Alex Gross has put together a website showcasing the art of illustrator Phil Hays.
I really like Hays' work from the 1950s, when he was doing artwork like the examples shown here. On Alex's new Phil Hays website, you'll find a few examples from this early stage in the illustrator's career, but for the most part, the site showcase's Hays' later period, when he had dramatically altered his style.
The change is quite startling and curious. Off the top of my head I can't think of another mid-century illustrator who's style underwent such a radical overhaul. If there was a transition period, it isn't documented in the site's gallery.
Hays seems to have made a big splash when he arrived on the scene in New York in the mid-'50s, as this little article from the December 1956 Cosmo would suggest:
Below are a group of scans courtesy of Tom Watson, from the 1959 NY Art Directors Annual. That Hays was having so many entries accepted to the AD show in one year certainly confirms his mercurial ascent in New York's illustration circles.
If Hays' work from this period reminds you a little of Jack Potter or even early Bob Peak, you're not alone. I'd say that between the three of them, Peak, Potter and Hays pretty much 'cornered the market' on this style for a few years in the late '50s.
When Tom and I first corresponded about this group of artists, he astutely wrote, "...not sure who stole who's style... my guess is Peak stole Potter's style. Potter's work was more consistent in style than Peak's work. Peak seemed to be always trying something new..."
Tom continued, "In my opinion, Phil Hays was a good illustrator, and showed occasional moments of brilliance, but was not on the same level as Potter and Peak. Hays may have been stealing ideas from both Potter and Peak. But then, I guess no style is 100% uniquely yours."
Certainly a reasonable conclusion - and it might explain why Phil Hays didn't stay committed to this style over the long haul. The website doesn't provide any explanation of why Hay's work changed so dramatically, but there are plenty of other interesting facts about Hays and some really great vintage photos of the artist. Well worth a look!
Many thanks to Tom Watson for providing the b/w scans in today's post and - I apologize to whomever contributed the colour, horizontal format scan near the top - I've forgotten who it was, but thanks!
Check out The Art of Phil Hays website
* My Phil Hays Flickr set.