Friday, April 10, 2009

Lovell's Soldier

When American illustrator Tom Lovell (1909-1997) painted the standing soldier for The Continental Insurance Company, he researched the weapons and costume at a museum and did a charcoal study from a nude figure to understand the pose. The studies appear surrounding the finished illustration in this page from an article in North Light Magazine.

Here's how Lovell himself described the process:
The requirement here was to create an heroic, slightly larger than life embodiment of a man who could be identified with dependability and authenticity and at the same time be real. This was done to replace the original trademark figure used for many years by the Continental Insurance Company.

Before consulting a model, I drew this basically strong figure, to be certain he would not be overpowered by his equipment. Research in depth was done at West Point Museum under the guidance of Col. Frederck P. Todd, then curator. The painting later won a gold medal at the Society of Illustrators Annual National Show.

Image is trademark of the Continental Life Insurance Companies.

Leif Peng's excellent illustration art blog "Today's Inspiration" has been doing a feature this week on Lovell , drawing from the 1956 American Artist profile by Norman Kent.

The material in this post was drawn an article "Tom, The Unswervable Lovell," in the North Light Collection, Volume 2, 1979, a compilation from the North Light Magazine.

Lines and Colors tribute to Lovell, link.


Unknown said...


Lovell is one of my all time favorite artists. Like you , I have his book , which is a constant source of inspiration and challenge.

But here is a point that I think generationaly we were not taught, especially when I was in school. And that is the depiction of the Heroic.

The conceptual view of the hero and gallant male figure was downplayed when I was in school as being cliched. Maybe it was an Art Center thing. I also look at the men of Andrew Loomis and illustrators like him were taught to idealize the form.

Of course the case could be made that photography took over the heroic, such as fashion ads and that illustrators shifted to the spectrum of to speak.

I am seeing a return to this and the resurgence of Animated features has injected new life to those who are skilled at drawing. Men like Lovell and Loomis are sought out for their art knowledge again!

Do you remember how animation virtually died in the late seventies and early eighties?

Victor said...

I think it's interesting that he did an unclothed study even for such a mundane pose. I wonder what important nuances were visible in the nude study that couldn't have been observed by going directly to a clothed figure. Was he following the older academic process of drawing the unclothed figure from life, but posing the drapery on a mannequin?

armandcabrera said...


Great post on one of my favorite painters/illustrators. While I enjoy the Lovell book, the images in the back made me wish the book had just been on his illustrations instead of his fine art.


James Gurney said...

Frank--great observation about the heroic quality in Lovell's book, which reminds me of the movies of that era. I suppose that goes in cycles and we might see more of such idealism in the future.
Victor, he implies that he got other reference of the clothed figure later, but I don't know if it was photos or drawings. I think he did the nude study to get the action right.
Armand, yes, the Lovell book is made up of almost entirely of his Western work, which is nice, but I love the amazing range of his magazine illustration work even more.

Unknown said...

The great artists really do their homework!

Tom said...

hi James

I received a letter from Tom when I was 16 and on the first page he drew a man's head in three stages. From a ball and jaw line to the complete head in the third drawing with tone. Progressively adding detail. The first thing he said was construct what you want to draw, just like your illustration. Do you have a copy of the North Light publication? I think it would be a great blog entry.

nystudios said...

Not known to many, as its existence remained a mystery to me till quite recently, but there is a large collection of his work in the most unusual place. The Family Basha owns a vast array of grocery stores in AZ. Eddie Basha's aunt was an artist, and when he was a child would draw him pictures to keep him occupied. When he became a multi-millionaire from the grocery business, he and his aunt began to collect art. The entire collection no resides at the Bashas' corporate offices. They have nearly 1000 pieces of art, and pertinent to this conversation, they have several large scale Lovell's. What is even more fascinating, is that next to the large format paintings that they own, is the fact that they also display next to them the same size large format completely rendered charcoal drawings. Amazingly delicate in their rendering, and complete to the last detail.

The Bashas' Gallery is free:

Erik Bongers said...

Interesting thought that there is a 'cycle of idealism or heroism' in art.
Well, I guess even Obama adds his share in making a heroic pose fashionable again.
Or as it was said in the fair and balanced show 'The Colbert Report': "Noticed how in every photo, Obama seems to be 'looking into the future'?"

Timothy Tyler Artist said...

One of my artist friends met with and spoke to Mr Lovell & asked him many questions. He said he often used himself and posed in front of a mirror to get a hand or some body part quickly.

I bought his book, went home and read that he had died that day in Santa Fe.