Friday, January 27, 2012

Bradshaw Crandell: Man of Distinction

By guest author Kent Steine

By the late 1940's Bradshaw Crandell had turned over the reigns of producing the covers at Cosmopolitan to Jon Whitcomb. Crandell himself had been Harrison Fisher's beneficiary in the 1930's. However the decade of the 1950's brought a new direction for Crandell. Throughout his career, Crandell had used pastel as his primary media for it's spontaneity and managing deadlines. He was ready for a change. He had taught himself to paint with oils, and with his unwavering dedication was producing work that would rival his magnificent pastel illustrations.

(Above: "Red Head", was also one of the featured pieces in the Bottoms Up collection. A "Red Head" was: 1 jigger Seagram's 7 Crown; 1 barspoon of kirschwasser; 1 barspoon raspberry cordial; Juice 1/2 lemon; Ice. Shake well. Strain in to cocktail glass. Drop twist of orange peel in to glass.)

(Above: Although Brad worked with oils throughout his career, by the 1950's that medium dominated his work. "Time on My Hands", painted in 1960, displays a lifetime of study. His draughtsmanship, and manipulation of light and shadow are what every artist strives to duplicate.)

Crandell was now in his preferred element. Although he achieved immense success as a cover artist, it was only after he left the commercial field and began to concentrate on painting portraits, that he truly felt happy. He loved working with people directly. Crandell's models sat for him. He would work from photo reference as a backup to the original sitting. He instinctively knew that was the only way to make a great picture. Crandell never analyzed a subject to bring out the true nature of the sitter. He painted what he saw, where the real person came to life. Choosing to only see the good in people, he would capture his subjects at their best.


In 1954, Crandell made Madison, Connecticut his permanent residence. It had been his summer home and retreat for many years. He would maintain the East 52nd Street studio in New York for another eleven years. It was during this time that his status as a renowned portrait artist was established. Now instead of movie stars, his commissions were numerous Governors; heads of state; and society women. His career had come full circle. He was now fulfilled, producing art in the tradition of the masters he had long admired.


Throughout his life and career, Crandell had been at the top of his field. He received many of the accolades due a man and artist of his caliber (among other things you could walk into The 21 Club, or The Stork Club and order concoctions entitled "Red Head" and "Bachelor Girl", inspired by Crandell's work). Along with many associations, he was an active member of The Society of Illustrators, and was recently elected to their Hall of Fame. Crandell was very active within the "Society", contributing art, and goodwill throughout the membership. He was also a member of the Artists and Writers Association; and the Dutch Treat Club. Crandell was also an excellent and skilled chef. He was a member of the American Society of Amateur Chefs; as well as serving as President of the Property Owners Association in his hometown of Madison, Connecticut.

(Above: 1952 Dutch Treat Club Yearbook illustration by Bradshaw Crandell, featuring names and numbers of fellow club members)

Sadly, by 1965 Bradshaw Crandell had contracted cancer. Reviewing letters written by him at this time, one finds no remorse or bitterness as a result of his condition. There is merely grateful appreciation for the innumerable admirers of his work. He passed away in the comfort of his home January 25, 1966 at the age of 69.

(Below: John Bradshaw Crandell's NYT obituary, from Wednesday, January 26 1966.)

(Below: This original keepsake from Bradshaw Crandell's memorial was written by his wife, Myra.)

Today the measure of beauty has a different ideal in life and imagery. What likely appeals to the public in general during the year 2012, was a very different ideal in 1942. We are fortunate to have had likes of Brad Crandell to record a most unique period in history, when beauty was attractive, appealing, and refreshing.

(Above: Upon closer inspection, this example represents one of Bradshaw Crandell's very best pastel illustrations. Crandell preceded in scope and stature, nearly all of the illustrators associated with painting a pretty face or even pinup art . . . in some cases by twenty years. This masterfully simple, and perfectly rendered illustration presents an idealized and stylized face that set a standard for all who followed.)

* Kent Steine is an artist, author and teacher. His renowned series of "Masters" articles for Step-By-Step magazine remain some of the best ever written on the history of illustration. With this week being the anniversary of Bradshaw Crandell's death, I'm very grateful to Kent for sharing the story of this fabulous artist with us. An abridged version of this week's series of posts originally appeared as an article in SXS magazine. ~ Leif

Kent Steine's website

* Several of today's (and this past week's) images are courtesy of the Heritage Auctions website


  1. Many thanks to Kent Steine, and Leif for sharing these beautiful illustrations!

  2. Beautiful work.The pastel portraits of Bette Davis and Ingrid Bergman are especially good.