Friday, March 23, 2007

Thornton Utz: Illustrating for the Saturday Evening Post

Ok, this might be my favourite Thornton Utz illustration... but let's not quibble.

Ashley Halsey, Jr., author of Illustrating for The Saturday Evening Post, used this April 1948 piece in his article on Thornton Utz. Of Utz's piece, Halsey writes,

"In the text, the young lady was wearing an expression of contentment and nothing more. Utz painted her just as the contentment changed to surprise at the apparition of the young man.
The expression was perfect. So were the details - too perfect, in fact. All she had around her was a towel and she hadn't gotten very far with it.
The art editors suggested that her natural beauties be somewhat more screened."

On the page above are some of the candidates doodled by Utz as potential screening devices for the young ladies "beauties" (vavoom!) -- though he ultimately elected to employ that time-tested favourite screening device of artists everywhere: mother nature herself.

Thornton Utz was born in Memphis, Tennessee and studied there, as well as in Chicago at the American Academy of Art. Though he later taught at the Chicago Art Institute, at the time of this painting, the article tells us, he was living in Westport, Connecticut - home to what must surely have been America's most concentrated cadre of famous illustrators. There he was friends with Harold von Schmidt and no doubt many others who worked and socialized together in that esteemed community. By the time Utz painted the three Post covers we looked at yesterday, he had moved his family to Sarasota, Florida. Walt Reed's excellent book, The Illustrator in America, tells us that "Utz eventually concentrated on paintings and commissioned portraiture, which included President Carter's family."

Thornton Utz's son, David, whom I had hoped to interview for this week's posts (though the timing, unfortunately, did not work out) is an artist, sculpter and graphic designer. He has a website which you can visit at this link.

As well, TI list member, Aron Gagliardo, the historian/archivist for The American Academy of Art in Chicago, sent a note earlier this week:

Nice to see you doing something on Thornton Utz. I've always wanted to see more of his work and learn more about him as our archives on him are somewhat slim. However, we have a small group of Post covers that he did and a beautiful original. You can see a picture of it at this link (3 down 3 over)

Finally, don't forget to take a look at these and all the other pieces in my Thornton Utz Flickr set.


  1. Thornton Utz's painting of the young lady in the towel is just amazing. i love her expression. that is something i'm goi ng to have to practice.

  2. Glad to read your post on Thornton Utz. I have not been able to find much about him online. He was a personal friend of a relative and I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with him on a few occasions, one which I chauffeured he and his wife to, and toured with, the Walker Art Center and Mpls Institute of Art. It was when he was studying for his paintings of people in art museums. It was pretty interesting hearing his perspective on the work of his contemporaries that was hanging in these two museums. Nothing negative, but rather behind the scenes personal recollections.