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!

Classic Covers: Fall Hunting Season

Our cover artists have depicted hunters, both comical and serious, since 1900. Here are a few.

No Hunting – Douglass Crockwell

No Hunting by Douglass Crockwell
No Hunting
Douglass Crockwell
October 28, 1939

I’ve always gotten a chuckle from this 1939 cover by artist Douglass Crockwell. No only did this hunter ignore the warning, he’s mad enough to add his own commentary – under the big “NO HUNTING” letters he’s scribbling, “You’re telling me.” Notice that the artist simply signed his covers “Douglass”. This was to avoid confusion with another artist – some guy with a similar last name.

No Hunting – Leslie Thrasher

No Hunting by Leslie Thrasher
No Hunting
Leslie Thrasher
September 5, 1914

When this guy says “no hunting,” he means it! One might say there have been flagrant violators, since the sign is riddled with bullet holes. We’ve had some cover artists who were wonderful at painting old codgers, and Leslie Thrasher was one of them. This cover is from 1914.

Springer Spaniels – J.F. Kernan

Springer Spaniels by J.F. Kernan
Springer Spaniels
J.F. Kernan
November 1, 1930

I’d know that white mustache anywhere; this gentleman appeared in many beautiful J.F. Kernan covers. In this 1930 cover, he’s dressed for the hunt and picking up spaniels for the job. When the little pups grow up, they’ll be great hunters, too.

Duck Hunters – Robert Robinson

Duck Hunters by Robert Robinson
Duck Hunters
Robert Robinson
December 12, 1911

Now we all know that hunters and fishermen are the most honest and upright of sportsmen. But there’s not only this 1911 cover of an unsuccessful hunter buying someone else’s catch, there’s a cover a few years later depicting a fisherman doing the same thing. Who wants to go home after hours of hunting or fishing with nothing to show for it?

Patient Dog – John Atherton

Patient Dog by John Atherton
Patient Dog
John Atherton
December 12, 1942

This is a sweet one. World War II has taken the man of the house away and this beautiful dog is waiting patiently for his master to return and take him hunting. Not all of those waiting at home are two-legged.

Hunting Couple on Walk – J. Hennesy

Hunter Couple on Walk by J. Hennesy
Hunter Couple on Walk
J. Hennesy
November 1, 1936

It’s a crisp autumn day, and together time for this couple means hunting – or at least walking in the woods. Country Gentleman magazine was a sister publication to the Post for many years and often shared the same artists.