Thursday, February 21, 2008
An "Avant-garde" Holiday
I now think of the period around 1960, from which all of today's images are taken, as the "transition period": when photography was supplanting illustration in magazine advertising and editorial - even as the total number of assignments was diminishing along with the page counts of those magazines.
To compete in this changing marketplace, illustrators who wanted to make their mark - and art director's determined to have their projects stand out from the crowd - needed to present the public with something other than traditional realism.
Enter the "Avant-gardes": Jack Potter (at top), Phil Hays (below), Tom Allen (at bottom) and others began capturing the imagination of the industry even as it seemed to be turning its back on illustration in general.
This is a group of artists who still had roots in the previous decade of commercial art. You can see its influence and the respect they had for it in spite of the "distortion" in their work. An article in the December 1958 issue of American Artist about Jack Potter says of the artist, "Art for him is not manner, style, or trend. Art is a search for the significant in life, for expression in form, for self-realization in work. For him, his illustration is art... it enhances and distinguishes Jack Potter as it serves his clients." (Italics mine)
There is an important message in that passage... one that applies as much today as it did in 1960.
Consider today a preview of next week's topic, when we'll look at several "Avant-gardes" in greater detail.