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

Leon Gregori: "... he would draw and draw and draw."

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

There are some illustrators of the mid-century whose work I have come across time and again in my collection of old magazines about whom there is virtually no information available online or in reference books. One such artist is Leon Gregori. I first came across his work in this beautiful pen and ink ad from the mid-1950s in an issue of the Saturday Evening Post.

Gregori01.jpg

A while later, I discovered a few more pen and ink drawings by Gregori in various early '50s issues of Woman's Day magazine.

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Gregori17

The next time I stumbled across a Gregori illustration I got a bit of a surprise...

Gregori03.detail01

I found a double page story illustration spread by Gregori in a 1948 issue of Family Circle, but it wasn't done in pen and ink. So Leon Gregori had worked in more than just the one technique I was familiar with seeing by him.

Gregori03

At this point I made a mental note to keep an eye open for his signature when flipping through my collection. One day I discovered another clue about the artist: in 1951 he was represented by Berman Studios, a relatively small player in the commercial art game in New York City at that time.

Gregori11(Notice that Berman also repped Al Hirchfeld (!) and paperback cover artist, Harry Bennett).

A year later (1952) Gregori had jumped to Gilbert Sutton Studios...

Gregori12

... and was promoting a completely unexpected cartoony style!

Gregori12.detail01

Recently I decided it was time to once again dig into the Internet for clues about Leon Gregori's career. And this time I hit pay dirt: I located an article that mentioned Leon Gregori... the article however was about his daughter, a professional photographer named Mellon Tytell. (Mellon's website)

I emailed Mellon, asking if she could tell me a bit about her father and she graciously replied the next day:

"Thank you for taking an interest in my father's work. He was a great artist and had a career that took many twists and turns, due in great part to the change in his industry of illustration."

Gregori13

"I've actually seen the illustration of his that you posted on Flickr a few years ago." [The one at the top of today's post ~ L] "It's ironic that I became a photographer. He tried to teach me how to draw but I was unable to learn...had a mental block."

Gregori10

"My father was born in Kiev, and came to this country when he was very young. Someone saw him in the street making drawings on a brown paper bag, and he somehow got to Pratt."

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"As you know, he did the covers for the Saturday Evening Post and Collier's..."

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"... many illustrations in the New Yorker, etc., book covers..."

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"... and work for the big movie companies... 20th Century Fox and United Artists... he did the story boards for the movie posters. He was revered in his field for his black and white ink drawings, and at the end taught at the School of Visual Arts."

Gregori07

"He always had a pad in front of him, and even watching T.V. he would draw what was on the screen. When we went out for dinner, he would draw the other diners... he would draw and draw and draw."

Gregori15.detail01

"The best thing was that he would make a drawing on the back of my raincoats, and make wonderful birthday cards for his family."

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"Every Christmas, he would volunteer with other members of the Society of Illustrators, and make murals for children in hospital, despite spending his entire life at the drawing board."

Gregori14

"It was very difficult to put food on the table after photography pushed him out of the field. He had to reinvent himself... just as I had to reinvent myself when photography went from film to digital."

"My father passed away at the age of 86 in 2001. He was a kind man, and a great artist."

* My sincere thanks to Mellon Tytell for sharing these wonderful personal memories of her father, Leon Gregori with us. Mellon's website

8 comments

  1. Another great post!It's always a kick to read about someone talking about their talented relative.Thanks.

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  2. Thanks for lovely post. Leon is my paternal grandfather and please know that his legacy lives on through his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. While none of us are professional artists, we all enjoy the talents that he passed on to us. He was a kind, wonderful man and is greatly missed.

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  3. Thanks Steve; I'm always happy to hear others enjoy these personal stories as much as I do. Dry historical facts are fine, but learning about the actual person behind the art is what I find most compelling.

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  4. Kate; thanks so much for leaving a comment. I'm very glad to have had this opportunity to showcase your talented grandfather's work on my blog.

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  5. Yet another "unknown" who could draw circles around most of us today - well, me, anyway! A great talent. Thanks, Leif.

    Huw
    EYECATCHER

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  6. Really love your blog. Love seeing all this vintage illustration. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  7. Awesome Blog! I do illustrations inhouse for a mens fashion brand cant tell you how many times I look at this site for inspiration! Awesome!

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  8. Thanks very much, Angelo!

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