Thursday, August 09, 2012

Howard Terpning, Advertising Illustrator

The biography at tells us that Howard Terpning began his commercial art career in Chicago as a member of the famous "Sundblom Circle." This early sample by Terpning certainly suggests he was learning his painting technique from Haddon Sundblom (creator of the famous Coca-Cola Santa Claus).


After finishing his apprenticeship with Sunny, Terpning "moved to Milwaukee, where for three years he painted such subjects as farmers on tractors." Feeling he was finally ready to try his luck in the illustration mecca of New York, he signed on with Stephens, Biondi, De Cicco - the same art studio for whom Lucia Larner worked. Terpning spent five years perfecting his painting technique on mostly advertising art assignments.


Although it's not mentioned in any of the online biographies I read, I have it on good authority that Terpning's next studio was Fredman-Chaite, another New York art studio I presented many posts about just a couple of months ago.

Since we don't have an accurate chronology of this period in Howard Terpning's career, the 1959 ad below may have been done while he was at either SBD or F/C.


Only the barely visible initialed "H.T." verifies that this Orange Crush ad is Howard Terpning's work...


... but that same year (1960) in an ad for McGregor men's fashions, you can see Terpning beginning to explore the distinctive, energetic painting style for which he became known and was much sought-after by clients for the next decade.



Here, for your enjoyment and inspiration, are some more 1960s advertising illustrations by Howard Terpning:


(Worth noting: Terpning seemed to have inherited the Dobbs Hats account from Bob Peak, another Fredman-Chaite Studio member)


Just look at all the dynamic painting details in the background elements of this ad!


Two from 1967...



... and a whole series which I'm guessing are from around 1970.





Now scroll back to the top and marvel at how Terpning's style evolved!

* Thanks to Harold Henriksen and Aron Gagliano of the American Academy of Art for providing most of today's scans.

Howard Terpning was a student at the AAA in Chicago during his early days before his apprenticeship with Haddon Sundblom. He was the academy's distinguished alum at graduation in 2010. Aron had a chance to meet him in person and says, "Spending time with the Terpning’s (Howard and Marlies) was just fantastic. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more gracious couple. All around inspiring people in every way."

"While Terpning was at the Academy we had a local news channel come in and do a piece on him:"

Artist Howard Terpning | Chicago Tonight | WTTW

Aron also shared a link to the trailer for a recent Howard Terpning documentary, “Portrait of a storyteller,”:


  1. Anonymous12:02 AM

    Wonderful compilation, thank you! Isn’t it striking, how the men in these illustrations are, well, men?
    Today’s men in their 40s and 50s are more like eternaly boys in how they carry themselves. Not only in their manner of dressing themselves — collarless shirts in shriek colours and with loud logos or silly words on them, blue jeans all day long, sneakers and baseball hats — but also in their behaviour and how they talk. And it’s not only blue collar men, or poor people who cannot afford a suit and tie and clean shirt.
    These men depicted here, of what we call The Greatest Generation, somehow pgive off a certain aura that makes you take them seriously. I wonder why we gave that up and what for.

  2. That's a great question, Anonymous; as someone who fits your description (48, jeans and collarless shirt all day, eternally a boy) - and also has the opportunity to spend part of each week "dressing up" in my role as a college instructor, I understand exactly what you're talking about. When I dress 'like a man' for work I do so because I want to be taken seriously - it does make me feel more like an adult. I don't think we've given that up - that's really a generalization, imo, but I think we have rejected a certain amount of the role playing our fathers accepted because I think we saw them as "old men" when they took on that role, and we didn't want to fill those shoes when our turn came. Many of the men of that more serious manly generation retired at 65 and were dead at 67 - or at least it seems that way... I think part of what motivated my generation of men to reject the role our fathers played is a fear of following their footsteps into an early grave!

  3. Anonymous3:31 PM

    I can't find his name in the Society of Illustrators inductees. Any idea why?

  4. Has anyone seen this painting in an add? Possibly for General Electric? It shows a couple under an umbrella with two children, all walking at night on a city street on a wet pavement. Predominantly blue colors. Thanks.

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