Turn Back the Pages: Introduction

[Editor’s Note – Introducing an exciting new monthly column by Daniel Zalkus, an illustrator who also happens to be passionate about sharing the work of our historical predecessors from illustration’s past. Daniel will be digging up some real gems from the 50’s and 60’s and relating them to our contemporary industry. Enjoy and be educated and inspired!]

Welcome to the first installment of my new column here at Illustration Age.  I hope you’ll join me each month as I present, examine, and discuss mid-twentieth century illustration. I will dig into my collection of magazines and books, along with research I’ve done over the years, to write about illustration from that time period. The artists featured stand out to me for one reason or another, be it as an influence to my own work or their historical context. To give you a brief example of this: A business magazine in the 1960’s that commissioned a fine artist to do an illustration assignment. It’s a non-conventional approach that took me by surprise because I didn’t think it was the type of publication that would experiment with the visuals on their pages.

Why mid-twentieth century?  In the 1950’s television was quickly becoming the new source for entertainment, causing several national periodicals to fold. To keep up with the competition magazines were looking for anything that was new, or different, in order to retain the wavering attention of the public.

The market was ready for a change and to meet those demands illustrators experimented with new techniques and looked to fine art painters such as Pierre Bonnard and Egon Schiele as inspiration instead of their fellow practitioner like they had in the past. Illustration changed from tight paintings, such as Normal Rockwell and J.C. Leyendecker, to art that contained loose brush strokes and even line in some of the final images. It’s this experimentation and transition that makes the mid-century period an exciting one to me.

Below is a selection of work by illustrators who I’ll spotlight in future columns (but not limited to one’s I’m sharing today). Enjoy!

First up is a quote by Robert Weaver from a full page in Esquire Magazine:

In recording the literal image as it already appears in life, what line can you draw between art and illustration? When I come upon a sight that is already exciting in terms of color and design, I depict it as is, with little rearrangement and with no aesthetic reservations about whether it is to be framed and hung – or used as magazine illustration.” – Robert Weaver.


*Images from top to bottom: Bernie Fuchs, Redbook 1960’s, Robert Weaver: Objective, Esquire Magazine, December 1956, Bernie Fuchs McCall’s, June, 1959, Coby Whitmore, 1960, publication unknown, Neil Boyle, Saturday Evening Post, January 1963, Jack Potter, McCalls, February, 1960, Noel Sickles, Saturday Evening Post April 8th, 1967.

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Categories: History of Illustration

Author:Daniel Zalkus

Daniel Zalkus is an Illustrator and graduate of the School of Visual Arts in NYC. You can see more of his work at: danielzalkus.com

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2 Comments on “Turn Back the Pages: Introduction”

  1. December 5, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

    Love it

  2. June 13, 2018 at 9:07 am #

    I am so inspired by illustrators like Bernie fuchs and mark english, but the true list of these extends into, probably 20 plus artists. When I want inspiration,I go to the many books that I have collected over the years on these wonderful artists. It is too bad that today there are no more magazine spreads with great artwork. I don’t know where the illustrators of today can find interesting assignments that would pay them reasonably well and keep them busy to develop their craft. I get emails from the society of illustrators in California, seems many are mostly doing graphic novels and possibly some story boarding. there is also the society of illustrators in NYC, they have some wonderful examples of the great artists that created illustrations back in the past. I found that it just excited me to look at these wonderful examples and you can learn so much about painting by viewing these. I wonder how many people know about this museum,gallery and members club? I’m happy to know that the works are being preserved for all to view.


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