Wednesday, September 16, 2009

James Alexander: Condensed in '62

This is quite a departure from what we've seen so far this week, isn't it. James Alexander was a very regular contributor to Reader's Digest during the mid-century period - both the monthly magazine and the condensed book series.

His style reminds me quite a bit of another RD artist; Denver Gillen.

I can see why both illustrators would have been ideal for RD... they both had clean, easily readable line art styles and complimented them with bright, effective colour - perfect for the small size format and cheap paper RD employed. Compare these illustrations to what we've seen so far this week and that becomes quite obvious.

As for who James Alexander was, I have had no luck in locating any biographical details. (And before you do a Google Image Search for the artist's name, I caution you to make sure you have 'safe search' activated, or you're in for quite a surprise!)

Though I don't usually post overly large scans on TI I've made an exception today because of the detail in some of these pieces. Try clicking on this battle scene below to see a much larger version.

Alexander's work is a bit hard to categorize. Is it straight illustration, storybook illustration, or cartoon illustration? Compared to Denver Gillen, Alexander's style is a little broader -- a little "lighter". I could see it appealing to children as text book art. In that sense, it seems just a bit odd that the RD editors chose the artist to illustrate as serious a topic as the story of the Alamo.

And here's an interesting bonus: the story included six beautiful line drawing portraits done by Ben Stahl...

... about whom we shall speak further... tomorrow.

* My James Alexander Flickr set.

* Jeffrey Meyer has posted a ton of really outstanding RDCB illustrations by James Alexander. Be sure to visit his excellent site, and be prepared to be wowed!

1 comment:

  1. Charlie Allen3:30 PM

    LEIF.....TI never ceases to amaze. RDCB illustrators, almost all, were so accomplished....and produced volumes of outstanding work. I recall thinking at the time that I'm glad the eastern illustrators are taking those stories on. Don't think I could have handled, or wanted, or enjoyed the pressures of those assignments. Thanks for bringing them back to life.