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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Bradshaw Crandell: The Natural

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

By guest author Kent Steine

Anxious to return to his studies, he enrolled at the Art Students League. However, again he only attended for a few short months. This was undoubtedly due to the fact that he had already begun to receive commercial commissions and had never stopped independently studying.

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(Above: In addition to his glamorous magazine covers created during the 1930's and 40's, Brad Crandell painted advertising art for many high profile accounts. Along with Haddon Sundblom, and Harry Anderson, Crandell also made pictures for Coca-Cola. These were typically done in oil, and likely reflected the art director's preference, or perhaps Crandell's fee. Oil on canvas: 50" x 36")

Crandell truly studied all of his life. At the Art Institute; and the Art Students League, he never advanced beyond the basics of working in charcoal as well as drawing and sketching from life and sculpted casts. For Crandell the sound fundamentals he had been taught would carry him far.

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(Above: Veronica Lake's appearance in Preston Sturgis' Sullivan's Travels made her an overnight sensation. When Crandell was tapped to produce this portrait for the November 1941 cover of Cosmopolitan, the movie studio brass instructed him to avoid portraying her trademark peek-a-boo hairstyle, being copied by women around the country. Many were working in factories contributing to the war effort, and Uncle Sam considered the look a safety hazard.)

He was amazed at the work of the "Old Masters", and diligently studied them. He would have loved to live in the era when apprentices studied under the great masters of art. Learning first how to draw, then to paint.

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(Above: The pastel illustration of Ingrid Bergman for the December 1942 cover of Motion Picture, showcases Crandell's considerable abilities. Bergman is completely idealized, yet maintains an absolute on-model likeness of the famed actress.)

Crandell felt that nothing truly great could be achieved or accomplished without hard work in any field. He deplored careless work. "Unskilled painting over inaccurate drawing." He truly felt it was an illness of the times - a desire to slide through life without working.

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(Above: Bradshaw Crandell, Oct 24, 1949. At the time, he was enjoying celebrity status that rivaled the movie stars of the era. Seen here in an advertisement for Lord Calvert.)

Although he had been producing advertising illustration for various clients, his first major contract was to produce a cover illustration for Judge magazine, in 1921. This event, a mere four years after graduating from high school, would set in motion a career that would take him to the top of his field as a magazine cover artist.

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(Above: At 39.5" x 29.5", and masterfully rendered, "Fine Feather", a pastel illustration produced for Gerlach - Barklow, becomes difficult to discern whether it was produced as an oil painting, or pastel picture.)

* 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.

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