"Those of us who have been accustomed to the robust and vigorous styles of American illustration from the early days or Pyle, Remington and Homer and enhanced by that distinguished company of contemporaries in Rockwell, Cornwell, Von Schmidt and Helck (space limits the mention of more), may have reflected with diffidence and uneasiness on the recent incursions of a new stylistic development in the art of the newer illustrators and one of their prototypes, Jack Potter."
So begins an article on Jack Potter in the December 1958 issue of American Artist magazine.
I must whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment expressed in that first paragraph.
If you who read this blog ever feel like you're listening to someone who knows what he's talking about, believe me, I'm learning right alongside of you. Much of what I write here is based on a combination of the scant research materials available on the history of illustration and my own observations and intuition.
Beyond that, we have been fortunate to have the benefit of having many far more knowledgeable folks generously share their insight and personal experience with us.
But this week, I have to confess I feel really out of my depth.
Because as much as I like a lot of the work we'll be looking at this week, I feel I lack the education in fine art that would allow me to speak in any sort of informed way about these artists I am labeling "the Avant-gardes".
So once again, employing mostly observation and intuition, I must say that I think this group of artists, rejecting to a certain degree the mercenary circumstances of the industry they chose to work in, tried to find a new path -- a situation that meant their work often looked like it had one foot in the commercial art studio and the other in a fine arts gallery. Their attitude toward their work seems to confirm this idea: Jack Potter, for instance, is said to have entirely rejected the notion of working from photo reference - a practice that had become de rigeur among the artists of the Cooper studio and their peers. Potter only worked from the live model and sketches done on location - hardly the typical approach of the average commercial artist.
From American Artist:
"As a young artist whose earlier influences were hardly more prosaic and mundane, the glittering experience of meeting the smart, crisp world of good taste and style gave him all the modern surface manners but left him thirsting for concepts. To reinforce this need, he attended night classes in the now-defunct, fine-arts Jepson School. Under the inspiration of Rico LeBrun, he formed the basis for his convictions and the integrity of his direction."
"Compare Jack Potter to the older line of illustration and he does not fit the mold. Place him with the newer illustration and he fits the description easily. He may not be 'moderne' but he is modern; he may not be 'contemporary', but he is contemporaneous. If he scorns the trend to the functional and the modern styles, it is because this is not art."
"What I'm after," said Jack Potter, "is something else. The world is chaotic. People are searching for love, for themselves. What I want to create is the thing that is the better part of you!"
*My thanks to Dan Zalkus, who studied under Jack Potter, for providing the article from American Artist and most of the scans you see in today's post.
There is a thorough article about Jack Potter in Illustration magazine #18.
My Jack Potter Flickr set.