Bernard D'Andrea was a Cooper Studio artist from the mid-1940's on through the 50's decade. His always professional work gets a bit lost in the crowd of that studio's more reknowned members like Coby Whitmore, Joe DeMers, and Joe Bowler. But this 1950 example shows how effortlessly he could paint the kind of boy/girl scenarios Cooper's artists were famous for.
A 1952 Bernard D'Andrea advertising illustration.
From the distance of half a century and after being exposed to a million stylistic variations, I'm not sure if you can see what a drastic departure this is for an illustrator like D'Andrea. The year is 1952 and he is riffing on elements of abstract expressionism in an ad appearing in the Saturday Evening Post! Its really kind of remarkable.
A 1956 story illustration by Bernard D'Andrea for the Saturday Evening Post. During the entire decade the Post rarely employed anything but this sort of literal realism. D'Andrea and the other Cooper artists appeared month to month throughout those years in the Post's pages. And the vast majority of advertising clients wanted nothing other than this same realistic style.
Cooper's other artists rarely diverged from their comfort zone, occasionally taking baby steps by employing a variation in technique, but otherwise sticking to their signature styles steeped in 1950's idealized realism. Bernard D'Andrea had no economic reason to do things any differently.
But he did.
A 1956 Cosmopolitan magazine illustration by Bernard D'Andrea.
Why would Bernard D'Andrea employ such a (for the 50's) radically different style when he had already invested a decade into establishing himself as a top-notch 'clinch artist' at the most high-profile illustration studio in the country?
I believe Bernard D'Andrea had a restless spirit.
I believe he was also a consummate professional. When the Post called with an assignment, he understood that they didn't want him to push the envelope. Here he is in 1959 delivering the same idealized realism as he did a decade earlier to the same conservative client.
Murray Tinkelman, when we spoke recently on the phone, called D'Andrea "a wonderful artist" and "the most gifted draftsman".
But Murray can also claim responsibility for having tempted Bernie D'Andrea to explore further by taking him to Reuben Tam's painting classes at the Brooklyn Museum. A Bernard D'Andrea illustration for Cosmo, 1962.
What exactly is the signature style of an artist? Is the process of developing your own look the only path to success? Is going down that path liberating... or limiting?
The answers to those questions are as subjective as art itself. The conclusion I hope you draw from this week's series is that there is no hard and fast answer. Each of us creates our own opportunities through our determination to succeed at what we love to do.
Exploring many options can be as rewarding and personal as focusing on one single 'look'.
* My Bernard D'Andrea Flickr set.
For those interested in further investigating the idea of 'signature style' vs adaptability...
* Jack Raglin has written an excellent post examining this topic in the context of Enoch Bolles' career.
* The llustrative Designer, Von Glitschka, participates in a podcast discussion and explains how stylistic diversity has been a key component of his successful career.