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Norman Perceval Rockwell, The Saturday Evening Post’s most famous illustrator, is considered by many to be one of America's greatest artists. He was a master storyteller via canvas and paint, and his works, capturing the triumphs and foibles of the common man, are as popular today as they were in decades past.

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Even before graduating from Steele High School in his Midwestern hometown, Dayton, Ohio, Coby Whitmore grew up knowing he wanted to be an artist. Over the course of a professional career spanning more than three decades, his reformations in the illustrative medium changed design concepts forever, earning him an induction into the Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame in 1978.

Whitmore began his art education at the Dayton Art Institute, later migrating to an apprenticeship in Chicago. Coby’s experiences in the Midwestern metropolis shaped his redefining style as well as the future of his career. He apprenticed in the studio of Haddon Sandblom[link], worked for the Chicago Herald Examiner, and enrolled in night classes at the Chicago Art Institute. Whitmore’s move to Chicago introduced him to a circle of young artists, most notably his future compatriots, Ben Stahl and Thornton Utz. Together the artistic trio became known as the Chicago Gang.

They did away with excess clutter and lighting, minimizing a model’s surroundings. Whitmore described the evolution of his artistic process as recognition of excess controlling, subjugating, and defining his characters. During a photo shoot in an old heirloom-filled house, he explained, “Then, as I worked along, I discovered that the furniture subordinated the characters. A process of elimination began, and in the finished drawing, all that remains of the beautiful old house is the lamp, the sofa, and a piece of silverware.” The Chicago Gang was partial to illuminating the subtle complexities of human relationships exposed in familiar, if not everyday, circumstances. Whitmore stripped away the overabundance surrounding his models and focused the work on intimate moments between people. Additions were selected with intent. Any objects present either conveyed the illustrator’s message or constructed a comprehensible scene incorporating as few props as possible.

The illustrator eventually headed back east to apprentice again in Ohio, at the studio of Carl Jensen in Cincinnati. He married his high school sweetheart, Virginia Comer, from Dayton and set out for New York City. In 1942, Whitmore joined the prestigious art studio of Charles E. Cooper on West 57th Street.

Much of Whitmore’s work depicts post-war American families, centered around a maternal figure who exudes happiness in the normalcy of everyday life. Coby Whitmore’s popular illustrations were featured on both the covers and in stories of The Saturday Evening Post, McCall’s, Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and several corporate advertising campaigns. Accusations of tawdry material (a woman stretching in bed, for example) forced some of his illustrations off magazine covers and into the magazine’s pages. In an interesting twist of fate, Whitmore further advanced his artistic career by combining his sleek lines and minimalist design with his fascination for racing cars. In the early 1950s, he designed the Fitch-Whitmore Le Mans Special with racecar driver John Fitch.

Toward the end of Whitmore’s career, illustration was used less and less. And many artists had to find work illustrating novel covers or headed back to the classroom as teachers. Whitmore eventually retired to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Today, his illustrations are held in both private and permanent collections at institutions such as the Pentagon, the United States Air Force Academy, the New Britain Museum of American Art, and Syracuse University.

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Born in Illinois as Marjorie McMein, this cover artist left the Midwest, changed her name to Neysa, and turned herself into the quintessential New York woman. McMein was modern and independent; she fought for women’s right to vote and worked overseas during World War I creating posters for the U.S. and French government. Back in New York, she lived above Carnegie Hall where she held parties for her friends, many of whom were famous, including Irving Berlin, Charlie Chaplin, Dorothy Parker, and Richard Rodgers.

McMein was most famous for her portraits, and painted presidents Warren Harding and Herbert Hoover. Her portrait illustrations were drawn for magazines and advertising; McMein even drew the first Betty Crocker illustration for General Mills in 1936, launching the brand. Her work for magazine covers, including McCall’s, Collier’s, and 60 covers for The Saturday Evening Post, portrayed young women of the 1920s as we picture them today, stylish and full of life.

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The child who sets out to be a career artist and skips the “starving artist” phase has a rare story indeed. But Mead Schaeffer’s ability was undeniable, his talents easily promoted. Born July 15th, 1898 to Presbyterian pastor Charles and his wife, Minnie, Mead grew up knowing he wanted a career in art. His work brought fame and fortune alongside a lifelong friendship with another American master, Norman Rockwell.

