In honor of the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby, the Post salutes the equine art of Maurice L. Bower (1889-1980). Several of Bower’s Post covers depicted horses doing everything from urgently pulling the fire engine to a blaze (January 12, 1935) or performing at a circus complete with pretty lady on top (April 6, 1935) to pulling the getaway stagecoach for fellows clearly up to no good (February 6, 1937). Quite striking is the cover of thoroughbred racing from August 8, 1934; the muscles of the powerful animals straining for one more ounce of speed.
The energy Bower brought to his art began at an early age when he attended the School of Industrial Art in Philadelphia. Magazine work quickly followed, and his art was published while he was still a student there. Later he became a medical illustrator in the U.S. Army during World War I.
Jane Garrabrant kindly sent us some biographical information on her substitute grandfather, “Morry,” as she called him. Bower, she noted, moved to Paris around 1926, although he still worked for The Saturday Evening Post. And he periodically returned to the States to fulfill illustration obligations for the Post while living a “glorious life” on the Left Bank of Paris with many artistic types, from choreographers to writers to artists like himself. Sadly, this charmed lifestyle ended with the stock market crash of 1929.
It became difficult for Bowers to find work at a time when photography was outpacing the demand for illustrators, and jobs turned to the not-as-lucrative world of portrait painting and illustrations for minor publications.
Garrabrant’s notes also detail the caring relationship he and his sister shared. Bower moved back to Collingswood, New Jersey in the early 1960s, and at age 87 he decided to buy a new lawn mower because he didn’t care for the way the neighborhood boys were cutting the grass. But he wasn’t strong enough to pull the cord. His sister, Trudi, “a youngster” at 75, would start the mower, and Morry would cut a little bit of grass each day, stretching it out so he would have something to do the next day. Maurice Lincoln Bower died at the age of 91 on October 4, 1980, one month to the day after the death of his beloved sister, Trudi.