Richard “Dick” Sargent (1911-1979), one of The Saturday Evening Post’s most prolific illustrators, was a Midwesterner born in Moline, Illinois in 1911. His early career in art began just after his graduation from Moline High School, when he went to work for a local printing and engraving plant. While there, Sargent attended night classes at the Moline Illinois Art School, the foundation for his future career as an artist.
As his artistic prowess developed, he advanced further into creating professional artwork for advertising firms and later, a solo career as an artist and illustrator. The artist worked in advertising for over 20 years, starting in 1928, prior to making a name for himself as a freelance illustrator. During this time period, Sargent further honed his artistic skills by taking classes at both the Corcoran School of Art and the Phillips Memorial Gallery in Washington, D.C.
By the time Sargent headed out into the world to make a name for himself as a solo artist, he had started a family. They later provided inspiration for some of his most successful works of art. He married his sweetheart, Helen, and had a rambunctious, mischief-prone redheaded son named Anthony who was often depicted on the cover of The Post. The suburban life they built together established the perfect model for scenes of 1950s Baby Boomer households in everyday situations of suburban American life.
In 1951, Sargent completed his first Saturday Evening Post cover, “Truth About Santa”, for the December 15th Christmas issue. While Sargent’s popularity grew through The Saturday Evening Post, he also received illustration work from magazines such as Fortune, Woman’s Day, Photoplay, and American Magazine. Americans adored Sargent and his art for the ability to show a pregnant scene with an open-ended conclusion that commented on the situational comedy of life.
In addition to his work as a magazine illustrator, Sargent also received special commissions that afforded him the opportunity to travel the world. In 1954, the USO sent Sargent to Korea to entertain troops fighting in the Korean conflict. He later remarked, “We’d put on civilian clothes to work in- the boys would get such a kick out of seeing somebody in good old stateside civvies.” He spent six weeks flying throughout the country where he met with American soldiers and created art for them to send home to loved ones.
Sargent caught the “travel bug” on his trip to Korea and again vacationed out of the North American continent to Paris, France in 1959. He used his wife as a model in many works he created there to highlight Parisian life and landmarks. By the 1960s, photography had taken the place of illustration in magazine cover art. This caused the couple to move to the Andalusia region of Spain to live out the rest of their days in peaceful retirement. Sargent died suddenly in 1978 at the age of 67.