Monday, October 20, 2008

Frederick Siebel: The Versatile Illustrator

On October 20, 1951, this issue of Collier's hit the stands sporting a remarkable cover by Frederick Siebel. Fifty-seven years later, on October 20, 2008, we begin a week-long look at the work of this versatile illustrator.

Not much information is available on Siebel. The paragraph below from the contents page of that same issue very nearly sums up everything I've been able to find.

Frustrating, because Siebel was tremendously prolific. Flip though almost any major mid-century magazine and you're likely to come across his signature on ad or editorial art -- or both! Thank goodness Siebel regularily signed his work, because you just never know which style (always appropriate, of course) he'd choose to employ for any given assignment.

Siebel was equally adept at literal realism, exaggerated (cartoony) realism, caricature...

... even storybook styles! How many illustrators can boast that sort of diversity?

Its actually kind of surprising that Frederick Siebel was so successful. The business does not generally reward those among its ranks who do a lot of different things, even if they do them well. Most art directors tend to want to pigeon-hole artists as much as most artists want to specialize in one personal 'look'. Think of all the illustrators whose work you know well, who landed high profile assignments on a regular basis, and try to name five who did work as diverse as what you see in today's post. Try to name three!

I've been setting aside examples of Siebel's work for a very long time, hoping to discover an article about him, or hear from someone who knew him. No such luck. Perhaps someone who knew him will find these posts and tell us more about this artist I find both appealing and intriguing -- the versatile Frederick Siebel.

* My Frederick Siebel Flickr set.


  1. Anonymous3:07 PM

    1. Al Parker
    2. Robert Jones aka Bob Jones
    3. Max Altekruse, though not well known did painterly realism, stylized realism, great B&W caricatures and even storybook style illustration for a lot of national advertising accounts while at McNamara in Detroit.

    I don't know if all three were as good as Siebel but that is my shot at naming three.

    I rarely comment but visit almost everyday. Thanks for sharing your collection and passion.

    Tim Langenderfer

  2. Tim;

    thanks for playing ;-)

    Al Parker had been first on my own short list, though to be honest, I don't know that I've ever seen any of his work that strayed this close to cartoon styles.

    Bob Jones I have to agree is one of the most under-appreciated and versatile illustrators of the mid-century period - and one of the first ever featured on this blog back in 2005. I should revisit him soon!

    I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with the work of Max Altekruse (would love to see some!) - but another McNamara Bros. alumnus is on my personal short list: our own Harry Borgman, whose career has been showcased here and who definitely could have given Fred Siebel a run for his money in the versatility department!

  3. wow, thanks for this post, the images are fab! Siebel's work is really amazing. I really love these styles of editorial/advertising illustration.

  4. Leif, ever since I discovered your massive collection of illustrations on Flickr a couple years ago I've been a huge fan of that Allen's Alley ad. It's just so likable. It's amazing how he rendered those characters as if caricature art was his life-long career style. I love every single aspect of that piece. Although that realistically-painted car sort of stands out. LOL.

  5. Anonymous12:21 AM

    I don't know if it's. The same man. I worked for. a Frederik Siebel in the 70's as a photographer. He had a sales promotion co in association with Seagrams Distillers and Edgar Bronfman.
    He married a model, Gretchen..

    If this is the man, then I have more stories

  6. Anonymous10:41 AM

    Siebel married Gretchen. They later sold a house in Amagansett to Edgar Bronfman Jr (2000).

  7. Anonymous4:28 PM

    I have some of my fathers (Max Altekruse) paintings posted on my facebook page. I changed this to public so this link should work.