John Cuneo

By the 1950s, the conditions that led to the "golden age of American illustration" had worn thin.

The invention of halftone engraving and quality color reproduction, the rise of deluxe magazines pumped by advertising dollars and an insatiable reading public all created fertile soil for golden age illustrators such as Howard Pyle, Leyendecker, Parrish, Cornwell, Rockwell and hundreds of others.

But in the 1950s, magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, Liberty and Life were dying out. Tastes (and advertising revenues) shifted away from print media.  Gone were the well funded illustration campaigns for Arrow shirt collars and Ford automobiles.

As illustrator Austin Briggs recalled:
It was during the fifties that a healthy revolt against the slick, photograph-oriented illustration then in vogue really began to gather adherents.  This revolution was accelerated by the demise of several national periodicals in a losing competition with television for presentation of fictional escapism.  Other floundering publications sought salvation in acquiring a new image-- anything different and strident enough to retain the attention of a wavering public.  These conditions produced an opportunity for the illustrator to be truly creative with a freedom from the restraints of the past never before experienced.
The upcoming show at the Delaware Art Museum begins with this Great Thaw.  Initially, the field of illustration seemed to split into two main categories: illustrators who continued to portray narrative content in the tradition of Howard Pyle or Norman Rockwell, but with bold new styles, and illustrators who worked in a more symbolic and conceptual mode.

To represent this division, I have chosen the work of Bernie Fuchs to convey the first category and the work of Milton Glaser to convey the second category.

In the decades following this initial split, illustration fragmented into a wider variety of applications, functions and styles.  I have selected six great illustrators to represent some of the most important categories:
sequential art-- Mort Drucker
narrative and conceptual art-- Sterling Hundley
character design-- Peter de Seve
animation -- Ralph Eggleston
illustration and gallery painting-- Phil Hale
editorial pen and ink-- Cuneo
For each of these eight master artists, the show will present a number of splendid original works.

Ralph Eggleston was production designer on the brilliant Pixar film, Wall-E


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