Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Anderson's Brother & Sister Covers

In 1949, illustrator Harry Anderson did a series of covers for Woman's Home Companion featuring a blond-haired brother having fun with his brunette sister. 

Anderson was a specialist in painting children for the women's magazines. The covers in this series are consistently well drawn and full of Anderson's generous and playful spirit. 

Harry Anderson (1906-1996) painted in gouache or casein because he was allergic to oil. If you want to see more examples of his work, check out the online collection by Jim Pinkoski.


Jim Douglas said...

Critics often write off Anderson's sort of magazine cover illustration as overly sentimental and twee. While it pains me to ignore Anderson's mastery of composition, color, character, storytelling, etc., when I compare these covers to paintings made during the same time period by Willem de Kooning or Francis Bacon, they do appear inferior on some level.

All three artists produce images that are emotionally charged, yet only de Kooning and Bacon are taken seriously in the fine art world for their challenging statements. Why are Anderson's accessible and popular images slighted? Must images be raw, bleak, jarring, terrific, grotesque to be acclaimed? I don’t think it’s quite that simple, because Botticelli's Birth of Venus for example, while it shares many “lovely” characteristics with Anderson’s covers, receives the respect of art historians. Why do Anderson’s images lack depth??

gyrusdentus said...

James, great and informative post. Thankyou. Unbelievable what can be done with gouache.

Jim, asking for the lack of appreciation in the art world is a tough call or depressing respectively.
Why does someone painting a red square deserve 3 million for it?
I agree with your attitude towards Anderson´s paintings and was so struck with awe that i actually decided to write a post.

Tom Hart said...

This posting and the link to Jim Pinkoski's great site make my day. Perhaps depth, like beauty, is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I find depth in Anderson's work, an evocation of a time and place. Anderson's painting's have a narrative, sometimes mundane, but in other cases, without the context of the story or article, may invite the viewer to provide a narrative of varying complexity. I'm fascinated by his style and technique too, and for me that's a kind of depth that compels me to look at many of the paintings again and again.

Rich said...

Great stuff:
Just revisiting the first "Companion" cover here, with the two companions:
How for instance the boy's swimming-suit-pattern suits the starfish; and the way his pose takes up the wave's undulations on the shore.
The overall composition! What a blithe refreshing atmosphere is conveyed here: what skills of line and color.

The whole cover takes me on a holiday.
So telling it is!

Carole Pivarnik said...

Thanks for posting this and the link to the online collection of his work.

Anderson is my favorite illustrator from that time. There is just something beautiful in his brushwork, use of color, composition, and (most importantly perhaps) the wonderfully conveyed emotions on his subjects' faces. His paintings always tell a great story; I just love them.

James Gurney said...

Jim, I used to worry about that until I realized that there's no Critical Establishment out there somewhere. It's just a lot of different writers sharing what they like, and I'm one of them. So if you occasionally find artists you admire on my blog, it doesn't matter what anyone else says or doesn't say about them.

Some have argued that critics don't matter in this post-modern world; only auction prices matter. By that theory, Rockwell's "Saying Grace" ends up on a par with just about anyone else you can think of.

Carole, I agree, and accomplishing the subtle gradations of flesh and hair is no small accomplishment in gouache.

Rich, yes, and it's impressive on the starfish one how much he simplifies the water.

Tom, yes, it's a light narrative compared to the interior pieces. I like the way he showed them having fun together without sibling rivalry.

John Foster said...

Love his work, love the post. Thanks.