Classic Art: The Artist as Advertiser


Edison Lamp Ad - Boy reading in bed.

The cover of a magazine like The Saturday Evening Post was the pinnacle of success for illustrators in the 1920s-50s. But often landing a good advertising account was a major score, too. Many of our artists did both.

Dove Ad from 1914
This beautiful Ivory Soap ad from 1914 is a wonderful example of just how much work and talent went into advertisements. The illustration was by Katharine R. Wireman, who did the Fourth of July-themed 1924 cover below.

Japanese Lantern

Fisk Tire ad

This ad was by artist Leslie Thrasher, who did twenty-three Saturday Evening Post covers. In front of a billboard for Fisk Tires, a silly boy with his toy dog is mocking the fancy society lady walking her dog.

Thrasher’s best-known Post cover was “Tipping the Scales” from 1936.

"Tipping the Scales" by Leslie Thrasher from October 3, 1936

Palm Beach Suits Ad

This is part of a two-page ad in 1924 for Palm Beach Suits. “The older man in this picture is wearing the wrong clothes for hot weather,” reads the ad. “The younger man knows what a difference the right clothes for hot weather will make.” The artist behind the ad was George Brehm, who did nine Post covers and numerous inside drawings, including illustrations for stories by his fellow Hoosier, Booth Tarkington. His cover below is from 1935:

“Marge Loves David” by George Brehm from August 10, 1935

Edison Lamp Ad artwork by Rockwell

This 1920 ad for Edison Mazda Lamps (General Electric) features a boy and his dog – could it be the work of Norman Rockwell? It is indeed. Rockwell did a series of beautiful art for Edison Mazda ads, as well as for many other companies.

The beauty of the ad was not only visual. The text waxed eloquent:

Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer live here; the Knights of the Round Table; the Pirates of Treasure Island, and the brave gentlemen of Ivanhoe.

They will be part of your boy’s life forever, if only you are wise. Whatever else your bedroom may have, put books and an Edison Mazda lamp at the head of each bed.

For a lamp is a magic thing. By its light every lad may be Aladdin. He opens his book, touches the lamp, and the genii appear.

Below is Rockwell’s cover “The Stowaway” from the same year, 1920.

May 15, 1920 – “The Stowaway” – Norman Rockwell

By the way, Norman Rockwell painted so many great ads, it will take an upcoming feature to show you more!