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 and loved putting them in situations that tended to go awry.
Right now 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 7:35.
“Dr. and the Dog”
“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.
“Sack Full of Trouble”
Grocery shopping was easy in the days before Big Chief Troublemaker came along, hiding in tin-can canyons and paper goods trails waiting to ambush Mom or the poor grocer.
Sargent had three sons, starting with a redheaded moppet with a mischievous bent; the inspiration for many a cover.
Apparently 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!”
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”.
“Grandma Catches Fly-ball”
Number 21 is trying desperately, but it’s a high fly ball, straight into the mitt of…Grandma! Curious Post editors checked around and uncovered the fact that “some 1400 foul balls are knocked into the Yankee Stadium stands every season.” More difficult to ascertain were the stats on how many of those were snagged by little old ladies wearing red gloves.
“The Fat Lady Sings”
If you ever watched preliminary tryouts for “American Idol,” you probably found yourself cringing like the gentlemen here. Even the bust of Beethoven on the piano is wincing, no doubt wishing he had hands to cover his ears with. Maybe they should start playing “Show Me the Way to Go Home.” This was Dick Sargent in a nutshell, showing us that life has its foibles, but it’s still a hoot!