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The Meinrad Mayer Gallery in the American Illustrators Hall of Fame.


The finest illustrators of this century and last have painted for the Saturday Evening Post. Indeed, for many years the Post was the standard of illustrator excellence by which all other magazines were judged.

The Post is now a repository of illustrator art from all over the country. It seems fitting, then, that we should sponsor the American Illustrators Hall of Fame in Indianapolis.

For the past two decades, many of the artists who once brought their work to our Philadelphia Independence Square offices have traveled to Indianapolis to see their original paintings hanging on our walls beside framed copies of the Post on which they appeared. Many of these artists are living to a remarkably old age. Some who visited us, we were saddened to learn, have since passed on to their heavenly homes. A few are still painting.

Some visiting artists were disappointed to discover that their paintings had disappeared from the walls of The Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia during the time it appeared that the company was crumbling. Some of the paintings that had strayed have been returned to their rightful home with the Post.

With this issue we begin a series of tributes to our cover artists, and we introduce our readers again to the works of Meinrad Mayer. Even though Mayer, at 96, has faulty vision, his artist's talent enables him to create work that others enjoy. One hundred and thirty of his paintings hang in the Meinrad Mayer Gallery, the first gallery to be completed in the American Illustrators Hall of Fame.

Meinrad Mayer is a man who spent most of his life giving pleasure to many with his versatile imagination and his prolific paintbrush.

Meinrad Mayer, or Leo as he is known to his friends, is still painting in the tidy workroom of his home. Few of us get this close to the century mark, and those who do are often content to dwell in memories. Not so Leo, who keeps his studio clean and organized, ready for inspiration to strike.

Leo's career has touched nearly every artistic base. He studied art in Buffalo, New York, and began his commercial career in that city before World War I called him to Washington, D.C., where he became a medical illustrator for the Surgeon General's office. After the war, Leo headed up to New York City for a dozen years of work in advertising agencies before setting out on his own to work as a freelance illustrator. Like Norman Rockwell, Leo admired the work of J.C. Leyendecker, Leo too lived in New Rochelle, where Leyendecker painted.

While illustrator Leyendecker was becoming famous among the cognoscenti in New York art circles for his Arrow collar man, illustrator Mayer was becoming equally famous for his exquisite renderings in the then-famous Lionel toy train catalogs of bigger-than-life locomotives. The excitement he could create in those works of art has caused the legendary Lionel train catalogs to be collector's items to this day. With his air brush he gave the trains an aura of action and adventure that were as exciting to the children of that day as the space age is to today's children.

Leo became a student of diet and health early in his lifetime. Long before today's knowledge of fiber and vitamins and their relationship to maintaining good health, Leo and Lydia, his wife of nearly 70 years, were eating high-complex carbohydrate, low-fat, high-fiber menus--mostly vegetables and grains with some fish and poultry. They also practiced the food advice of Benjamin Franklin: "To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals."

Lydia Mayer may have had another positive effect on Meinrad's lengevity. If, as some physicians believe, pets are good for the mental health of their owners, her own devotion to animal life may have played a role. Her eyes brimmed with tears when she told us how to this day she senses the presence of their beloved and departed cocker spaniel in their home.

Many longtime Post illustrators are living and working in advanced years. Perhaps the elation that comes with purely creative endeavor does a great deal for the body's biofeedback and the production of enzymes to stimulate the immune system. Leo must have been at peach with the universe when, 30 years ago, he conceived the painting that appears on pages 56-57. He told us that the birds, each of which represents an authentic species, depict "all human races and nationalities 'finding their place in the sun.'"

To us, that statement says much about the sensitivity and compassion of this talented artist whom we have come to love.

Unlike Van Gogh, who often wrote to his brother describing his works, Leo seldom wrote about his paintings or offered interpretations.

Artist Mayer is a gifted man with a big heart and a love for all of God's creatures. The Post is privileged to display his work to posterity in the American Illustrators Hall of Fame.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Biography
Date:Sep 1, 1990
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