Classic Covers: Richard Sargent’s Salute to Mom

Richard Sargent knew how to paint the special relationship between a mother and her children (for better or worse).

"Happy Mother's Day," by Richard Sargent. May 11, 1957. © SEPS 2014

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It’s one of the cutest darn covers we’ve seen. A tiny boy in his yellow slicker and rain hat is gleefully standing at the bottom of the stairs holding up a handmade Mother’s Day card, and no doubt Mom will be thrilled—until she sees the muddy footprints on the carpet behind the boy.

Richard Sargent was one of the Post’s great visual humorists. His clever observations enlivened the covers during the 1950s and early 60s. Like the one where the house-calling doctor is about to give a sick boy a shot. Mom is concerned, wringing her hands. And the doctor is concerned for another reason. Sitting close to him on the bed, rather too close actually, is the observant family dog—a very big family dog.

Mom is exhausted. The Indian wars are over, and the miniature brave won. The April 14, 1956 cover shows just how daunting motherhood can be. The faces of the grocer carrying the boy away from the store and the little chief’s mom (with a skewed headdress herself) tell the story. The face of the little boy has “rotten” written all over it. Poor Mom.

Born and bred a Midwesterner, Sargent traveled to distant places during his career but never lost that touch of Middle America that made his more than 30 Post covers so appealing. He was the master of setting up pregnant situations, leaving you to wonder “what happens next?” Like the proud mom praising little Johnny for cleaning his room. What happens when she discovers that everything was shoved under the bed?

After struggling to find work during the mid-60s, Sargent and his wife, Helen, moved to the Andalusia region of Spain where he painted leisurely and enjoyed retirement. In 1978, he died suddenly at the age of 67 and was buried in Spain, a country he grew to love during the last 15 years of his life. What we will always remember are the many fun memories that he captured so well of our growing years as a culture.

Click here to read the Post‘s retrospective on Motherhood.

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