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Weisman Museum Exhibits the Golden Age of American Illustration
Norman Rockwell, Dreaming of Adventure,
1924. Oil on canvas; 30 x 23 inches.
Courtesy of the Kelly Collection of
American Illustration © SEPS. Licensed
by Curtis Licensing. All Rights Reserved.
The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University will open its new exhibit, Illustrating Modern Life: The Golden Age of American Illustration from the Kelly Collection, on January 12 for a two-month run through March 31. A complimentary public reception will celebrate the exhibit's launch Saturday, Jan. 12, from 5 to 7 p.m.
Illustrating Modern Life features over 60 works from one of the most fascinating periods in American art. The Golden Age of American Illustration arose between 1880 and 1930, when revolutions in printing technology and mass mailing resulted in a meteoric rise of new magazines. Publishers and advertisers turned to illustrators to create eye-catching, hand-rendered paintings that would appeal to a growing public of modern consumers.
The original oil paintings, watercolors, and ink drawings in this exhibition, rarely seen on the West Coast, include some of the finest examples produced by the best artists of the genre. The art created by renowned talents such as Howard Pyle, N. C. Wyeth, J. C. Leyendecker, Maxfield Parrish, and Norman Rockwell has entered the pantheon of 20th century American culture and still captivates audiences today.
Pyle, regarded as the father of American illustration, invented the quintessential pirate character that still inspires movies over a century later. His student N.C. Wyeth (father of painter Andrew Wyeth) gained national fame for his paintings done for the Scribner's Illustrated Classics series of novels. The iconic imagery he created for books such as Treasure Island and Kidnapped helped establish the era's vogue for adventure stories.
Joseph Christian Leyendecker, Florist, 1920.
Oil on canvas; 20.25 x 19.5 inches.
Courtesy of the Kelly Collection of American
Leyendecker invented new urbane and stylish figures that captured the knowing sophistication of the modern era. He transformed both illustration and retailing by creating his Arrow Collar Man, a fictitious "celebrity" whose extraordinary popularity established the country's first national advertising campaign.
Rockwell, who began his career by emulating Leyendecker, captured the heart of the nation for decades with his keen sensitivity to the nuances of human behavior, which he used to create poignant depictions of life in small-town America.
"I am thrilled to bring a collection of such outstanding art to Southern California," said Michael Zakian, director of the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art and curator of the exhibition. "Like many Americans I remember seeing these artists in magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and in old books. To see the originals firsthand is a real treat. Most people will be surprised to discover that many of the works were rendered in a rich, painterly manner. Even though much of that effect was lost in the printing process, these illustrators saw themselves as fine artists. They took pride in their craft and wanted their work to meet the standards of the best painters from the past. It is particularly fascinating to see a group of paintings by Dean Cornwell. People in L.A. are familiar with his work through the monumental murals of California history that he did in the historic downtown Los Angeles Public Library in 1932."
Maed Schaeffer, The Count of Monte Cristo,
The Kelly Collection of American Illustration is regarded as one of the nation's largest and finest private holdings of this material. It was formed over the last 30 years by Richard Kelly, an individual respected in the field for his attention to quality and his commitment to documenting this period of art. He has earned the highest respect from colleagues in the field and was selected by Art & Antiques magazine as one of the top 100 collectors in America.
Illustrating Modern Life: The Golden Age of American Illustration from the Kelly Collection is accompanied by a hard-cover, 128-page exhibition catalog featuring an essay on the art by Zakian, as well as an interview with Kelly by David Apatoff, author of Robert Fawcett: The Illustrator's Illustrator; Albert Dorne, Master Illustrator; the forthcoming The Life and Art of Bernie Fuchs; and the popular blog Illustration Art.
Coles Phillips, The Magic Hour, 1924.
Gouache on paper, 20.5 x 15.5 inches.
Since its dedication in September 1992, the Weisman Museum of Art has established a reputation as one of Los Angeles' most respected small art museums. Illustrating Modern Life: The Golden Age of American Illustration from the Kelly Collection was organized by Zakian to mark the museum's 20th anniversary. For two decades the museum has engaged visitors through its insightful exhibitions, which have included Rodin's Obsession: The Gates of Hell (2001), Wayne Thiebaud: Works from 1955-2003 (2003), Claes Oldenburg: Drawings (2004), Chihuly Los Angeles (2005), Jim Dine: Some Drawings (2007), and Roy Lichtenstein: In Process (2011). Illustrating Modern Life is part of the Weisman Museum's new Program for Contemporary Realism, which will look at the sources and state of representational art today.
Works are on view at the Weisman Museum in the Gregg G. Juarez Gallery, West Gallery, and Ron Wilson-Designer Gallery. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is closed on Mondays and major holidays. There is no admission charge.
For more information, call (310) 506-4851 or visit the Weisman Museum website.