A long-awaited new reference book on American illustration has just arrived. “Masters of American Illustration: 41 Illustrators & How They Worked” documents the life and work of a select group of Golden Age illustrators.
It’s a whopper of a book: 432 pages, 9 x 12 inches, and hundreds of high-quality color reproductions. Tipping the scale at six solid pounds, it’s enough to knock the wind out of anyone who tries to read it in bed.
The book was lovingly compiled by illustration historian Fred Taraba. It compiles the “Methods of the Masters” articles that Mr. Taraba wrote for the magazine Step-by-Step Graphics from 1989 to 2001. In this respect, it resembles its 1946 predecessor “Forty Illustrators and How They Work,” which was a compilation of biographical articles that Ernest Watson wrote for Art Instruction / American Artist magazines.
The book leaves out the most famous illustrators, such as Howard Pyle, Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker, Maxfield Parrish and N. C. Wyeth. The author admits that the lack of these big-brand names made it hard to find a publisher at first, until the project was championed by Dan Zimmer, publisher of Illustration magazine.
But plenty of ink has already been spilled on the headline illustrators. American illustration had a very deep bench. The people featured in this new collection, such as Saul Tepper, Mead Schaeffer, Pruett Carter, and Alice Barber Stephens, well deserve the attention.
Unlike a lot of art books, where long-winded writing crowds out the art, the pictures occupy plenty of page space, and most of the images have never been seen before. In the case of virtuoso John Gannam, for instance, we get to see not only his finished paintings, but also tearsheets, studio photos, thumbnail sketches, and color studies. The attention to working methods makes the book a useful tool for art students, and for illustration enthusiast who want to peek behind the curtain.
Subjects include: Constantin Alajalov, McClelland Barclay, Walter Baumhofer, Harry Beckhoff, Rudolph Belarski, Wladyslaw T. Benda, Walter Biggs, Franklin Booth, Austin Briggs, Arthur William Brown, Margaret Brundage, Charles Livingston Bull, Gilbert Bundy, Pruett Carter, Matt Clark, Walter Appleton Clark, Will Crawford, F.O.C. Darley, Joe DeMers, Albert Dorne, Robert Fawcett, James Montgomery Flagg, John Gannam, Edwin Georgi, Earl Oliver Hurst, John LaGatta, Andrew Loomis, Orson Lowell, Neysa McMein, Wallace Morgan, Rose O’Neill, Herbert Paus, Edward Penfield, Coles Phillips, Garrett Price, Norman Price, Mead Schaeffer, Alice Barber Stephens, Saul Tepper, Jon Whitcomb, and Coby Whitmore.
The price of $44.95 is also inviting to any budget-conscious student. You can buy it directly from Dan Zimmer at Illustrated Press (with free shipping), from select retail outlets, or from Amazon. The book will be officially unveiled at ComicCon later this month.
Masters of American Illustration: 41 Illustrators and How They Worked
The Illustrated Press, where you can preview the whole book