Friday, July 20, 2018

From the Dick Buchanan Files: Life Cartoons 1924 - 1936

True story: I just was at the Fryeburg Fair Grounds in Maine. Every Sunday they have a big flea market. Someone there had a table full of magazines, including a 1936 Life Magazine. It looked like it was printed yesterday. It still had the subscription card in it -- you know the one: the postage-paid card that you fill out. Anyway, the person who was running the table COULD NOT BE FOUND. There were a couple of other people looking for this person too. Goodness knows where he/she was.

So -- ARRRGGHH -- I left it there. I didn't steal it, although I wanted to. And so much good art in there. Who knew I would be able to see some great old Life Magazine cartoons thanks to Dick Buchanan!

Thanks and take it away, Dick:


“While there’s Life, there’s hope.”

Life cartoons
1924 – 1936

Life magazine was the leading humor magazine of the first quarter of the 20th Century. It featured the work of the most talented cartoonists and illustrators of the time. Life covers featured exceptional work by such luminaries as N.C. Wyeth, Maxfeid Parrish, James Montgomery Flagg, Norman Rockwell, John Held, Jr. and Rea Irwin among others.

Life was founded as a weekly in 1880, becoming a monthly publication with the January 1932 issue. In 1936 Henry Luce bought the publication solely for the use of its name for his trail-blazing photographic magazine. Subsequently, for many years thereafter, this great humor magazine, became known as “the old Life.”

This collection of cartoons from Life features the work of some of the established masters of illustrated humor as well as the efforts of several emerging New Yorker cartoonists who had yet to establish their now familiar styles.

These cartoons are far different from today’s cartoons in many ways. They are examples of the gag cartoon as it existed from the 1800’s to the 1920’s and early 1930’s. In that era cartoons often had titles and the captions usually consisted of dialogue in which each speaker was identified. The single line caption was to become the standard in the 1930’s.

Most of the cartoons were well illustrated jokes. Even though these cartoons have lost much of their original humor, the essential kernel of humor therein still remains. The artwork is impressive.

Here, for the delight and edification of young and old alike, are some great cartoons from the final 12 years of the “old” Life . . .

1a. Cover

Life October 16, 1924. This marvelous cover by Rea Irwin clearly illustrates the mastery of this artist who was to become one of the key creators of The New Yorker. After being fired as Life’s Art Director, he joined Harold Ross and others in shaping The New Yorker in 1925. He drew the magazine’s first cover, featuring Eustace Tilley. This cover was reproduced annually until 1994. Thereafter, it has been occasionally replaced by a redrawn version. He was instrumental as the magazine’s first Art Director, creating the New Yorker’s masthead and the magazine’s typeface, which now bears his name.

1. CARL ANDERSON. After struggling for years as a freelance cartoonist, Anderson created the wordless wonder Henry as a panel cartoon for The Saturday Evening Post in 1935. Henry later became a successful syndicated comic strip. Life October 16, 1924.

2. JOHN HELD, Jr. Held was one of the iconic cartoonists of the Jazz Age. Life December 21, 1925.

3. PETER ARNO. Arno, considered by many as The New Yorker’s greatest cartoonist, needs no introduction to gag cartoon followers. Life June 10, 1925.   

4. ALICE HARVEY. Ms. Harvey was the second cartoonist to appear in The New Yorker. She played an important part in the magazine’s early years. Life June 9, 1927.

5. GARRETT PRICE. This panel of was a regular feature during 1927. Life June 9, 1927.

6. T.S. STROTHMAN. Each issue of Life featured a centerfold cartoon like this fine one. Life April 12, 1928.

7. GLUYAS WILLIAMS. Williams was one of America’s leading illustrators for decades. Williams regularly contributed full-page cartoons to Life. He also illustrated many humorous articles and spot drawings for the magazine’s regular departments. Life April 12, 1928.

8. NED HILTON. Here’s an early example of Hilton’s work. In the 1930’s he became one of Life’s regular cover artists. Life April 12, 1929.

9. R.B. FULLER. Ralph Briggs Fuller’s first Life cartoon was published in 1910. His drawings also appeared in Puck, Judge, and Collier’s. Life February 7, 1930.

10. GARDNER REA. Rea’s cartoons for Life were usually full-pagers. This one is from a series titled “The man who knew him when.”

 11. RICHARD DECKER. Life March 20, 1931.

12. LEONARD DOVE. Dove was another New Yorker cartoonist experimenting with different styles. Life January 1932. (the gag line is, "Now you tell me, is it or is it not, your ambition to become a fireman?")

13. OTTO SOGLOW. Soglow used two different styles. This one was later abandoned in favor of his “Little King” approach. Life January 1932. (The gag line is, "I always thought you had a mole here!")

 14. WILLIAM STEIG. Steig was another of The New Yorker’s greatest cartoonists. Life January, 1932.

15. LUDWIG BEMELMANS. Bemelmans contributed 32 covers to The New Yorker. Today, he is best remembered for his children’s literature’s classic, Madeline. Life August 1933.

16. DANIEL ALAIN. Life January, 1935.

17. GEORGE PRICE. We suspect George Price was always George Price. Life January, 1935.

18. BARNEY TOBEY. Tobey was not only a New Yorker favorite but one of Collier’s mainstays, publishing hundreds of gag cartoons and a three covers, as well. Life May, 1936.

19. BARBARA SHERMUND. Shermund’s cartoon world did not include children, making the appearance of this baby a rare event. Life May, 1936.

1 comment:

Ell said...

This sort of history is exactly why I read your blog. I truly appreciate the effort you put into your blog. Thank you!