Wednesday, March 2, 2016

New Dean Cornwell Book

Most of the books about Golden Age illustrators have been produced by a very small number of ardent fans working out of their homes or understaffed offices, and creating quality books as labors of love. Dan Zimmer, of The Illustrated Press, is one of those people.

Zimmer has published an extraordinary book on The Art of Dean Cornwell. I'll tell you upfront that the book was produced as a limited edition and sold out before I received my copy, so unfortunately you can only get one on the secondary market.

Measuring 9x12 inches with 224 pages, the book resembles some of the other books in the Golden Age series published by the Illustrated Press. Although it has a complete biographical summary of Cornwell's life and working methods, the emphasis is on the art itself, with over 260 published full page and in full color, almost entirely from the original paintings and drawings.

Cornwell was born in Kentucky, the son of an engineer who tragically became deranged after being hit by a streetcar. Cornwell came to New York and studied under Harvey Dunn. His early paintings are notable for their drama and mysterious tonal organization. His skills in drawing and mural design, honed after an apprenticeship with Anglo-Welsh artist Frank Brangwyn, brought about a stylistic evolution that favored a more colorful and patterned work in his later career.

A few years ago, I produced a video showing some blurry but fascinating footage of Cornwell at work. (Link to YouTube)

The previous book on Cornwell from a few decades ago, called Dean Cornwell: Dean of Illustrators, has fewer images, and they're generally not as well reproduced as those in this book. Hopefully the success of this venture will encourage another publisher to do a book on Cornwell, or will embolden a museum to give him a much-needed solo museum exhibition.

If you're interested in future books from the Illustrated Press, be sure to get on their mailing list so that you can get notice in advance of publication. Also, check out The Illustrated Press quarterly magazine on illustration history.

The Art of Dean Cornwell from the Illustrated Press
My YouTube video about Cornwell's method
Dean Cornwell Wikipedia


Paul Sullivan said...

Hi James—
Thanks for the excellent post regarding the new book on Dean Cornwell. Cornwell has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. Also, thanks for including the video of Cornwell painting. The painting he is working on in the video is one of his illustrations from the first edition of the novel,"The Robe". I think it is one of his best. I saw the original when I was in high school and it knocked me cold. The complete set of his "Robe" illustrations were on tour as a promotion for the movie.

You are right. The new book has the best reproductions of Cornwell's work that I have ever seen. He worked in several styles during his life time. In fact, there are three different styles in his mural work alone. Many believe his early work is some of his best. Generally, it is looser and more painterly. It had his characteristic bold brush work and excellent draftsmanship along with many spontaneous passages.

Bil Hardenberger said...

Unfortunately it is showing as sold out.

Tom Hart said...

We owe Dan Zimmer a real debt of gratitude for what he does. I have to be selective about the Illustration quarterlies that I order (although they really are fairly priced), but I've never regretted ordering a single one.

HNK said...

Sadly, people among me tend not to like Golden Age Illustration. Thank you for the information on the book. I love Dean Cornwell's works.