Friday, March 12, 2010

Martha Sawyers: Condensed

A couple of very cool examples of Martha Sawyer's earliest illustrations for Collier's, courtesy of TI list member David Apatoff.

David wrote a terrific post about Martha Sawyers on his excellent blog, Illustration Art.

Fast forward three decades... here's the most current work I was able to find by Martha Sawyers, from Readers Digest Condensed Books, 1964.

The editors must have felt Sawyers was a natural choice for this version of the famous bible story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of Jesus.

Having travelled extensively in these regions, and being considered a specialist in illustrating the people of Asia, Sawyers was no doubt completely comfortable with the assignment.

To research the people, places and costuming she would have had to look no further than those bulging portfolios of paintings and sketches mentioned by her husband in the American Artist article from April '59 - the accumulated wealth of that trip through all those many Eastern countries a year earlier.

Its interesting to see where one ends up when one "follows the bend of the river"...

In the early days of the 20th century, a young girl in Cuero, Texas, fascinated by a book called "Religion of the Far East" began a life-long journey of artistic and cultural discovery...

... a journey that lead, six decades later, to an assignment illustrating the story that is the centerpiece of Western religion.

Martha Sawyers, born in 1902, died in 1988.

* My Martha Sawyers Flickr set.

* These posts have been collected into one article on Female Illustrators of the Mid-20th Century


  1. definitely a great artist!

  2. Charlie Allen9:46 PM

    LEIF.....Just a great week on Martha Sawyers. What a devoted and accomplished artist/illustrator! Once again, TI provides a marvelous source of entertainment, history, and education for all to see. Thanks.

  3. Just wanted to say thanks for your great site. And a note about Reader's Digest Condensed Books - please forgive if this is a naive question . . . Have you ever done a series on Reader's Digest Condensed? (That would be too broad I guess) They were fascinating to me at a young age, and several of the images are burned my brain. I would like to track these images down, but don't know where to start, so I troll the Condensed Books I find in used book store and scan your site whenever I can - hoping to stumble across . . . those images I remember.