Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Album Covers Artists: "a long and impressive list"

Robert M. Jones, Art Director, RCA/Victor Records, writing in the November 1960 issue of American Artist:

The list of artists and photographers who have contributed to album cover art is long and impressive. Among the better known names are the painters: Rufino Tamayo, Eugene Berman, Joseph Hirsch, Ben Shahn, Doris Lee, Buk Ulrich, Eugene Karlin, and Herschel Levit; the printmakers: Antonio Frasconi, Fritz Eichenberg, and Joseph Low; the graphic designers: Saul Ball, Herb Lubalin, Alex Steinwweiss, Mathew Leibowitz and Erik Nitsche; the illustratrors: Robert Osborn, James Flora, Constantin Alajolov, John Groth, Jon Whitcomb, Austin Briggs, Al Parker and Robert Fawcett; and the photographers: Carl Fisher, Ben Somoroff, Rolf Tietgens, Bert Stern, Dan Wynn, Hugh Bell, Richard Avedon and Karsh of Ottawa.

To that list I would add Mike Ludlow, one of the mid-century illustrators whose work I have found most frequently on album covers. Clearly this niche became an important part of Ludlow's client roster after the decline of magazine assignments at the beginning of the '60s.

Arthur Sarnoff... some readers will remember him as the artists responsible for all those cute kids in the Karo Syrup ads of the 1940s.

Victor Kalin... his artwork was featured at the top of the last post. He was also among the artists we looked at during our series on the Merrill Co.

Others include Ken Dallison...

... Bob Peak...

... Bob Jones (who created the Esso Tiger)...

... James Dwyer...

... Stan Klimley...

... and here's a an amazing stroke of good luck: I found this Sheilah Beckett just yesterday at a local thrift shop... for a dime. It happens to be the same album cover I presented at the beginning of this series - though I had only a small b/w reproduction of it. Click the image to see an extra large scan.

* Worth noting: the last four artists were all represented by the Charles E. Cooper studio (granted Klimley had moved on earlier) and these albums were all executed around '59 - '60. Clearly Cooper's salesmen were pursuing album cover commissions for their artists as magazine (and advertising) assignments diminished.

Finally, this odd yet beautiful piece. Its one of the first album covers I ever found... I've had it for years and wondered who had illustrated it. Just yesterday morning a friend forwarded a link to legendary designer/illustrator David Klein's website. During the mid-century period Klein created a series of magnificent travel posters for TWA. As this album was part of some sort of TWA promotion, I decided to investigate and lo and behold, I found the travel poster version on the site!

As Jones wrote in his 1959 article, a long and impressive list. Even then, we have barely begun to scratch the surface. I have a few more treats to share with you this week. For now, be sure to visit my Illustrated Album Cover Flickr set.


  1. A long and impressive list - indeed! What a variety of styles in this one: One of my favorites is Bob Peak's waltzing cover. I won't elaborate on the violin, but everything there seems to be "peaking"; the snow-capped mountain peaks, all those candles on the lustre, and of course the towering chandelier itself overtopping the whole circle.

  2. If you can, why not do a series on plastic model kit box cover art, especially that of Shigeo Koike? You'd have enough for several postings.

  3. Thanks for that suggestion, Black pete - I've already asked a couple of people who have expertise in that area to guest author a week... we'll have to wait and see if they come through.