Artist, illustrator, portraitist, Advertising copywriter, Mechanical Designer
Charles E. Cooper Studio
American Art, Americana, Realism
Divorced; Remarried to Casey Hughes; 5 daughters total (2 step-daughters)
Where is his art now?
Has been shown at The Detroit Museum, The Chicago Museum of Art, and The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art
Born in New York City, 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 finishing 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. His first marriage ended, he quickly remarried, this time to a woman named Casey, to whom he remained married for the rest of his life. The couple 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, and 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, so in 1946, George and Casey bought a small farm near the other artists in Vermont.
Their apparent reasons for the purchase weren’t just related to space. The scenery was ideal and was above all an advantageous business decision. The couple wanted to cultivate an air of artistic sophistication, forcing themselves into the social spheres of the popular artist group already established in Arlington. Their plan paid off, as Hughes soon became a recurring Postcover artist himself.
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 around these activities and his artwork. The Hugheses developed lasting friendships as well. George often ran into Norman Rockwell in downtown Arlington, who would ask George’s opinion on his sketch ideas only to paint the opposite of George’s suggestions in his final draft. The situation became a running joke between the two artists.
George Hughes’s first cover for The Saturday Evening Post was on the April 17, 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 save Norman Rockwell, survived the rise of photography. His last Post cover was July 14, 1962, until he completed a final cover for the magazine’s revival in 1971. In the 1970s, he switched mediums and became 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.