Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Textbook Example: Jack Hearne

As excited as I was to find illustrations by Sandy Kossin and Ward Brackett in the textbook, "Widening Circles", I was even more thrilled to discover a great huge batch of drawings by Jack Hearne.

Long time readers may recall that I had previously posted a week of scans and some accompanying text about Hearne, much of it culled from an interview conducted by Jim Amash with Vic Dowd in Alter Ego magazine. Dowd wondered what might have become of Jack Hearne, an old friend with whom he'd lost touch many years earlier -- but who's work and accomplishments Dowd had always admired.

Well, in the ensuing months since that week of posts, I received an email from Jack Hearne's son, John.

I am always so delighted that, thanks to the internet, this blog has made it possible for all of us to rediscover what might have been lost over time: the artwork of an exciting and inspiring period in illustration-- and the stories of the people who created it. We've had the pleasure of sharing in some great memories thanks to the the artists (or their surviving family members) who have generously shared private details from their careers and lives.

Unfortunately, not every story has a happy ending.... and discovering the details of Jack Hearne's last years from John proved to be bitter sweet. I asked John if he would be willing to allow me to post his email to me in its entirety, and he very graciously agreed. "I appreciate you asking," he wrote back, "and yes, you can post my letter verbatim. It is simply "what happened":

I should tell you that the work you had uncovered has renewed my entire family's love of Jack's work, and brought back some very fond memories for all of us. For that, I'd like to say a heart felt thank you.

Since I was the youngest of four, the closest in age to me being a sister 9 years older, I missed a lot of the history of my Dad's early career.

I can tell you he worked from home for many years towards the end of his career, in a studio he designed and built in our home in Dobbs Ferry, NY. It was originally one of eight bedrooms in the house. He would travel to the city once or twice a week to discuss and review projects with whoever had retained him.

I remember J. Walter Thompson being a main contributor to his portfolio, along with Random House. Another book he illustrated was "Go Bang a Drum" or something close to that, and I believe it was also a Random House publication. Additionally, Jack did a lot of work for Northrop, Grumman, (not sure if they had merged in the 50's) and McDonnel Douglas, hence the aircraft from the first group of pictures. He did a whole bunch of story boards for Chrysler in the 70's and 80's, with the introduction of the "K-Car" also. I actually remember those, and have a few under my bed in an old portfolio.

His professional life took a down turn after the passing of my mother, his second wife, whose maiden name was Esmee Malman. They met in New York, at one of the agencies of the early 60's. They married and lived on Central Park West until I was born, and we all moved to Westchester County when I was about 4 months old. She passed away from a recurrence of cancer in May of 1973. My Dad took that very hard and since the older kids had all moved away by that time, it was he and I in that giant house for many years after that.

After repeated attempts from about 1977, he committed suicide in 1985.

I had moved in with my oldest sister, her husband and daughter in Connecticut in 1981, and Jack had been living in hotels up to that point and had not worked in many years. We couldn't find him on one of my trips home from the Navy, and shortly after my returning to my ship after being "UA" or "unauthorized absent" while trying to find him, we received the news.

As many of those "children of the Depression" had to suffer, he had become an alcoholic after the passing of his wife. Depression followed, exacerbated by alcoholism, etc. I think I mentioned that the end was rather sad and tough to go through in one of my previous correspondences, but as I also mentioned, we as a family have truly enjoyed the interest and joy his work brought people. Healing from what we all went through has been an ongoing process for many years. The stage we've all reached is one of recognition of his talents, a love for the truly loving man he was, and that we all miss him and his love of art. He tried to get his youngest son to enjoy it equally, but I just wouldn't oblige, opting instead for whatever ballgame was in season. We have all noticed a keen sense for art in our children though, which is quite interesting. Must skip a generation, I guess.

Anyway, there's enough for you to chew on, huh?

Honestly Leif, we are all grateful for what you've shared with us. My new wife made a beautiful album of the pictures linked to your blog for me as a Christmas gift, and also found a copy of one of the Three Investigators books and a pristine men's magazine from June 1954 that my Dad had done on-line and those were also Christmas gifts. We've passed it along to Uncles and cousins, and everyone in our family has enjoyed what you've uncovered a great deal. Feel free to share the story, and by all means stay in touch. I'll continue to work with my family to uncover more details for you.

Take care,

My Jack Hearne Flickr set.


  1. These are beautiful drawings that look deceptively easy. His linework describes so much about the action of the figure, the construction of the clothing, and all the little touches, like the dented garbage can in the first picture. Jack Hearne was a master of unusual perspectives, which gives an otherwise ordinary subject something special and memorable. Thank you for the personal story, which moves all of us in the business.

  2. What an incredible touching story of a truly gifted artist. I too was taken by his unusual perspectives,
    which made his pictures all the more fascinating. He seemed to be able to convey simple ordinary things with a flourish that gives his art honesty.
    Thanks, this series truly made my day.

  3. Very moving story...and such beautiful artwork. Thanks for bringing this to us, Leif.

  4. Great post! A follower of my blog kindly sent me some scans of more of Hearnes work:

    and i have linked your story and flickr photstream as well!

  5. This is a fitting tribute. Jack was sort of my reverse step dad. My mother was his first wife and I spent a lot of time with my sort of brother John Hearne and sisters Sallee, Annie and Cathy. I was always in awe when I went into the studio as little boy.

    I ended up in commercial art myself and now run a design firm right up the road from Dobbs Ferry.

    For those who are interested, Jack passed away around 1989

  6. Betty Hearne6:43 PM

    Jack ws my uncle, and I too was in awe of him...he was so tall! His home was filled with family photos,a wonderful kaleidescope and some really crazy siamese cats. His studio was a place of mystery to me. We were not allowed in without him, but always needed to peek at his latest work. I last saw him at my wedding, when he promised to do a painting of the ceremony. Tragically, the demons prevailed, and he died just a few years later. I wish I had known him better.
    Betty Hearne

  7. Daniel4:44 PM

    If Jack Hearne's son reads this, can you please contact me regarding your dad's work on The Three Investigators? or if anyone has any info on the whereabouts of Jack Hearne's great art for this series, please email me.


  8. If John reads this, please email your cousin, John David. I would love to catch up with you. I am at