You could hardly find a more diametrically opposite approach to advertising art from Jon Whitcomb than that of Austin Briggs.
Where Whitcomb excelled at creating a world populated by impossibly perfect, glamorous dolls, Briggs masterfully conveyed an engaging realism that the viewer could completely relate to. Briggs' family could be anyone's family. The husband in this ad couldn't be more everyman if he tried.
Especially charming about this everyman is that Briggs intentionally did not obscure his bended knees. He could have placed gifts or wrapping paper in that part of the composition, which would have made for a more idealized scene. I like to think he felt it was important that we see those legs and feet - not just to clarify the position of the man's body - but because it adds an endearing sense of humility and humanity to his character. This man adores his wife. He didn't stand over her or sit in a chair across the room while she opened the package. This is a cherished gift for the love of his life. His manner reflects extremely well on the client's product.
That sentiment is reflected in the expression on the wife's face. You can almost imagine her remembering the moment he proposed. And his daughter's rapt attention to this intimate exchange between her parents is equally important. Briggs placed her at close quarters because he wants us to appreciate that her participation is meaningful - she will look for that quality she sees in her father in the man she one day chooses to marry. This is the remarkable thing about Briggs' abilities as a visual storyteller.
Finally, amusingly - and let's face it - very realistically, is the way Briggs has the little brother off in his own world, focused entirely on his new toy train. How typical! Another illustrator would have had the whole family front and centre, eyes as big as saucers, outlandishly huge smiles on their faces, everyone slavishly enraptured by the product, which would have been blazing like the sun itself. Not Austin Briggs.
Just a week later, another Christmas-themed painting appeared in the Post, also by Briggs, but for a different client. There's just as much storytelling here as in the piece above -- but I'll let you do your own analysis on this one. I'm mainly showing it to demonstrate how in-demand Briggs was, not just for editorial work, which seems a more natural fit, but with advertisers as well.
* My Austin Briggs Flickr set.