Monday, September 15, 2008
Nearly Anonymous: The Cartoonist Illustrators
Look back over the hundreds of posts I've written here since late 2005 and it becomes obvious that if you do a little digging, you can find some information on almost any mid-century illustrator. Signing your work was widely accepted back then, and many illustrators did story artwork for the magazines, which invariably entailed receiving a credit line. As well, magazines often wrote short blurbs about their artists on the 'Contributors' page, sometimes even including a photo of the artist at his desk, or with his family.
Less well-documented are the cartoonist/illustrators.
These artists rarely did large feature artwork for magazine fiction stories. Their share of the advertising art - especially of high profile national campaigns - was also relatively small. Cartoon illustration was usually used for small space ads, as a supplement to the design of a package or as a space filler - a spot - in a column of type.
Subsequently the cartoonist/illustrator has often been anonymous - or at best, nearly anonymous - doing unsigned work or sneaking in a couple of initials. With the exception of a very few (Roy Doty, for instance) there's almost no information about artists who worked in this specialized area of the business... an area I've devoted much of my own career to. For the last twenty years I've been doing cartoon illustration for advertising, editorial, packaging and books, almost never signing my work, like the generations of cartoonist/illustrators who came before me.
Needless to say, I sort of have a soft spot for those guys. This week I'd like to give a few of them their due. First up is George Albertus...
For the longest time, the only examples I'd come across by Albertus were the black and blue spots above, from Coronet magazine, signed 'G Albertus'. I thought they were absolutely wonderful... but I didn't imagine I'd ever find out anything about who this G Albertus was.
Then, out of the blue, our good friend Charlie Allen sent me the scan below, along with the following note:
"Thought you might enjoy a 1967 'hippie' ad....Geo. Albertus cartoons... a fine artist-cartoonist... a Dodge ad where we combined forces."
I was stunned. "G Albertus" was George Albertus... and Charlie knew him!
Of course, I immediately peppered poor Charlie with a thousand questions. He kindly provided what information he could recall:
"LEIF.....Will do my best on the memory thing. Geo. A. came to P&H in the early 50's....I think he had been doing men's fashions for Roos Atkins....a popular and well known N. California clothing chain. As I recall, he wanted to zero in on cartoon work....his preference and talent. He was around for several years, but as biz slowed, he moved on to freelance....where he was when hired for that Chevvy ad. We were so busy, I lost track....but he was just a great guy to talk to, have a drink with, whatever. As with many illustrators over the years, we just drifted apart with work and time."
By complete coincidence, just a day or so later, I found the ad below in a 1955 Saturday Evening Post. Its the only time I've ever come across Albertus' work in all the hundreds of magazines I've scoured.
A few days later, Charlie sent another scan (below) and the following note:
"LEIF.... Was scanning some 'Telephone News' mailers for the blog, and ran across this cartoon on the back side. I did the front...a weather satellite...and I'm sure George Albertus, who was at P&H then, did the cartoon...though not signed. None of mine were signed either, so they probably had a policy. Anyway, a nice job...he was good."
He sure was. And today at least, we can say we knew him a little bit. Perhaps some member of his family will Google his name, find this post, and tell us more. For now, here's to you, George Albertus, where ever you are.
* My George Albertus Flickr set.
* And speaking of Charlie Allen, be sure to check out the brand new latest installment of the CAWS (#12), over at Charlie Allen's Blog!