Monday, October 22, 2007

Henry Koerner (1915-1991)

Robert C. Atherton didn't only hire well known illustrators to handle the story assignments in Cosmopolitan. He hired lesser known and entirely unknown artists as well. For instance, I'm willing to bet that, like me, most of Cosmo's readers had never heard of Henry Koerner.

But just because he is unknown to some of us doesn't mean he wasn't well known to many others. Koerner was a fine artist and an illustrator and had a long and storied career. A thorough biography and some examples of his work can be found here.

Not long after Robert Atherton hired him for this assignment in Cosmo, Koerner began doing covers for Time magazine - and this online archive of Koerner's cover illustrations is well worth taking a look at.

If you'd like to take a closer look at these pieces, you'll find full size versions in my Henry Koerner Flickr set.


  1. Seems like Cosmo and Atherton used complete freedom in picking illustration approaches in the 50's. Henry Koerner's work reminds me of Henry Pitz and some of the earlier sketchy pen and ink illustrators. Although spontaneous and loose in technique, they used traditional straight forward compositions... certainly less innovative in approach, than the recent examples of Parker, Briggs or Whitmore's illustrations. Cosmopolitan Magazine in the 50's, seemed to graphically have something for everyone.

    Studying all these illustrations from the mid 1900's, carefully and with an open mind, is truly an education in the meaning of diversity and individuality in illustration. Thanks again, Leif.

    Tom Watson

  2. week starting and looks very interesting, time to learn :)

  3. I love the sketchy linework and expressive figure drawing here. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks to you all for your comments! Tom, its very interesting to me to see the shift as the 50's progressed to art directors embracing the work of people like Koerner and Phil Hays. The design of Koerner's pieces may be less innovative than the usual illustrators, but I sense that he and these others we've been discussing were influencing the established commercial artists more so than the other way around, don't you think?

    Pablo; yes, we are hopefully both learning a lot this week!

    jed; that sketchy line is something I always think of coming from David Stone Martin - but there's a wonderful honesty in koerner's work as well that I really admire.

  5. Love his work.
    More here...

  6. It's great to find this.
    I was a student of Henry's in 1986 or 87 in Pittsburgh. I was very young and thought he was the most crazy teacher I ever had. It wasn't until a year after I had him as a teacher that I started to see what he was trying to teach me. Such is youth.