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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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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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Born in New York City in 1907, George Hughes grew up in the epicenter of twentieth century art and advertising.  He stayed in the city until adulthood, skipping college to attend the National Academy of Design and the Art Students’ League in the city.

After having finished his education, he provided freelance illustrations to the fashion industry including works for Vanity Fair and House and Garden.  In 1936, the automotive industry drew him away from New York to Detroit.  He worked in a stable job, contracted as a special designer, a Mechanical Designer for car companies.  He disliked the industry, and shortly thereafter moved back to New York City.

Upon returning to the city, he had a short-lived first marriage and joined the Charles E. Cooper Studio.  He created art and copy for the firm, and was eventually picked up as a talent for representation by American Artists.  He quickly remarried.  This time, love lasted a lifetime.  He married a woman named Casey, and the two had a total of five daughters.

In 1942, Hughes caught the eye of Saturday Evening Post Art Director, Ken Stuart.  Hughes had created a simple illustration for an interior fiction piece in the magazine.  Stuart then commissioned Hughes for a series of WWII portraits of American generals titled “These Are the Generals.”  This collection brought Hughes early national fame, and the Post kept tabs on his developing work for later possible covers.

With a growing family, Hughes and his wife decided they needed more living space.  It was time to leave New York’s urban sprawl.  George knew that Arlington, Vermont was growing in popularity among American artists.  The Schaeffers, the Rockwells, and the Athertons were all family friends who lived there.  In 1946, George and Casey bought a small farm near the other artists.

Their apparent reasons for purchase included the scenery and good business. The Hughes’s wanted to cultivate an air of artistic sophistication, forcing themselves into the popular artist group.  Their plan paid off as Hughes soon became a recurring Post cover artist.

Hughes once remarked that he enjoyed sailing in summer, duck hunts in the fall, and skiing in winter.  Arlington, Vermont turned out to be the perfect place to build his life.  The Hughes’s developed lasting friendships as well.  George often ran into Norman Rockwell in downtown Arlington.  Rockwell would ask George’s opinion on his sketch ideas, but constantly painted the opposite of George’s advice in his final draft.  The situation became a running joke between the two artists.

George Hughes’s first Saturday Evening Post cover was on the April 17th, 1948 issue.  From that point on, Hughes had a successful career in the art world.  He completed a total of 115 Post covers, along with illustrations for McCall’s, Woman’s Day, American Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, and many more.

Hughes, more than any other Post artist except Rockwell, survived the rise of photography.  His last Post cover was July 14th, 1962 until he completed one more for the magazine revival in 1971.  In the 1970s, he switched professions in the art world to become a successful portrait artist.  He lived a full life, and died in 1990.  During his lifetime, Hughes had seen his work on display in the Detroit Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Born in Rostov-on-the-Don, Russia, to wealthy parents Ivan and Izabella Alajálov, Constantin Alajálov (1900-1987) grew up a well-educated man. He attended the Gymnasium of Rostov from 1912 to 1917 and began his studies at the University of Petrograd in 1917. At five years old, the artist began making sketches; a talent his mother nurtured. In school, he preferred languages. Alajálov studied French, English, German, and Italian. His skill in art and language became tools for survival before ever turning it into a passionate career.

His academic pursuits were cut short in 1917 on the advent of the Russian Revolution. The revolution began with an armed insurrection in Petrograd, the very city in which Alajálov was studying. Forced out of school, the Bolsheviks drafted Alajálov to produce political propaganda throughout southern Russian villages. He painted wall murals and posters until escaping to Rasht, Persia (now northern Iran) in 1920.

Constantin’s time in Persia, however, was short-lived. In 1921, the khan he was working for was executed by his successor. Again, Alajálov fled to a new land and sought refuge in Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey).

Alajálov’s Constantinople era was one of abject poverty. The artist was grateful for a glass of goat’s milk or a small meal as payment for posters and murals. He once remarked that Russian princes wandered the streets in gray flannel pajamas provided by the American Red Cross. He began a Russian Artists Club to study technique and critique the work of his peers. After two years, Constantin had saved enough money, $100, to make the trip to New York City.

Arriving in 1923 with $5 in his pocket, the artist ran into a boyhood friend on Broadway. The friend happened to be the secretary of famous American dancer Isadora Duncan. Constantin used this connection to network with the Russian community in New York City. Soon the artist was painting murals and posters again. His artistic “big break” arrived when he was hired to paint the interior of the Bi-Ba-Bo Club. The club was a popular nightlife spot due to its owner, high-society socialite, Russian countess Anna Zarenkau.

Three years later, at age 25, The New Yorker accepted his submission for the magazine's September 25, 1926, cover. His covers were satirical commentaries on American life; his artistic style experimental. Alajálov’s art was both Realist, and Cubist. Some of his works contain thick outlining reminiscent of Picasso’s early primitive style.

During his exclusive contract years (late 1920s to 1930s) with The New Yorker, Alajálov taught at The Phoenix Art Institute and Alexandre Archipenko’s Ecole D’Art (both in NYC). He also became the director of the Societe Anonyme for the Museum of Modern Art. During this fruitful time, the artist traveled the world visiting museums and studying art, composition, and technique. He visited Haiti in 1929, Cuba in 1933, Italy in 1938, Honolulu in 1939, and spent the majority of his summers in either Paris or on the French Riviera.

His first Post cover illustration appeared on October 6, 1945. By this time, Constantin Alajálov had made quite a name for himself in the commercial illustration industry. He had already provided cover work for magazines such as Vanity Fair, Town and Country, Fortune, Life, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and House & Garden.  His work was so sought after that he was placed in the unique situation of overcoming traditional contract exclusivity between The New Yorker and The Saturday Evening Post.

Constantin Alajálov lived a life filled with adventure, travel, ups, downs, failures, and successes. He rose from Russian revolutionary refugee to the heights of the New York art world.  He was a global citizen, having traveled much of the world before the middle of the 20th century. His extensive travels were a feat for the time period. In retirement, Alajálov enjoyed swimming, horseback riding, tennis, piano, and golf. He died of natural causes at the age of 87 in 1987.

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