Monday, September 15, 2008

Nearly Anonymous: The Cartoonist Illustrators

Look back over the hundreds of posts I've written here since late 2005 and it becomes obvious that if you do a little digging, you can find some information on almost any mid-century illustrator. Signing your work was widely accepted back then, and many illustrators did story artwork for the magazines, which invariably entailed receiving a credit line. As well, magazines often wrote short blurbs about their artists on the 'Contributors' page, sometimes even including a photo of the artist at his desk, or with his family.

Less well-documented are the cartoonist/illustrators.

These artists rarely did large feature artwork for magazine fiction stories. Their share of the advertising art - especially of high profile national campaigns - was also relatively small. Cartoon illustration was usually used for small space ads, as a supplement to the design of a package or as a space filler - a spot - in a column of type.

Subsequently the cartoonist/illustrator has often been anonymous - or at best, nearly anonymous - doing unsigned work or sneaking in a couple of initials. With the exception of a very few (Roy Doty, for instance) there's almost no information about artists who worked in this specialized area of the business... an area I've devoted much of my own career to. For the last twenty years I've been doing cartoon illustration for advertising, editorial, packaging and books, almost never signing my work, like the generations of cartoonist/illustrators who came before me.

Needless to say, I sort of have a soft spot for those guys. This week I'd like to give a few of them their due. First up is George Albertus...

For the longest time, the only examples I'd come across by Albertus were the black and blue spots above, from Coronet magazine, signed 'G Albertus'. I thought they were absolutely wonderful... but I didn't imagine I'd ever find out anything about who this G Albertus was.

Then, out of the blue, our good friend Charlie Allen sent me the scan below, along with the following note:

"Thought you might enjoy a 1967 'hippie' ad....Geo. Albertus cartoons... a fine artist-cartoonist... a Dodge ad where we combined forces."

I was stunned. "G Albertus" was George Albertus... and Charlie knew him!

Of course, I immediately peppered poor Charlie with a thousand questions. He kindly provided what information he could recall:

"LEIF.....Will do my best on the memory thing. Geo. A. came to P&H in the early 50's....I think he had been doing men's fashions for Roos Atkins....a popular and well known N. California clothing chain. As I recall, he wanted to zero in on cartoon work....his preference and talent. He was around for several years, but as biz slowed, he moved on to freelance....where he was when hired for that Chevvy ad. We were so busy, I lost track....but he was just a great guy to talk to, have a drink with, whatever. As with many illustrators over the years, we just drifted apart with work and time."

By complete coincidence, just a day or so later, I found the ad below in a 1955 Saturday Evening Post. Its the only time I've ever come across Albertus' work in all the hundreds of magazines I've scoured.

A few days later, Charlie sent another scan (below) and the following note:

"LEIF.... Was scanning some 'Telephone News' mailers for the blog, and ran across this cartoon on the back side. I did the front...a weather satellite...and I'm sure George Albertus, who was at P&H then, did the cartoon...though not signed. None of mine were signed either, so they probably had a policy. Anyway, a nice job...he was good."

He sure was. And today at least, we can say we knew him a little bit. Perhaps some member of his family will Google his name, find this post, and tell us more. For now, here's to you, George Albertus, where ever you are.

* My George Albertus Flickr set.

* And speaking of Charlie Allen, be sure to check out the brand new latest installment of the CAWS (#12), over at Charlie Allen's Blog!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. A post dear to my heart Lief. Ya know... I'm wondering now if one of my first posts might have been done by Albertus?...

  3. Fantastic stuff.

  4. The scans of cartoonists could be larger to show us the real art, Lief!

    Mario Latino

  5. For full size scans, always go to the Flickr link I provide at the end of each post, Mario.

  6. Anonymous3:11 PM

    Charming, uncomplicated work. The characters made up mostly of black silhouettes are great fun.

    I'm also relieved to learn that 7-Up will take away my too-sweet, too-sour worries.

    Thanks again for your efforts.

  7. Anonymous3:16 PM

    Oops, clicked on the wrong comment link. My above comment belongs with John Averill's work.

    Leif - feel free to remove these two posts, and I'll repost in the appropriate spot.

  8. George albertus sounds like two first names. Is thta really his full name?

  9. That's an interesting question, Ger _ I'll check with Charlie Allen about Albertus' full name.

  10. Here´s a book cover by Albertus:

  11. Thanks Berliac! :^)

  12. Wow. George Albertus was my father. I have chills. Every now and then I google him -little comes up. I hardly knew him (he died in 1972 and I was born in '69) but my sister and brother and I survive him. The basic bits about him is that he was an illustrator, teacher, WW2 vet, peace activist, goofball, father, husband in the Bay Area of California (lived in Mill Valley, worked in San Francisco).

    Oddly, when someone has been gone so long, one expects to hear nothing about him.. yet the past few years the most beautiful occurances have re-emerged his art back and naturally the memories and stories.

    A month or so ago a fine man dealing with a death in his family contacted us wondering if George was related to us. Short story is that in Oregon he'd inherited two amazing pieces of my father's personal work. Just a few days ago my sister and I met him in Oakland to pick them up. Such a sweet, kind man. We were over the moon with excitement and gratitude.

    Before that by a year or so, my sister's associate mentioned her husband had been an adoring student of his- and HE had lots of George's work.. amazing.

    Anyway- there are a few more, but thank you endlessly for bringing a tear to my eye. He was a lovely person, as you note- largely unknown. I have an epic amount of his work I hope to show sometime soon. With this posting, I am further inspired.

    Many, many thanks for your recognition. I would be delighted to share more anytime.

    All the peace and well being in the world to you-
    Anthony Albertus
    San Francisco, CA

  13. To Anthony Albertus: What a wonderful find about, your father, George Albertus. He was my figure drawing teacher at City College in San Francisco, around 1969. He was one of my favorite teachers and a terrific illustrator. He was well liked by the art students he taught. I remember the long white butcher paper he would roll out and draw and demonstrate how a figure moves. He also had a very unique drawing style and technique. He was a very good teacher.

    I have been in the graphic design and illustration industry since graduating from CCSF. I am still active in the business and I'm a college professor teaching illustration and graphic design. Yes, George made an impact on me. It was a sad day for all the students he touched. Jack Tom

  14. Anonymous3:39 PM

    My father has a wonderful sketch by George Albertus and I googled his name to see what it may be worth. Is there a place that appraises these things? I would be happy to send a link or text a photo of it-- or at least part of it, as it's long, with a group of people on and around a stagecoach--looks like it was done in charcoal, if anyone is interested.
    Caitlin 503 449 0433