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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Phil Hays: An unknown known

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

How in the world could Phil Hays have been so entirely unknown to me until this past week? Because I have only this week heard his name and seen his work for the very first time.


But it turns out Philip Harrison Hays was very well know to a great many people (perhaps including you). Hays' illustrations from various 1956 issues of Cosmopolitan magazine are the only ones I've ever come across... but apparently he did quite a bit of work for magazines in the 50's.


Not only did Hays illustrations appear in such magazines as Cosmo, Esquire, Fortune and McCall's, but he did high profile advertising work for American Airlines, Coca-Cola and Columbia Records, among others.


Some aspects of Hays' style reminds me very much of Jack Potter's work, and this passage from Phil Hays' obituary in the NY TImes confirms my feelings:

"In the mid-1950's Mr. Hays was one of a young band of expressive and interpretative illustrators, including Robert Weaver, Jack Potter, Tom Allen and Robert Andrew Parker, who, rather than paint or draw literal scenes based entirely on an author's prose, interpreted texts with an eye toward expressive license."


Phil Hays won many prestigeous awards over the years and was the chairman of the illustration department of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California at the time of his death in 2005.

* Today's images can be seen at full size in my Phil Hays Flickr set.

12 comments

  1. Wow! Simply amazing. He's already become a favorite of mine.
    Thank you so much.

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  2. Tris Mast1:00 AM

    Thanks for sharing these. I grew up admiring the Phil Hays illustrations that I would see in New York Art Directors' Annuals from the late '50s.

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  3. susi and tris mast; you're very welcome... I'm glad you've enjoyed seeing these. :-)

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  5. Hope you find more Leif---i'm familiar with the bus illo (from one of the period's art annuals) but have never come across any thing else by Hayes until your post....

    Thanks---ZT

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  6. Thanks for adding all that, Tom. I found a few of Hays' later, more famous pieces while researching him on the internet and I must confess I really like this early stuff a lot more. But times changed, and its to Hays' credit that he continued to grow and stay current.

    Still, I'd be thrilled to find more of his work from this period. Its VERY inspiring stuff!

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  7. Zach; you can rest assured that I'll be keeping an eye out for more early Phil Hays pieces to share with everyone. Thanks for commenting!

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  8. In 1958 and 1959 Phil Hayes was one of the hottest young illustrators in the business. He combined stylized line drawing, decorative textural effects, limited high impact color and innovative avant garde compositions. As an illustration student in the late 50's, we put Phil Hayes in the same prestigious category as Jack Potter, Bob Peak, Thomas Allen and Robert Weaver... as Leif also made the comparison.

    In my art book collection, I found that 8 illustrations by Phil Hayes were accepted into the 1959 Illustrator's Annual Show... only two other illustrators exceeded Hayes that year, by only one illustration. In 1968 / 69, he had no illustrations in the Annual Show. In 1974, he had one illustration (still life) of a vintage root beer float mug with a straw in it... completely different from his earlier stylized decorative work.

    At the peak of his career, whether editorial or advertising illustration, Phil Hayes was one of those illustrators that dared think outside the box... therefore an inspiring pioneer in my opinion.

    Tom Watson

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  9. Leonard Herbster12:39 PM

    In the early 70's I was a friend of Phils when I got a call form another friend telling me that Phil was toughing out all his art work in the garbage I ran over to his loft on Broadway and 4th street to save what I could but only saved one painting that he did in oil. The Eat a Peach Allmond brothers art was gone along with Eric Clapton and Babe Ruth and a whole lot more. I don't know what ever happened to it all if any of it ever was found.
    I still have the one painting and would like to sell it.

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  10. Leonard, that's an incredible story - what a tragedy that all that artwork was lost. I can't help you out with the sale of your painting, but I would suggest you take the piece to the Illustration House ( if you are still in NY ). Their link is in the sidebar of this blog. Likewise, I would recommend Heritage Auctions (ha.com) or illustration art dealer Mitch Itkowitz (graphiccollectibles.com)

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  11. losinglouie10:33 AM

    Thank you for your posts. Phil's work is amazing. I am fortunate enough to have two of his original pieces. I have posted the images on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/53836550@N04/5416764977/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/53836550@N04/5416756181/

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  12. Thank you for such a GREAT article!

    I was doing research and your information helped me out so much. It's a long story (interesting enough that I'm writing a book) but anyway, I have a sketch book that belonged to him while he attended art classes.

    His along with many other students who attended the same school.

    The sketches are beautiful and it only took a second for me to realize I had to look him up.

    Thanks again for the info! Too bad, I would have liked to give him the sketches.

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