Friday, April 13, 2007

Fred Irvin Condensed

The final story in the Autumn 1954 edition of Reader's Digest Condensed Books is illustrated by Fred Irvin. Previously, I'd only ever seen this one piece which I used during our week-long look at the rise of suburbia.

When I found Irvin's name on this RD story, it struck a chord -- and I suddenly recalled seeing him listed as a member of the Charles E. Cooper studio. His slick, very professional commercial style certainly makes sense in that context. The Cooper studio was home to some of the finest commercial artists of the 50's and the studio "look" was the epitome of the clean, idealized advertising art style that dominated that decade.

Actually, some of these pieces, like the one directly below, remind me very much of Stan Drake.

So who was Fred Irvin? He was born in 1914 in Chillicothe, Missouri and received his art education first at the Kansas City Art Institute and then at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.

Irvin arrived in New York in 1940, ready to begin his professional career but a stint in the visual aids unit of the U.S. Army interrupted his plans. After his discharge in 1946 he returned to New York and began making headway. Though I haven't seen Irvin's work in the pages of the most major magazines of the day, he obviously managed to land assignments from a great variety of clients and its safe to assume that he would have produced quite a bit of (probably unsigned) advertising art, thanks to his connection with Cooper.

The 60's saw Irvin move his family to Santa Barbara, California, where he found work illustrating for textbooks and Disney stories.

And then what is for me quite a surprising development: Irvin began drawing for animation studios like Ruby Spears and Hanna Barbera.

I wonder if this means Irvin was working with artists like Alex Toth and Doug Wildey, who were trying to teach the 'big-foot' animation artists how to draw more realistic figures?

Perhaps one day we'll find out more about Fred Irvin. Happily, he is apparently still living (in retirement) in southern California. Irvin was a member of the Society of Illustrators, the pastel Society of New York and the Santa Barbera Art Association.

You'll find a handful of Irvin's painted illustrations at

All of the images posted here today can be seen at full size in my Fred Irvin Flickr set.