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.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some scarce Harry Clarke

If the name Harry Clarke (1890-1931) triggers any visual memories for you, it is likely that the images are a bit on the disturbing side. While Clarke did a number of projects in his short career that are worth recalling, there is one that stands head and shoulders among the rest. Clarke did an amazing illustrated edition of Tales of Mystery and Imagination, by Edgar Allan Poe, in 1919. It sold so well that the original publisher released an expanded edition with even more art by Clarke just a few years later. (The top image is from this second run at Poe) It has become the measuring stick against which all other illustrated versions of Poe are measured. It is also Clarke's biggest claim to fame. Not that he didn't do other great work. His primary interest in his creative career was stained glass design, and his work is greatly prized by many locations in his native Ireland where it can still be found today. One look at the large flat areas in his ink work will lead an educated viewer to an understanding of why.

The work of Clarke's that remains largely accessible, however, is his book illustration. Clarke also did a Faust, a Hans Christian Andersen's Tales, and a Fairy Tales of Perrault. Most of these are scarce at best, with only his Poe seeing a reprint edition now and again. Unless you happen to live in the United Kingdom, it is pretty unlikely that you have seen any of his glass design. (*see below) Then I found this article—In a 1920 edition of The Studio—Not a very large text, but it did offer a look at three color panels of Clarke's glass work. The color is not great, but I can't pass up a chance to share these-The third and fourth images are from smaller, private glass commissions, and the last is a line drawing from The Playboy of the Western World. (Very last being a close up of the figures on top—just look at that patterning!) The oval piece is especially nice. Alas, like Poe himself, (and eerily, so many other brilliant creatives) Clarke would not live long into his 40's, dying of tuberculosis in 1931.

Find a bit more here-

The only authoritative work on Clarke-

* And keep an eye on this!-

Back soon-