Monday, May 14, 2012

William Meade Prince (1893-1951)

By Guest Author Tony Gleeson

Few people today are familiar with the illustrator WIlliam Meade Prince, who did some wonderful work in pencil and white gouache on toned paper, as well as more traditional painting.


The way I came to acquire these images is kind of interesting... in the mid '70s when I lived in NYC I acquired the reference file of a deceased artist; tons of stuff going back to the beginning of the 20th century. He had tons and tons of old mag illustrations, all clipped and filed in large manila envelopes by subject. It was up to me to re-collate them and glean whatever info I could on the artists and the issues and so forth. In art school I had been fascinated with the technique of pencil on toned paper with white highlights, and these just spoke to me at the time.


The vast majority of the work Prince did in this style for Collier's was to illustrate the work of a Southern author named Roark Bradford (by 1941 he did start to illustrate other authors in this style, and I've got a few of those as well).


Bradford was pretty prolific, writing lots of fiction pieces about southern African-Americans that today definitely appear, in the words of Wikipedia, "patronizing and demeaning."


I have no intent to offend anyone nor to open any controversies...


... just to put forth the work of an interesting artist -- and I also feel that Prince's illustrations were generally NOT demeaning but rather brought out a lot of character and dignity in what were basically comic characters in comic stories."


All of which is very interesting and adds valuable context, in my opinion.

Continued tomorrow.

* Tony Gleeson is a freelance illustrator. Since 1974 he has created finished art for the book, editorial and advertising industries as well as character design and concept art for gaming, film, television and theme parks. He lives in Southern California.


  1. Great post -- WMP was an outstanding draftsman and this type of character was perfect fodder for his style and approach....especially for limited colour print.

  2. Great to see this aspect of Prince's career. Very reminiscent of Arthur Keller's clothed figure studies. Great character studies and a terrific use of the white gouache on toned paper.

  3. Nice work indeed.I get no sense of stereotyping at all,he's given these characters life and vitality without crossing the line. WMP seems to have been especially good at capturing gesture and expression without straying too far into caricature.

  4. Any ideas how he toned his paper? Gouache, acrylics, watercolor washes?

  5. Tony Gleeson10:25 PM

    Steven: I'm guessing he used paper that came already in a particular tone, with a "tooth" for pencil.

    Heritage auctions off one of his originals from time to time.... for example:

  6. Thanks Tony.... I'm diggin' Prince's work a lot. And he was from Roanoke, just 30 minutes from where I live. Wow.

  7. My small auction house is selling a good Collier's example of your discussion here online starting 10/2/2013 and ending 10/16/2013. The piece was also inscribed to the author James Thurber. It can be seen at
    - Tom Curran