Richard “Dick” Sargent

Richard Sargent 1954
Richard Sargent – 1954

Occupations: Artist, illustrator, portraitist

Schools: Moline High School, Moline Illinois Art School, Corcoran School of Art, Phillips Memorial Gallery

Studio Work: Printing and Engraving Plant, Advertising, Freelance

Art Genre: American Art

Marital Status/Family: Wife Helen and son Anthony

Richard “Dick” Sargent, one of The Saturday Evening Post’s most prolific illustrators, was a Midwesterner born in Moline, Illinois in 1911. His early career in art began just after his graduation from Moline High School, when he went to work for a local printing and engraving plant. While there, Sargent attended night classes at the Moline Illinois Art School, the foundation for his future career as an artist.

As his artistic prowess developed, he advanced further into creating professional artwork for advertising firms and later, a solo career as an artist and illustrator. The artist worked in advertising for over 20 years, starting in 1928, prior to making a name for himself as a freelance illustrator. During this time period, Sargent further honed his artistic skills by taking classes at both the Corcoran School of Art and the Phillips Memorial Gallery in Washington, D.C.

By the time Sargent headed out into the world to make a name for himself as a solo artist, he had started a family. They later provided inspiration for some of his most successful works of art. He married his sweetheart, Helen, and had a rambunctious, mischief-prone redheaded son named Anthony who was often depicted on the cover of The Post. The suburban life they built together established the perfect model for scenes of 1950s Baby Boomer households in everyday situations of suburban American life.

Boy discovers Santa outfit in attic trunk
Truth About Santa
Richard Sargent
December 15, 1951

In 1951, Sargent completed his first Saturday Evening Post cover, “Truth About Santa”, for the December 15th Christmas issue. While Sargent’s popularity grew through The Saturday Evening Post, he also received illustration work from magazines such as Fortune, Woman’s Day, Photoplay, and American Magazine. Americans adored Sargent and his art for the ability to show a pregnant scene with an open-ended conclusion that commented on the situational comedy of life.

In addition to his work as a magazine illustrator, Sargent also received special commissions that afforded him the opportunity to travel the world. In 1954, the USO sent Sargent to Korea to entertain troops fighting in the Korean conflict. He later remarked, “We’d put on civilian clothes to work in- the boys would get such a kick out of seeing somebody in good old stateside civvies.” He spent six weeks flying throughout the country where he met with American soldiers and created art for them to send home to loved ones.

Sargent caught the “travel bug” on his trip to Korea and again vacationed out of the North American continent to Paris, France in 1959. He used his wife as a model in many works he created there to highlight Parisian life and landmarks. By the 1960s, photography had taken the place of illustration in magazine cover art. This caused the couple to move to the Andalusia region of Spain to live out the rest of their days in peaceful retirement. Sargent died suddenly in 1978 at the age of 67.

Covers by Richard “Dick” Sargent

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Classic Covers: Richard Sargent

Doggy Buffet by Richard Sargent from January 5, 1957
January 5, 1957

Artist Richard Sargent (1911-1979) painted 47 Post covers between 1951 and 1962, when photographs were rapidly replacing magazine illustrations.

A Midwesterner, he was born and raised in Moline, Illinois, and went to art school there.

He later became quite the world traveler, but he always remembered the all-American folk back home and loved putting them in situations that tended to go awry.

Take, for instance, Sargent’s cover from November 1953 (below). Mr. Jones is feeling like a tin can in a trash compactor, but squeezing out of his car may be easier than explaining why he was late for work because he missed the 7:35a.m. train in to the city.

“The trouble with painters,” said Post editors of this 1953 cover, “is that they build up awful situations like this, then blithely start work on another cover, leaving the victims to get out of the mess, if possible.” And leaving the observer to wonder what happens next.

Artist Sargent was a master at the pregnant situation: Will the man above be able to squeeze out of his car and make the train? Will the dog at the buffet make off with the ham? Will the dog in this painting make a meal of the doctor?

When editors asked, “Sargent says he doesn’t know what will happen, because the dog’s hair is so long he can’t see the expression in his eyes.” The rat.

Violin Practice  by Richard Sargent from February 5, 1955
February 5, 1955

Sargent had three sons, starting with a redheaded moppet with a mischievous bent named Anthony–the inspiration for many a cover.

Apparently, Little Red’s skills have not reached a level tolerable even to himself in this 1955 cover. Sargent’s own redheaded son was grown by 1954 when an excited Sargent called a Post editor and said, “Well, what do you suppose happened to me?”

The staffer guessed, “Land a painting in the Metropolitan Museum?”

“Better than that!” Sargent cried. “Listen. I’m a little guy: five feet six, 125 pounds. Always wanted to be an athlete when I was a kid—always the last kid to be picked on a team. All my life I’ve yearned to be written up in the sports news. You know the Wykagyl golf course?” (This was a famous suburban New York club near Sargent’s home.) “Well, sir, you’re talking to a champion! Anthony and I just won the Father and Son championship!”

Richard Sargent 1954

Honestly, this guy couldn’t wait to share the family triumph with his friends at the Post. After sifting through biographical details about the artist, it seemed this little conversation told much more about the man.

Yep, confirmed the editors, the write-up in the New Rochelle paper detailed the duo’s spiffy score of net 66. So the Post ran its own photo of Sargent and family with the trophy.

The lively little redheaded Anthony was by then six feet three and playing golf in the low 80’s. Noting that his dad scored in the 90’s, the editors suggested “he plays better with a brush.”

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