Wednesday, 10 May 2017
Jon and his succulent ladies
Regular readers of ladies consumer magazines of forties, fifties and sixties will be familiar with the art of Jon Whitcomb, either through his paintings for their editorial pages or the ads. His forte was the female face and the book has page after page of spreads from Collier's, McCall's, Ladies Home Journal, Redbook and especially Cosmopolitan where he illustrated romantic fiction with a large female face or partial figure and a man always involved. To a certain extent he seems to have been type-cast for this role, the paintings were that good. Not just ladies' faces but children too, pages 146--151 has eighteen covers he did for Good Housekeeping in 1940 and '41. Later pages have eighteen Cosmopolitan covers some of which are portraits of movie stars. Whitcomb was obviously in demand by ad agency Art Directors to use his face technique for selling, in particular Community Plate used the art for years to sell their cutlery (eighteen ads are shown).
The book reveals his life with a thirty page illustrated essay followed by work examples. It's the magazine fiction spreads that I liked best, if only there were more. I thought the weakest pages were the forty-two titled 'Jon Whitcomb's Page' from Cosmopolitan during the fifties. Such was his fame that the magazine gave him a page in each issue to illustrate how he liked, the art here is much more casual than the tight compositions used in the fiction or ad illustrations.
Overall an excellent book about this well known commercial illustrator, I doubt there will be a better one though I have a couple of comments about the production. The binding is too tight so that the book really doesn't open flat and the pages sort of close themselves if the book is left open, Auad Publishing with illustrator titles on Al Parker or Albert Dorne have much more user friendly binding. Lots of the reproduced editorial spreads exist as two pages with a quite noticeable white gap between each page, they should have been butted together to make an acceptable spread, a quick bit of Photoshop would have solved this.