Classic Covers: Stevan Dohanos

Rockwell is revered in Saturday Evening Post cover history, leaving some fabulous Post cover artists standing forgotten in his long, long shadow. For 1950s Americana, Stevan Dohanos was one of the best.

Tex’s Motorcycle cropped 4/7/51
Tex’s Motorcycle
by Dohanos
From April 7, 1951

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“Tex’s Motorcycle”

Tex’s Motorcycle by Dohanos From 4/7/51
“Tex’s Motorcycle”
by Stevan Dohanos
From April 7, 1951

“When Stevan Dohanos said that he searched far and wide for a special type of motorcycle to paint,” wrote Post editors in 1951, “we got set for some fearfully technical details.” The artist’s specifications? “I just had to have a blue-and-silver one.” The object of pre-adolescent lust he found was owned by “Tex” Keeler of Georgetown, Connecticut (hence the name of the painting). Not surprisingly, motorcycle buffs love to buy reprints of this handsome cover.

“Wanted Posters”

Wanted Posters by Dohanos from 2/21/53
“Wanted Posters”
by Stevan Dohanos
From February 21, 1953

Three young cowboys, six-shooters at the ready, are looking at the wanted posters in the local post office. Never mind the amusement of the postal employee observing the scene—the bad guys don’t stand a chance. Dohanos didn’t have to go far to find the young male models. They were his sons.

Dohanos, who painted 123 Post covers, was born in Lorain, Ohio, the son of Hungarian immigrants.

“Playing House”

Playing House by Dohanos from 1/31/53
“Playing House”
by Stevan Dohanos
From January 31, 1953

If you were a child of the female variety in the 1950s, one of your favorite playtime activities was probably playing house. This was what girls did before girls’ soccer and computers. The refrigerator carton is dressed up to make a perfectly lovely domicile, and every considerate hostess made sure the dollies got their share of tea and goodies. Do little girls still play house? I suppose there’s now an app for that.

“Doing Dishes at the Beach”

Doing Dishes at the Beach by Dohanos From 7/19/52
“Doing Dishes at the Beach”
by Stevan Dohanos
From July 19, 1952

This is called “Doing Dishes at the Beach,” but I prefer to call it “Whose Vacation?” Clearly Dad is relaxing, and the kids are enjoying themselves. Heck, even Rover is having fun. Looks like Mom got short shrift. I have to love Dohanos for seeing male/female inequities even in 1952.

“Lighthouse Keeper”

Lighthouse Keeper by Dohanos From 9/22/45
“Lighthouse Keeper”
by Stevan Dohanos
From September 22, 1945

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this Dohanos cover tells a gentle story. The lighthouse keeper is trimming the weeds while the push lawnmower and the clothesline help define the times. The striking lighthouse on this 1945 cover was the West Quoddy Light, Lubec, Maine.

“Stop and Pay Toll”

Stop and Pay Toll by Dohanos From 4/7/56
“Stop and Pay Toll”
by Stevan Dohanos
From April 7, 1956

Life’s little stories include life’s little irritations. Admit it, your blood pressure is rising a bit just looking at the woman holding up the line at the tollbooth. There’s change in here, somewhere. Well, we hope. Heaven help the people behind her if she left her change purse at home. But if they have a problem with that, they can take it up with the extra-large dog.

Unfortunately, by the 1960s photographs were taking the place of art on the covers of the Post. Dohanos shifted his considerable talent to a position as chairman of the National Stamp Advisory Committee. He is quoted as saying, “Artists are always interested in seeing their work reproduced. Imagine seeing your work reproduced 4½ billion times.”

“Toddler Empties Purses”

Toddler Empties Purses by Dohanos From 11/22/52
“Toddler Empties Purses”
by Stevan Dohanos
From November 22, 1952

My favorite Dohanos cover has always been this toddler from 1952. Through the bedroom door, we can see the grown-ups having a pleasant get-together, but what they cannot see due to the stack of coats and fedoras on the bed is the toddler having his own rockin’ party. Unfortunately, he is having all this fun with the ladies’ purses, opening and scattering the contents: compacts, keys, cigarettes, sunglasses, money, and so on (click for close-up).

Questions on covers from The Saturday Evening Post? Email me at [email protected] or simply leave a comment below.

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  1. Nanci:

    Did your grandmother live in Lorain, Ohio? It sounds like that’s where it was painted, according to the editors at the time. The only thing they say about the cover is that the artist (Steven Dohanos) had a hard time finding red flannel underwear instead of the newer style two-piece kind, “until he recalled that his father is an unreconstructed union-suit man. Thus we present Mr. Andrew Dohanos, of Lorain, Ohio—in part”. That doesn’t necessarily mean he painted it in Lorain; he could have just borrowed the garments and found another place he wanted to paint. But I’m afraid that’s all the information we have.

    Can you tell me where you think the location is? I’ve never featured that cover in a web piece, but I think I will soon.

    Diana Denny
    The Saturday Evening Post

  2. I’ve been trying to find out some information about a specific cover, and I’m hoping you can help. Mr. Dohanos is the artist, the cover was 3/8/1952 os a woman bringing frozen laundry in off the clothesline. My aunt insists that the barn in the background is ours (and it does look like it) and the woman is my grandmother. Is there any way to find out more information on this cover?

    Thank you

  3. I am actually distantly related to Steven Dohanos. My mother’s madien name is Dohanos and I recently just learned I am related to this amazing man 🙂 So Proud. Wish I would have got to meet him though.

  4. Diana, I love your new feature on Stevan Dohanos and your great insights. “Vacation” was no vacation for Mom–at all–from what I could see. I love the motorcycle cover, the lighthouse, and the girl’s playing house. Unfortunately (and sadly) I doubt many kids play like this anymore. Nowadays they’re either being rushed around to too many activities, or are tuned in (or out) to some tech device sliding their fingers around a mini-screen or texting. I have a feeling Norman Rockwell was one of his fans too, and never intended to cast such a long shadow over other POST arists.

  5. Steve Dohanos is a famous artist from Lorain, Ohio. His family donated may items to the BLACK RIVER HISTORICAL SOCIETY MUSEUM, LOCATED AT THE MOORE HOUSE. It is located on 5th street and Reid Avenues in Lorain. Open to the public… with guided tours. Lorain is Located on the shores of old lake Erie, about 22 miles west of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland…………………..come see Steve Dohanos.s work and many other famous Lorain ….. “STUFF”

  6. Steven Dohanos was an outstanding artist. As an artist I can appreciate the amount of detailed work that he put into his paintings. Thanks for sharing
    his work with us.

  7. Outstanding covers; fascinating commentary.
    Thank you, Diana, your observations are priceless.

  8. I have seen many of Mr. Dohanos covers before but never really knew the artist. He was very good, as were many other Post cover artists besides Norman Rockwell. Fun to hear a little abouit him.

  9. I’m enjoying these articles of SEPost’s. Looking forward to my new subscription coming soon. I did not k;now it was still in existance and few people that I’ve talked to knew it either. Glad I found you.
    I toured the NOrman Rockefeller exhibit in Nashville Tn a couple years ago or so and enjoyed the front pages of SEPost that he did.


  10. I had the privilege of getting to know Stevan Dohanos and his wife when I was working with the National Tuberculosis Association and he was our Honorary Christmas Seal Chairman. He was a TB survivor, and had also been an artist of several of the Christmas Seals. I remember him as an inspiring gentleman who was gracious and generous with his time during the several months of promotion for the Christmas Seal Campaign.


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