From mowing and tree planting to a neighborhood nonconformist, 1950s-style, these timeless covers are just in time to inspire you to tackle that yard.
Ellen Pyle (1876-1936) was known for her beautiful use of color. In 1927, she received a note from fellow cover artist Norman Rockwell about how much he liked her Post covers. “They are dandy. So full of color and so broadly painted. Believe me I envy you the latter quality particularly,” he wrote, according to Delaware Art Museum’s Illustrating Her World: Ellen B. T. Pyle.
As in many of her 40 covers for the Post, the model is one of Pyle’s children. In this case, teenage daughter Caroline is taking a wheelbarrow break from gardening duties.
“When summer rolled around,” wrote Post editors of this 1946 cover, “and the grass in Westport, Connecticut, began to grow as fast as a small boy’s hair, Stevan Dohanos recalled one of the duties of his youth and how mowing the lawn can ball up a man’s more important engagements.”
The frame house, however, was not in Connecticut, but back in artist Dohanos’ (1907-1994) hometown of Lorain, Ohio. Editors noted that he sketched it a couple years before it appeared on the cover. “Obviously it was a good stage, a good setting, but he never had decided just what story to tell against this background. Now he uses it to tell of a common summertime crisis—when the star pitcher has to work,” Post editors wrote.
Illustrator George Hughes (1907-1990) was an avid outdoorsman, but we’re not sure how he felt about planting trees. He would probably feel the same as the poor guy from the local nursery on this 1955 cover, if he had to deal with an indecisive homeowner.
Hughes painted 115 Post covers, and was especially productive in the 1950s. Typical output for the more popular illustrators was around 40 to 50 covers during a decade. Hughes’ friend Norman Rockwell, for example, did 44 during this period. Hughes did 80 in this timeframe; mostly fun, slice-of-life scenes from midcentury suburban life.
Artist Thornton Utz (1914-2000) enjoyed gently bucking the trend and depicting the neighborhood nonconformist. Mr. Leisure in this 1957 cover uses his backyard purely for relaxation, not caring how high the grass gets.
Meanwhile, in nearby yards, neighbors are flummoxed by Mr. Leisure’s indifference—at least those who can spare a second from their suburban chores.Even the little girl in the middle yard wastes no time as she tends to her dog’s bath. Post editors mused that the cover might start a debate “about whether people should nourish their backyards or let their backyards nourish them.” We’ll let the reader decide.