Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Drivers and Lampmen

A few weeks ago I posted some images from Century Magazine—some J. C. Leyendecker illustrations that have impressed me for a long while.

As if imagery like that wasn't enough for one issue of a magazine in 1920, there is an amazing pictorial piece that follows it on the next few pages. It's grayscale work, but it is gorgeous drawing, and the subject is very interesting as well.

Thornton Oakley (1881-1955) was one of Howard Pyle's crew. Nineteen years old in that magical year of 1900, he was the right age to join Pyle's school, and the right age to take full advantage of it. Not only did Oakley get a career, but he also found a wife among Pyle's students, whose name may now be more famous than his—Violet Oakley—but we'll look at her work another time.

Thornton Studied with Pyle for three years. (After studying architecture—This combination of skills helped out a few very successful illustrators, including Maxfield Parrish) The work Oakley did afterward often had a real industrial bend to it, and there was lots of work with the War efforts in both World Wars. Shipyards, Railroads, Utilities, and some mural work. A writer/Illustrator, he did work on many of the periods best magazines, and like Pyle, he became a teacher, staying in the Philadelphia area his entire life.

This particular group of images in on rail-yard work. Titled "In The Railway Yard, Pictures by Thornton Oakley." FOUR FULL PAGES of a popular magazine, devoted to nothing other than displaying some beautiful narrative drawings. Can you imagine?

I imagine they were fairly large charcoal drawings. If anyone out there knows anything about them, what became of them, where they are now, please drop a line and let us know. I leave you with this quote—

"Illustration is the highest type of pictorial art ... because illustration is simply a pictorial MAKING CLEAR, and if a picture makes clear a message in a big way, it is an illustration, whether it be made for magazine, book, mural decoration, or exhibition."
Thornton Oakley, 1923

More info on Oakley —
Papers from the Delaware Art Museum, and source of a good deal of this info-

A look at a color Oil Tanker,

Kind of makes me want to draw the old switch Tower at Mineola....

See ya next week.


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