train? Will the dog at the buffet make off with the ham? Will the dog in this painting make a meal of the doctor?

When editors asked, “Sargent says he doesn’t know what will happen, because the dog’s hair is so long he can’t see the expression in his eyes.” The rat.

Violin Practice  by Richard Sargent from February 5, 1955

February 5, 1955

Sargent had three sons, starting with a redheaded moppet with a mischievous bent named Anthony–the inspiration for many a cover.

Apparently, Little Red’s skills have not reached a level tolerable even to himself in this 1955 cover. Sargent’s own redheaded son was grown by 1954 when an excited Sargent called a Post editor and said, “Well, what do you suppose happened to me?”

The staffer guessed, “Land a painting in the Metropolitan Museum?”

“Better than that!” Sargent cried. “Listen. I’m a little guy: five feet six, 125 pounds. Always wanted to be an athlete when I was a kid—always the last kid to be picked on a team. All my life I’ve yearned to be written up in the sports news. You know the Wykagyl golf course?” (This was a famous suburban New York club near Sargent’s home.) “Well, sir, you’re talking to a champion! Anthony and I just won the Father and Son championship!”

Richard Sargent 1954

Honestly, this guy couldn’t wait to share the family triumph with his friends at the Post. After sifting through biographical details about the artist, it seemed this little conversation told much more about the man.

Yep, confirmed the editors, the write-up in the New Rochelle paper detailed the duo’s spiffy score of net 66. So the Post ran its own photo of Sargent and family with the trophy.

The lively little redheaded Anthony was by then six feet three and playing golf in the low 80’s. Noting that his dad scored in the 90’s, the editors suggested “he plays better with a brush.”

To purchase Richard Sargent’s cover art, with or without the masthead, visit Art.com.

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  • I really love Richard (Dick) Sargent’s covers very much. Althogh he painted 47 for the magazine, I have to admit ‘Doggy Buffet’ is my personal favorite. It’s just a split second in time captured perfectly. No one but the hostess was aware of what was about to happen. Fortunately, I think she probably prevented a ‘Desperate Housewives’ scene with her mouth-watering buffet, but it was a close call no doubt. Really, really LOVE this cover!!

    As for ‘Dr and the Dog’, I’d be at least as creeped out as this poor doctor! Unlike the ‘Buffet’ dog who was just mischievious, THIS dog is just scary–at least to me.

    ‘The Fat Lady Sings’ is another particular favorite in its dual complexity and simplicity. Only the young woman at the piano doesn’t mind ‘Mrs. Jones’ contribution. I liked the touch of Beethoven’s bust cringing a little.

    I’m glad you put in a picture of Richard Sargent too. Aside from putting a face with the covers he did, it should also clarify he was NOT Dick Sargent from the final seasons of ‘Bewitched’ nor was that actor the man who did the POST covers.

    Happy belated 100th birthday, even if you passed away much too soon. I hope your family will read my comments. Thanks for all your great, and timeless works of art that continue to enrich the POST and its fans to this day and beyond!