Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bingham's Advertising Art: "Realism Plus"

"The January editorial of this magazine [discussed] the move toward realism in advertising and editorial art," writes Stephen Baker in the March 1953 issue of Art Director and Studio News under the headline Realism Plus. "To most clients," he goes on to say, " 'realism' means one thing: photographic reproduction of nature. Art directors, familiar with various techniques, know that this isn't necessarily so."

The desire by art directors of the 50's to find interesting and appealing twists on the realism demanded by clients was likely one reason James R. Bingham had so many ad accounts. Bingham's style of realism was not the photographic realism of a Douglass Crockwell or an Earl Mayan. Nor was it the romantic, idealized realism perfected by some of the Cooper artists. Bingham's realism had a sort of super-constructed, designed-to-perfection orderliness. It was "realism plus"!

Whether dealing with the natural or the man-made world, Bingham put his distinct style on every element in the artwork world his people inhabited.

This distinction makes even an unsigned Bingham, like the one below, instantly recognizable.

Looking back to the mid-forties (below), when Bingham was painting with a greater degree of naturalism, it only takes a squint of the eye to see his style of a decade later beginning to emerge.

These images have been added to my James R. Bingham Flickr set.


  1. The woman in the Western Electric ad -- fourth row back, second from the left: I just know that she's worried about her date that night -- what if Harold pops the question? Is he the one? you can sense her inner struggle.

    Man, Bingham had a great sense of design -- I'm sure that the art directors had major input, especially in the ad work, but his sense of just how much detail to put in; that's his. I still think his spots -- the b&w & one color editorial pieces -- are his most impressive work.

  2. Neil; I know, those Western Electric ads are mind-boggling, aren't they? I imagine Bingham painting all those wires and circuit doohickies in that electrical panel, or all those operator ladies, thinking to himself, "only twenty to go, only nineteen to go, only eighteen to go... god, if this job didn't pay so well...!"

    On those spots from the other day: agreed :-) We'll look at some nice related material tomorrow!