Like another female illustrator from 1950's Chicago, Joyce Ballentyne, who can claim a long-standing American icon as her own (she created the Coppertone girl), Lucia is responsible for the 1950's redesign of the Morton Salt girl as she would appear on millions of packages throughout that decade.
I found two ads from the 50's of the Morton Salt girl - but this one, from 1952, looks like it came out of the Sundblom studio (or perhaps it is also by Ballentyne).
I thought I had hit the jackpot with this 1957 ad... but Will Nelson, who worked alongside Lucia during those days tells me, "[This] Morton Salt girl looks like a version done after Lucia's ...hers was more of an outline technique. This one could have been done by any number of illustrators around Chicago in the fifties."
Nonetheless, all these pieces are great examples of the type of work top illustrators in Chicago like Lucia Lerner might have been expected to do.
Some time ago I spoke with another Chicago artist, Carl Kock, who began his career at Stephens, Biondi, DeCicco in the late 50's. As Carl put it, he did not fit the mold of the typical commercial artist who could draw "good-looking people standing next to a refrigerator". His work was too avante garde, too stylized. But this was the type of work Lucia excelled at. It was the sort of high paying, high profile work SBD wanted its artist to do, and that made Lucia a valuable commodity for SBD's salesmen.
Will Nelson writes, "Hotpoint was one of the accounts we had for quite some time. Lucia was always in demand in the ad agencies. The sales people were always trying to get her for their respective accounts."
"Her studio was the only one with a private counter and sink....the rest of us shared individual two man studios. You knew you had "arrived" when you were placed on the north side of the building."
For those of us working in commercial art today its a point of interest to hear how similar - or different - the circumstances of payment were half a century ago. We've learned in previous posts that at the Cooper studio in New York the artists were free to keep all the money earned from editorial assignments -- the studio took no commission at all. And at Rahl studios, where Andy Virgil worked, in-house artists received 60% of commissions while the studio took 40%.
Will explains the circumstances at SBD in those days:
"All of the staff artists were on commission...no salaries, but very comfortable "draws". From my stand point....my monthly draw was like a salary, which was brought up to par with quarterly updates...referred to as extra draws which picked up the additional amounts credited to my account from billing activity. I was fortunate in that I was always ahead of the amount of my draw."
"The sales rep [at SBD] was Vince Salerno and he was always crossing swords with Lucia over fees quoted. She had her own idea about what her work was worth...and held her ground until she got it."
"Like I said earlier, she was a class act."
*You'll find the full size versions of today's images in my Lucia Flickr set.