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Art: Till the Cows Come Home

Sleeping Farmer

Sleeping Farmer by John Atherton August 23, 1947


Sleeping Farmer
by John Atherton
August 23, 1947

This landscape from 1947 was about as sentimental as artist John Atherton got. Most of his 47 Saturday Evening Post covers were still life studies, or a factory, a grain elevator, etc. He detested human-interest or sentimental covers.

Once he asked his friend Norman Rockwell what he was working on. “Oh, you don’t want to know, Jack,” Rockwell replied. Atherton insisted until a very reluctant Rockwell spilled the sappy details of a painting for a Boy Scout calendar where the boys are looking reverently at a cloudy image of George Washington praying. “Jack grunted horribly and grabbed at his back, twisting about in his chair as if he’d been stabbed,” Rockwell recalled. “But Jack was deeply loyal. If anyone else disparaged my work, he’d light into them.” Atherton knew what he was good at and that nobody was better than Rockwell at what he did.


Surveying the Cow Pasture

Surveying the Cow Pasture by Amos Sewell  July 28, 1956


Surveying the Cow Pasture
by Amos Sewell
July 28, 1956

It is intimidating to have several large beasts staring at you while you work. Fortunately, despite their full-sized figures, they tend to be gentle animals. The surveyor’s biggest fear should be stepping in a cow pie.

Artist Amos Sewell illustrated 45 Saturday Evening Post covers, and well over a hundred fictional stories within the magazine.


Yakima River Cattle Roundup

Yakima River Cattle Roundup by John Clymer May 10, 1958


Yakima River Cattle Roundup
by John Clymer
May 10, 1958

“When I got into my early teens, like all boys, I got to wondering what in the world could I do to make a living and live in the mountains? One day I got to thinking about it and thought, That’s it! I’ll paint pictures and then I can live wherever I want to live,” said John Clymer. Where he lived as a boy was not far from this view of the Yakima River in Washington.

For 20 years, from 1942 to 1962, Clymer illustrated nearly 90 Post covers, most of them scenic and many, like this one from 1958, pretty enough to momentarily take your breath away. He and his father did not round up cattle as we see here, but editors inform us that they did fish the Yakima “for trout and, furthermore, caught some.”


Slow Mooving Traffic

 Slow Mooving Traffic by Ben Kimberly Prins April 11, 1953


Slow Mooving Traffic
by Ben Kimberly Prins
April 11, 1953

Well, this is disruptive. One might say—all together now—udder chaos. Artist Ben Prins got the idea for this illustration, which was his first Post cover, because he had been in a similar situation where he “performed heroically as one of the toreadors,” claimed Post editors.


Little Cowboy Takes a Licking

 Little Cowboy Takes a Licking by J.C. Leyendecker August 20, 1938


Little Cowboy Takes a Licking
by J.C. Leyendecker
August 20, 1938

The little cowpoke is certainly dressed for the part, but we wonder if he will ever be a hardcore ranch hand. This 1938 cover was by our most prolific artist, J.C. Leyendecker. He illustrated Post covers over a remarkable time span, from 1899 to 1943, often sumptuous and elaborate art of elegant ladies or gentlemen. So it comes as a delightful surprise when we find the artist’s humorous side.


Shoo the Moos

Shoo the Moos by Stevan Dohanos July 1, 1950


Shoo the Moos
by Stevan Dohanos
July 1, 1950

Before dragging grandma and baby through the barbed-wire fence, dad might want to wait and see if the cows will cooperate and vacate this ideal picnic spot (click on the artwork for a larger image).

Post editors noted that the bovines were not all that obliging when artist Stevan Dohanos was painting this 1950 cover. A cow aimed north by the local dairyman would stubbornly decide to go east or west. And as we can see, the white cow seems disinclined to move at all. This cover was painted in Westport, Connecticut, at the “Blue Ribbon Dairy Farm and Cow-Posing Academy.”


Do you have a cover theme you would like to see or a favorite Post artist you want to learn more about? Just let us know.

Reprints of Saturday Evening Post covers are available at Art.com.

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  • Claudia Robinson

    Love these MOO-ving covers! How funny! Would love to see fall leaf covers! Thanks for your great articles.