Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cliff Roberts: "Das Buch vom Jazz"

Here's another neat find from my favourite used book store: The Book of Jazz, illustrated by Cliff Roberts. Of course I had to find the German language version - go figure! - but what the heck, Roberts' pictures are a delight, no matter what language they're in.

If you've been reading this blog for a couple of years now, you might recall that Cliff Roberts was a good friend of our own Harry Borgman. The two illustrators started their careers together in Detroit at the Allied Artists studio back in the late 1940's.

With Harry's generous assistance, I wrote a post about Cliff Roberts that included many examples from his early days. You can read that post here.

Roberts said his early influences were Jan Balet, Jerome Snyder and Joe Kaufman, but the drawing he did in 1955 for The Book of Jazz are pure Jim Flora (and even some of his earliest work has a distinct Flora-esque look about it). I have to wonder if the publisher of The Book of Jazz tried and failed to get Flora in the first place and asked Roberts to imitate the other illustrator's style.

No matter - whether imitation or homage, Roberts' illustrations for The Book of Jazz are wonderful - so I'm going to shut up now and just let you soak 'em in. Enjoy!

Below, a picture of Cliff Roberts from the early 70's which appeared in Cartoonist PROfiles magazine. Thanks to Amid Amidi for sharing this with me.

Cliff Roberts later went into the animation business and worked on Saturday Morning Cartoons like The Smurfs, Scooby Doo and The Pink Panther. He passed away in 1999.

* My Cliff Roberts Flickr set


  1. I've been receiving (and reading) the T.I. posts for over a year now, and this is the first time I've felt compelled to comment -- these illustrations are pure delight! Now I'll have to hunt down a Cliff Roberts book...

  2. I'm so glad we finally got you, Maggie; I checked and there was a copy available at for about $45. I don't know if Cliff Roberts illustrated any other books.

  3. The U.S. edition was republished around 5 or 6 years ago (at least i think that's when i got my copy) & should be fairly easy to find...

  4. I am a recent fan of your T.I. Today's post of Cliff jazz is amazingly fine. Thank you that will certainly inspire me.

  5. Wow -- $5 bargains of this book on eBay ... even with shipping, still only $9.


    and here:

  6. Harry Borgman6:16 PM

    Great post, Leif, I hadn't seen any of these drawings before , exciting stuff !

  7. Okay, this sounds weird enough to be truly interesting: a 10-minute animated film that Cliff Roberts designed in 1959, one of those drivers-education films for teenage students? Kinda sounds like it could be the same Cliff Roberts. It's for sale on a DVD collection; here's the synopsis (link to sale at bottom):

    Stop Driving Us Crazy (1959)

    Rusty, a spy from Mars, pays a visit to Earth and discovers how its inhabitants disrespect one another by driving poorly. The film espouses a Christian viewpoint on safety, stating that "reckless driving is a sin." The 1950s-style animation is great. Director: Mel Emde. Writer: William Bernal. Designer: Cliff Roberts. Animators: Ken Mundie, Dick Drew, Sammy Kai. Voices: Howard Morris. Music: Benny Golson with Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers. Executive Producer: Roger Burgess. Camera Effects: Bill Gage.
    Sound, Color, 9:51

    on eBay, with 3 little animation stills:

  8. Great work sleuthing that out, Maggie - sounds like something Amid Amidi would love to know about.

    Zach; Thanks for the heads-up on the reprint. Since its so recently available, I may take down a bunch of these images (don't want to upset the publisher).

    Harry, its my pleasure - I'm happy to be able to show you something 'new' by your old friend, Cliff. :^)

  9. Lacey7:35 PM

    I purchased this book new from books a million just a couple of years ago. Are you supposed to ask permission before you post a book that's under copyright on the Internet ?

  10. Lacey;

    As I replied to Zach, I was unaware the book had been reprinted. I'm probably going to take down most of these images in a day or two since the book's widely available. As for using copyrighted material, I refer you to this discussion on Flickr from a couple of years ago regarding "Fair Use":

  11. Well, now I don't know what to think... I've searched amazon, alibris, Lacey's "books a million"... nobody seems to have any copies of this book available for sale. Can anyone shed some light on this? If this artwork is nearly impossible to come by, then I hesitate to not show it here, because its an important aspect of Cliff Roberts' development as an illustrator.

    Should I leave these up or take most of them down? Speak up, TI readers.

  12. Charlie Allen10:33 PM

    LEIF.... When I saw this, TI already had 11 comments! I'm soaking it in...and enjoying. The only design I quibble with...'Swing'. That was my era...much more active than that. You've been posting all these great decorative designer dudes....simply mahvelous. Makes plain vanilla illustrators (moi) soooo pedantic. It must be that engineering gene.

  13. I love this style of illustration, thanks so much for unearthing it and brightening my day!

  14. Keep most under the rational of 'educational discourse'.

    Then there's that promotional angle---the posting of which is sure to sell copies of the book :-)

  15. I think I agree with that rationale, Zach. I'm going to cut the total in half, I think. Based on the discussion here and on Flickr, showing these images has only encouraged more people to seek out their own copy to purchase.

    Thx - L ;^)

  16. Harley12:54 AM

    Phenomenal post, Leif.

    These pictures seem like they were genetically engineered to please me. I absolutely love them.

  17. Feine graphische Arbeiten...
    Fine graphic works!

  18. Agree, these are fantastically illustrated. For those looking for copies, lots of good used ones available on for under $10 USD

  19. Zounds! Your vault of cartoon and illustration treasures is a bottomless well of inspirational refreshment. This one (and your Flickr set) are very special! AHHHH!

  20. I'm glad to have found something that gets that kind of reaction from you, Sherm. Its a pleasure to repay your generous assistance with my post on Jack Kent!

  21. Cliff Roberts did do some other books. I have a copy of the childrens' books "The Dot" and "The Hole" by him. Here is a link to illustrations from his book "Thomas":

  22. Oh, that's wonderful news! Thank you, Tris Mast! :^)

  23. Wonderful, inspiring stuff. A real treasure trove, thank you for posting them!!! I have some vintage images on my own blog (nothing as lovely as these), in case you are interested:

    I'll be checking regularly for more things - I can't wait!