Classic Covers: George Hughes, Signs of Summer

Seems like the lady of the house (or yard) can’t decide where the tree looks best. The cover from April 9, 1955, shows a weary laborer digging holes for a tree. That’s one tree and several holes. (Oh, and note the truck in the driveway.)

George Hughes (1907-1990) began his career with the Post illustrating Guy Gilpatric’s Glencannon stories and other seafaring fiction. A resident of Arlington, Vermont, he was a neighbor of such noted Post cover artists as Norman Rockwell, John Atherton, and Mead Schaeffer. Like Rockwell, Hughes believed in realist painting and insisted on working from actual settings. He spent an entire day learning how to properly place clothespins for his first Post cover of April 17, 1948, in which a mother hangs clothes as her son parades home, showing more dirt than the law should allow.

Hughes’ favorite theme was unforgettable family situations with which Post readers could readily identify. Hughes, who had five children, could easily relate to scenes such as Coming Up Roses, where another too-busy Mom notices her toddler pulling up roses. A Post favorite shows a mom taking a nice cold glass of lemonade to the hardworking boy mowing the lawn. Is this the quintessential 1950s cover or what? Shades of June Cleaver.

The Fork in the Road cover (July 7, 1956) displays another familiar Hughes theme: a humorous slant on relationships. Even on a lovely summer drive, man and wife disagree on which way to go. Adults seeking peace and quiet also appear in Hughes’ work, such as No Chance to be Alone, which portrays a couple enjoying a peaceful space at the beach—until a large, boisterous family discovers the same spot. In Sunday Visitors, Hughes captures a couple going back into the house to enjoy the Sunday paper after one group of after-church visitors leave … and another family comes up the walk. Sigh.

But what suggests summer better than the sight greeting the small bird watchers on the March 24, 1962 cover? No, not the bright red bird the guide is delighted to see, but over there, through the trees, on the other side of the water. Can it be? It is! The season’s first ice cream truck!