Saturday, September 30, 2006

Famous Cigarette-Endorsing Artist

Try to imagine any national brand advertiser today thinking it would be a good idea to get an illustrator to endorse their product, since the public recognizes his name and loves his work. Its a highly unlikely scenario.

But it was a different world for the commercial artist of the 50's. Becoming a magazine illustrator was a very desirable goal - and not just for the paycheque. For the first half of the 20th century, illustrators were celebrities on par with stage and screen personalities, endorsing products, having articles written about them in mainstream magazines, and generally enjoying a kind of prominence in society that today's illustrator can only dream of.This ad for Fatima Cigarettes, featuring Jon Whitcomb serves to confirm that status once again. One has to imagine that the ad agency and their client considered many likely celebrity spokespeople; so for them to choose Jon Whitcomb suggests that they felt the public would know and admire him - which in fact is the case. Whitcomb was not only one of the most successful advertising and women's magazine story illustrators of the time, he also had a column in Cosmopolitan magazine called "Jon Whitcomb's Page" and of course, as the ad describes, he was a senior faculty member of the Famous Artists School, an art correspondence school that was so successful at the time that it made millionaires of all its founding members.

The mystery of Pall Mall illustrator Mal Murley is solved, thanks to a couple of people who went to the trouble of finding the information I was unable to locate: a biography and some other examples of his work can be found here. Thanks to bothJesse and Joe!

Finally, for those who would like to see many more scans of old cigarette ads, including many photo ads which I tend to ignore (this is, after all, an illustration blog) I recommend joining the excellent Flickr group Smooth Smoke Slogans that "Satisfy". You must get a free Flickr account and join the group to make many of the images visible due to an annoying Flickr rule.


  1. These days it would be artist endorsing: viagra...

  2. Is there something you haven't been telling us, M. Milot...? ;-)

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