"From all accounts [Merrill Company] founder Marion Merrill was a stern and dedicated leader," writes Jean Woodcock in her article in Illustration Magazine #22. "She selected the artists, suggested cover concepts, and supervised every facet of their production."
Further on Jeanie writes, "Miss Merrill was a perfectionist and she surely frustrated many of her artists. She made profuse comments and criticisms, and often said, "You can do better than that."
Above, courtesy of graphiccollectibles.com, the original art for a 1955 Merrill colouring book by the legendary Walter Baumhofer.
Though he began his career in the low-paying pulp market (he painted the first series of Doc Savage pulp magazine covers, among countless other adventure, crime and western subjects) by the mid-1950s Walter Baumhofer had long been a mainstay of all 'the slicks'. No doubt he was used to high paying, high profile assignments - not to mention lucrative national advertising accounts.
Knowing as we do now (thanks to Barbara Bradley) that the Merrill Company paid in the neighbourhood of $300 for a cover painting, its interesting to imagine how an illustrator of Walter Baumhofer's stature might have reacted to Miss Merrill's criticisms.
Jeanie's speculation that Miss Merrill probably caused many of her artists some frustration is very likely correct. Still, $300 in the mid-'50's was a heck of a lot more than it is today... and just as Barbara described fitting her Merrill assignments in between her ad work at The Cooper Studio, Baumhofer probably did the same. Its a testament to his professionalism that he did not think he was "too good" for a relatively low paying colouring book assignment.
That's something Barbara mentioned to me in one of her notes. She wrote, "Marion Merrill hired some great illustrators to do work, illustrators I never guessed would do such work: Haddon Sundblom (Coca Cola), Jon Whitcomb, Joe Bowler...all Hall of Famers now."
Original art dealer Mitch Itkowitz has a new catalogue of original Merrill cover paintings available from his website, graphiccollectibles.com There are also about twenty images from the catalogue on the website.
* Many thanks to Jean Woodcock and to Mitch for the scan at the top of today's post.
* My Walter Baumhofer Flickr set.