As I was flipping through a recently acquired stack of old Life magazines this dramatic illustration stopped me short. Wow, I thought, this is something I have to get scanned and posted as soon as possible!
You're probably thinking, yeah, because that illustration is really something - and yes, I think so too...
... but what really got me excited was seeing that this very cool illustration was by "Ren Wicks and M. Henninger", an L.A. art team I knew about more by reputation than example.
Over these last few years we've talked about a lot of mid-century illustrators, most of whom hailed from the East Coast. We've discovered a fair amount about the artists of Chicago, the "Art City", and thanks to folks like Charlie Allen, Bruce Hettema, and Barbara Bradley, we've discovered the rich history of the San Francisco commercial art industry. But to this day, I can honestly say that I know next to nothing about Los Angeles illustration field during those times.
In fact its thanks to Charlie Allen that I know about Henninger and Wicks. Charlie mentioned in passing that "[Ren] Wicks shared space with Joe Henninger, a competent tight illustrator and instructor at the Art Center School. He helped a lot during my one year there....was a very popular guy and good teacher. [Henninger] did aircraft jobs in those days. A conservative, detail type, illustrator."
And thanks to Will Nelson, who worked first at the L.A. offices of Stephens, Biondo, DeCicco before moving to their Chicago studio, we know just a bit about Henninger's career trajectory. Will wrote, "When I started right out of Art Center the head of the Los Angeles studio was Howie Forsberg, illustrator along with a staff which included Fritz Willis and Morgan"Joe"Henninger."
On his own, Ren Wicks is probably best remembered as a pin-up artist (a well deserved reputation), Wicks certainly had a way of delineating lovely ladies.
Here are two pretty examples where his skills were tastefully put to good use.
A somewhat more risqué Wicks pin-up can be seen at Grapefruit Moon Gallery's website.
* My Ren Wicks Flickr set.