Friday, October 12, 2007

Keith Ward (1906-2000)

Yesterday I was contacted by a new visitor to the blog who asked if I had any art or information on Keith Ward. As it happens, Ward was one of the very first artists whose work I scanned back when I began Today's Inspiration.

Keith Ward had a remarkable range of styles, from realistic to cartoony. I love how he managed to blend those qualities in his work when clients called for it. The result, like the refrigerator ad above, are so wonderfully appealing... its no surprise that Ward was in such high demand with advertising clients.

Initially, I noticed Ward's signature on a long series of ads for U.S. Steel. The look of these ads really is the epitome of that 1940's "Fun with Dick and Jane" style. And no wonder -- Keith Ward is the illustrator of the 1940 edition of the "Dick and Jane" book.

During the 50's it seems the Keith Ward was called upon more for his cartoon styles than his realistic ones. He did advertising art for Armstrong Tires,

Fram Oil Filters,


...and perhaps most famously for Borden, where his long series of ads featuring Elsie the Cow and her family are long-remembered and well loved.

Most surprising to me was finding this article Keith ward illustrated for Outdoor Life.

Here his style looks almost like Jack Davis... and perhaps reveals an element of the artist's true nature already hinted at by his other more commercial work.

Ward once said, "I have fun. There is that inner spark of excitement with each painting. I cannot imagine myself as being bored!"

Later in his life, Keith Ward did easel paintings of landscapes and portraits described as being "impressionistic". His later work is represented by The Stewart Galleries.

* All of today's images and several more can be found in my Keith Ward Flickr set.


  1. Nice illustrations, specially the dinos and others animals :), remids me Ken Hultgren and his animals drawings.
    Have a nice weekend

  2. Thanks for your nice pages, Leif! Keith Ward illustrated a large serie of signed ads featuring the "Rhino" character for Armstrong Tire & Rubber Co. Also I recommend to visit another nice blog where you will find a surprise linking Ward and the work of Walt Disney Studios on 70s. Ward was more than an inspiration! (see:
    Continue to rescue memories, Leif!
    Pablo from Barcelona, Spain

  3. Thank you both for your comments - and for the additional info on Keith Ward. :-)

  4. Thank you so much for posting this! As a child I was fascinated by dinosaurs and I would always search through the new Saturday Evening Post to find & cut out Mr. Ward's reptiles. I never nkew who did the art. This is a genuine blast from the past!

  5. That's great to hear, buzz - I appreciate you leaving a comment about it! :-)

  6. Mask collectors know Keith Ward as the designer behind dozens of rubber Halloween masks produced by Topstone Industries in Danbury, CT, during the 1950s-1980s.

    Here is a link to a 1960 Topstone product catalog containing lots of Keith Ward llustrations:

    And here is my collection of original Topstone masks.

  7. Thanks for the links, Ray - you've helped expand our awareness of the breadth of Ward's career. Much appreciated! :^)

  8. Is anybody aware of a wonderful children's book that Ward did in the late 30's or early 40's, which at that time his style was a cross between Vernon Grant and Walt Kelly, beautiful stuff!

  9. Anonymous8:29 PM

    I have a Keith Ward original painting. Mr. Ward was a guest in my mother-in-law's art class when she attended UNLV in the 80's. I now own the painting and am looking to sell it. Can you refer me to collectors whom would be interested?

    1. Anonymous3:38 PM

      What is the painting of? I am interested.

  10. Thanks for this gathering of Keith Ward’s work. I just found a copy of Elsie’s Cook Book with his illustrations and went in search of his name. Elsie thanks him in the book’s dedication: “And for Keith Ward, who has painted just oodles of pictures of me and my family, a big hug and a kiss — already delivered.”

  11. My mom taught with Ward and I have several portraits that he did of me as a child. He told my parents that he became a commercial illustrator (not portrait artist) because he needed an income and real job.

  12. Anonymous8:11 AM

    Is this the illustrator who did the series of 12 dog head drawings (prints) for Sargeant's Dog Care Products, Richmond, PA? Thanks.

  13. marilyn7:46 PM

    Hello I found this link when trying to research the illustrator of a large vintage "Linen" book of The Night Before Christmas. His illustrations are delightful in this Christmas Book and I am happy to know more about him. Thank You!
    p.s. I am enjoying everyone's comments as well. He touched alot of lives and definitely left his mark on the world!

  14. Anonymous12:52 PM

    I have two Child Life Magazines from December 1943 and 1944, with wonderful Santa covers by Keith Ward. In the '43 one he is crazily driving a jeep to deliver his toys - it was WWII era after all. I'm sure it must be the same illustrator.

  15. Did this Keith Ward do the original illustrations for "The Black Stallion" books? They were fabulous and I'm trying to find out more.

  16. Keith and Peg Ward were close friends of my late in-laws when they
    lived in New Canaan, Ct. They were also very active in the New Canaan
    Town Players.
    I would like to researach the value of a painting Keith did for my father-in-law. The oil painting of a seascape is dated 1988 and was given
    to my father-in-law on his 86th Birthday. I am hoiping to find a reliable
    art appraiser who is familiar with his work. Many thanks.

  17. If anyone knew Keith Ward during his time in Connecticut, I would like to talk to them. I am particularly interested in the period from the late 1940s through the early 1960s, when he was in the mask business.
    My email is raycastile at aol dot com.

  18. Anonymous7:04 PM

    My mother who has recently passed away has one of Keith Ward Paintings... He gave it to her years ago when he came out and taught a art class at her home... I believe its a 20 X 24 oil painting... We will be selling it if your interested...