“Autumn … the year’s last, loveliest smile,” wrote American poet William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878). Post cover artists illustrate why we love this time of year.
Fall Horseback Ride
Most of the 80-plus Post covers by John Clymer feature natural settings: a shimmering lake surrounded by summer greenery, a charming New England harbor enveloped by snow, and, of course, views like the one at left of Washington, the beautiful state from which the artist hailed.
The riders are passing through a forest of tamaracks, which possess a rare trait among conifers; the needles turn gold in the autumn and fall to the forest floor. The fallen needles reflect the light, giving the ground an almost luminescent quality.
“In fall, every tamarack forest byway becomes a yellow brick road down which you can skip in a haze of glowing splendor,” writes Lori Micken in an online column for Montana Outdoors. The tamarack is a common sight in Clymer’s home state, and in this Post cover he captured just such a yellow brick road in Wilson Canyon, Washington.
The corn hanging on a neighbor’s barn in Arlington, Vermont, inspired John Atherton to begin sketching the harvest still life (left). “Knowing any harvest picture would need a pumpkin, he went into the garden and got one,” wrote Post editors in 1945. Deciding autumn leaves were needed, the artist gathered some along the road. Ferns would also add to the arrangement, so out he went to gather a few. The ferns died very quickly, and he gathered more. “By the time he had set his stage, Mr. Atherton had done quite a little of harvesting himself,” wrote the editors.
Between 1942 and 1961 Atherton painted 47 Post covers. His style was realism, known for its accurate, almost photographic portrayal of its subjects. This was a far cry from the idealized images depicted by his friend, Norman Rockwell. Atherton’s critical attitude to such sentimentality is noted in the feature, “Till the Cows Come Home.” But the painter was not completely immune to sentiment: Note the initials carved in the beam at left, presumably signifying the love between him and his wife Maxine Breeze.
“The making of a portrait is an imaginative work, because of the blending of two personalities, the sitter and the artist,” William Haskell Coffin (1878-1941) told Charleston, South Carolina, reporters upon returning to his hometown.
Coffin studied portraiture while at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., and in Europe. But the formative years of his artistic career were spent in New York, where he won critical acclaim painting portraits of the chorus girls from Ziegfeld’s Follies—some of whom modeled for his 32 Post covers.
The attractive young women were often posed with a single object, such as a book or floral bouquet. In this 1927 illustration, the props are merely a few autumn leaves, some gray clouds, and the chill autumn breeze.
Apple Picking Time
“It has to be a love affair every time,” artist John Falter said about his work. “If you aren’t in love with what you are trying to put on canvas, you’d better quit.”
Falter started the painting at left by sketching the barns and rail fence at a farm near Weston, Missouri, and then completed it at his home in Pennsylvania. The trees, the apple pickers, and the farm woman were done from memory. As Post editors noted in 1947: “It wasn’t hard to recall similar scenes from his own boyhood (in Nebraska), although as he worked, the phase of apple picking Falter recalled most vividly was fresh apple pie.”
One of the Post’s most popular illustrators, Falter did more than 125 covers frequently employing a bird’s eye view of the scene. (See “Can You Guess the City?”)
Bring Home Pumpkins
“Falter’s masterful treatment of light stems from the fact that he is a nature lover, and happily gifted to reflect her moods,” wrote the Post in 1971. “Most of his paintings interrelate human and natural life, and Falter seems ever drawn to the sky.”
The sky in this 1952 cover is nearly black, allowing the artist to contrast the golden haystacks with light from an unknown source, be that parking lot lights or lanterns. The blues, greens, and reds from the family heading back with their trophies add a needed dash of color.
Girl Walking to School
In the heart of the Golden Age of Illustration, Sarah Stilwell-Weber (1878-1939) trained under the best: Howard Pyle. He and fellow students, such as Post illustrator N.C. Wyeth, greatly influenced her work.
A prolific artist, she illustrated over 65 Post covers between 1904 and 1925. During this period, she also worked for many other leading magazines, including Vogue, Collier’s, and Better Homes and Gardens.