How better to end a week of looking at American artists illustrating magazine covers than with a look at American Artist magazine covers?
Clever,right? I thought so, too.
The only problem (I discovered upon perusing my near-complete run of 1950's issues of AA) is that almost all the covers from that decade suck.
Oh, the artwork is fine - sometimes even exceptional - but the covers are almost always so poorly designed that "designed" doesn't seem to be a word one could properly use to describe them. Small, awkwardly placed images incongruously cropped, surrounded by too much (and unbalanced) white space, haphazard typography slapped down with no attempt made to coordinate it with the artwork... to look at those covers one almost has the impression that no one thought about the cover until the day after the paste-ups had gone to the printer's: "Cover? I thought you were doing the cover!"
(Sorry, I'm not wasting my time scanning horrible looking AA covers -- you're just going to have to trust me on this one.)
What you see here today are the exceptions. A sampling of some of the mid-century American Artist covers that actually look pretty darn good... and a couple are actually really great. That's not just because they feature some beautiful artwork, but because they look like they were actually thoughtfully designed.
And I wonder if its only by coincidence that these are the rare covers of AA that feature the work of illustrators rather than fine artists.
One of the principle contributors at American Artist during the mid-century was the illustrator Henry C. Pitz. Pitz was often responsible for articles and interviews in AA featuring some of America's finest illustrators. Perhaps he made a point of overseeing the cover designs of those issues that featured his fellow commercial artists - many of whom would have been friends and acquaintances.
That's pure conjecture on my part. But it is a curiosity that a magazine by and about artists would so rarely have have this kind of visual appeal on its covers.
* In order from top to bottom: Franklin McMahon, Eric, Frederick T. Chapman, Burne Hogarth, Jan Balet, Ben Stahl, W. David Shaw, and Robert Fawcett.