Monday, February 04, 2008

Sandy Kossin's "Bay of Pigs"

Last week's brief look at the work of Sandy Kossin elicited some very enthusiastic response - most notably in regard to Kossin's "Bay of Pigs" art for the May 10th, 1963 issue of Life magazine. "A powerful cover" wrote one reader, Harald, and "the crowning achievement of his career" was David Apatoff's comment.

I'd never seen this series of illustrations, but thanks to Tom Watson, who clipped the pages for his files back when that issue first came out, we can now study the whole series in greater detail. I always enjoy Tom's insightful analysis of individual illustrations and asked him if he wouldn't mind providing the words to accompany this week's look at this series. His commentary begins below:

The cover illustration is more defined with facial detail than the inside illustrations... perhaps that was the art director's request, but probably it was Sandy Kossin's decision to personalize and attract interest, and then give a more bold impressionistic depiction to the inside spreads. After all, it was 1963... and breaking from traditional realistic renderings in magazine illustration, was still in it's infancy.

When I look at the cover, in spite of the desperate conditions, I see the determination in the eyes of those men...

...and perhaps Kossin wanted to convey that powerful emotion in the beginning, on the front cover.

We feel the tremendous energy and adrenalin of those first terrifying moments in combat, and the straight forward simplistic use of color adds to the drama without stealing our attention.

His contrasty patterns of dark and light also heightens the intense drama of the moment.

My thanks to Tom for this week's scans and his analysis of these images.

*An interesting aside: Mike Lynch, who knows Sandy Kossin personally, made the artist aware of that post from last week and reports that Sandy was "tickled pink" that so many folks were discussing and enjoying his work from long ago. If you go back and read the comments from that post you'll notice that Sandy's son, David, and grand daughter, Jennifer, both left remarks there. Mike reports that Sandy still has all but one of the originals from the "Bay of Pigs" series. Here's hoping we might hear from the artist himself at some point this week!

My Sandy Kossin Flickr set.


  1. Absolutely stunning piece. The second I saw it, my breath caught in my chest. This truly captures the fear/courage/chaos of combat that sets the heart and blood racing. The first time somebody actually shoots at you is a moment you never forget.


    LEIF....First time moved to comment! Two absolute winners this week....and two more different illustrators could not be found. Familiar with Kossin's work but had forgotten the Life mag Bay of Pigs cover. Outstanding. Glad to hear he's still around. Had not heard of Jerome Weisman....just amazing. Shows how little of a statement is enough. Beautiful drawing...what a talent. Thanks....CMA