Born in Freedom Plains, New York, the Schaeffer family moved to Springfield, Massachusetts when Mead was a little boy. He graduated high school in 1917, and moved to Brooklyn, New York shortly after to attend the Pratt Institute.
At the Pratt Institute, Schaeffer studied under Harvey Dunn and Charles Chapman. His two mentors had started their own school, the Leonis School of Illustration, in 1915. The school’s philosophy followed that of their own teacher, the famed instructor Howard Pyle. Experiencing various art groups in the city, Schaeffer became acquainted with Dean Cornwell. Mead’s relationship with Cornwell led to Schaeffer’s first jobs producing illustrations for smaller magazines and publications. He graduated at the top of his class, already a working artist, in 1920.

Throughout Mead Schaeffer’s 20s, he worked for Dodd, Mead & Company, a publishing house for classic literature. Schaeffer provided illustrations for sixteen prominent works including The Count of Monte Cristo, Les Miserables, Typee, and Moby Dick.

On September 17th, 1921, Schaeffer married his wife, Elizabeth. They had two daughters, Consolle and Patricia. New York City soon became too cramped for the family. They moved to Rye, NY and then the artists’ colony at New Rochelle, NY where the artist first met Norman Rockwell. He later moved to Arlington, Vermont where he kept a studio in an old barn as Rockwell’s next-door neighbor.
Schaeffer was introduced to Saturday Evening Post editor Ben Hibbs through Rockwell. Schaeffer’s relationship with the Post resulted in a career spanning thirty years and 46 cover illustrations. Schaeffer became most famous for chronicling the military with authenticity.

Rockwell and Schaeffer set out to pitch an idea to the government about ads for war bonds, but they were rejected. Hibbs picked up the idea and sponsored their work through The Saturday Evening Post. Schaeffer spent 1942 to 1944 as a war correspondent. He flew in planes, rode in submarines, and toured with soldiers to get a feel for the soldiers’ experiences in World War II. His collection, including 16 Saturday Evening Post covers, went on a tour to 92 cities in the United States and Canada. The tour’s purpose was to drum up sales for war bonds.

After the war, in the summer and fall of 1947, the Schaeffers and the Rockwells took a two and a half month family vacation to the American West. The families were so close many works by both artists contain the other’s children as models. Schaeffer’s wife often took dozens of photographs from all angles while the artist studied the scene. After the trip, the artist studied his wife’s photographs and incorporated their view into his work. From all of his sketches and studies, the trip provided only six Post covers.

Over the course of a 30-year career, Schaeffer provided 5,000 illustrations to books, magazines, and advertisements. His last cover for the Post was December 26th, 1953. He spent much of his retirement sketching and fly-fishing, often taking trips to Puerto Rico. By the end of his career, Schaeffer had worked for The American, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Scribners, Home Companion, Ladie’s Home Journal, Redbook, McCall’s, St. Nichol’s Century Magazine, and of course, The Saturday Evening Post.

He died of a heart attack on November 6th, 1980 while at lunch with his contemporaries at the Society of Illustrators in Manhattan. Today his works are on display at the USAA in San Antonio, Texas.

(Photo: Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©Norman Rockwell Family Agency.)

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Elbert McGran, or E.M., Jackson (1896-1962), was one of the principal artists for The Saturday Evening Post and Country Gentleman magazines, with 58 covers to his credit. He showed an interest in drawing from an early age. As a child there was only one art teacher in town from which he could take lessons, and he did so with zeal. He graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in architecture. Once he realized that his passion was illustration, he began studying art at night. He was mentored by established illustrators, such as James Montgomery Flagg, and sold his first illustrations as a young man.

An artistic specialty of Jackson’s was painting women in poses that made them appear seductive and glamorous amidst architecturally authentic backgrounds. His technique was spontaneous as he painted from posed models. Usually, he illustrated for manuscripts involving romance and high society. However, he also illustrated for a wide variety of genres, including murder mystery and masculine adventure.

More than thirty of Jackson’s Post covers were illustrated during the 1920s. Jackson drew many covers that were sentimental or humorous. Jackson also painted portraits that represented the modern relationships between men and women, such as the May 10, 1930 Post cover of a young man and a young woman sitting back to back at a barber shop taking in one another’s new hairdos.

Through his work at the Post, E.M. Jackson, known primarily for his realist/representational art style, showed a more whimsical and varied side to his long and successful career as an illustrator, before his passing in 1962.

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