Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Atherton Challenges...?

Now who do you suppose could have drawn this assortment of unusual characters...?

Was it Robert Fawcett...?

Was it Alex Ross...?

Or perhaps Austin Briggs...?

Believe it or not, this is the work of Coby Whitmore, from the November 1953 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine.

If you needed convincing that Cosmo AD, Robert C. Atherton, was able to extract something different and edgy from the illustrators to whom he gave assignments, surely these pieces must do the trick.

I've seen a lot of work by Coby Whitmore... but I've never seen anything like this.

I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when his fellow artists in the neighbouring offices at the Cooper studios dropped in and saw him finishing up these pieces. I can only imagine they would have been surprised -- and impressed.

Because Coby Whitmore, versatile and accomplished as he was, really rose to the challenge when he produced this series. They are a testament to both the artist's skill and creativity - and a credit to the art director's willingness to foster an environment for that experimentation.

Many more (and more typical) illustrations by the artist in my Coby Whitmore Flickr set.


  1. Yeah...I had picked Robert Fawcett, but the cartoonishness of the faces didn't match with his ability per se. But then...this doesn't even faintly remind me of Whitmore either.

    Pretty dang cool.


  2. You certainly fooled me, although I do remember seeing some similar stuff done with the white blocks of gesso on masonite board lying around his studio many years later. While he did sometimes sketch in a similar style, he rarely turned in anything as raw as these. Great find!

    I still have plans to get some scans over to you, just never seem to catch up around here, but one of these days…

    Thanks again for a great blog.

    Tom Whitmore

  3. shane; when I saw those hands on the third figure it immediately made me think of Fawcett. I'm glad I was not alone in flashing on him - glad you like 'em!

    Tom; I'm pleased to have found something new for you by your dad. Thanks for commenting. :-)

  4. Well Leif, I would have never guessed Coby Whitmore, but I thought the first one especially, might be an early Robert Weaver. Weaver's stuff was linear, scrubby paint strokes and his drawing was kind of funky... almost like it was done with his left hand.

    Atherton must have said to Whitmore... "Coby, I want you to do something that is totally out of character for you. No traditional rendering of the form, no academic drawing and no typical props. Make it powerful, modern and think gallery painting."

    It would be interesting to have given the top 10 illustrators of the 50's, exactly the same assignment and let them run with it... bet the results would be astonishingly different, each with excellent unique results.

    Tom Watson

  5. wow what a well of illustration-related information! Thank you.

  6. Tom;

    Its fun to imagine that conversation, isn't it? I didn't picture it quite like that, but I enjoyed reading how you think it might have played out.

    Not familiar with Robert waever - but I sure would love to see some of that
    scubby, funky, left-handed art you describe. Sounds great to me!

    lyndall-o; thanks for your comment and thanks even more for honouring me with a lyndall-o links award! I will be sure to display it prominently on my mantel. ;-)