Printer Friendly

Hughes' views.

In the 1950s, America moved to the suburbs, and the Post moved with it. Post covers reflected the spirit of the times: a longing for sophisticated style and a fascination with the newfangled conveniences of modern post-WWII life.

The most prolific cover artist of the day was George Hughes, who between 1948 and 1962 produced 115 Post covers. Hughes' illustrations not only reflected Americans' shifting tastes, they also defined the new American self-image--wholesome and rooted, yet up-to-date and upwardly mobile.

Hughes, who was born in 1907 in New York City, bypassed college to study art and mechanical drawing at New York's Art Students League and at the National Academy of Design. He freelanced fashion illustrations for Vanity Fair and House & Garden magazines and worked briefly as a mechanical designer before landing his first Post assignment, a short story illustration, in the fall of 1942.

A big break Hughes came in 1945 when he was assigned to illustrate one of Guy Gilpatric's popular Glencannon stories. He would eventually illustrate hundreds of Post stories, primarily on maritime and romantic themes.

Hughes' first Post cover appeared in April 1948. It depicts a small boy, grimy head to toe, nonchalantly arriving home to the distress of his mother who is busy hanging out freshly washed clothes. The artist worked for months on the illustration, trying to get it right, down to the tiniest detail. He spent an entire day studying the proper way to use clothespins. To be wrong about clothespin technique would invite stacks of letters from sharp readers who made a game out of finding flaws. All the work paid off; the cover struck a chord among parents familiar with the never ending struggle to keep their offspring clean and tidy, and was big hit.

Steady work for the Post enabled Hughes to move his family from New York City to the quaint little town of Arlington, Vermont, where among his neighbors were three other prominent Post illustrators: Norman Rockwell, Mead Schaeffer, and Jack Atherton.

Rockwell and Hughes became good friends, often sharing the same Arlington models, although their tastes in subject matter differed. Hughes would take the authentic rural characters that Rockwell preferred, dress them up; and construct a more sophisticated situation around them. Although the two often asked each other's advice on their works in progress. Hughes suspected Rockwell of soliciting his advice only to take the opposite course, so as not to get too modern. One evening at a party, Rockwell lamented about a painting that he had been working on all week, only to get so frustrated with it that he had thrown it out of his studio into the winter snow. It depicted a proper elderly woman and a child saying grace before eating in a railroad diner while being watched by several rough-looking types. Hughes agreed with Rockwell that the idea didn't sound workable. With that confirmation, Rockwell retrieved the paiting and completed it. "Saying Grace" became one of Rockwell's most compelling and endearing covers.

Hughes, for his part, worked to update the Post cover tradition in a way that was distinctly in step with the emerging modern American frame of mind. He accomplished much of this with color, choosing bright, vibrant hues that seemed to pop off the page. He also favored situations and settings that were more cosmopolitan and decidedly upper middle class. Women, no matter what time of day or whatever their activity, were poised, coiffed, and well-dressed; men wore pleated slacks and oxford shirts or suits.

Most of Hughes' covers dealt with modern family life. Parents were depicted as patient, caring, and self-sacrificing. Children were often portrayed as innocent protagonists, managing to get their parents into a variety of humorously embarrassing situations, but never being purposefully malicious. Hughes often used his own children, or the children of neighbors and close friends, as models. Especially touching were the many fahter-and-son covers he painted-surprising, since all five of his children were daughters.

The illustrator's last cover appeared in July 1962, at a time when the Post started to regularly feature photographs on the cover. By the end of the year, the Post ceased during cover illustrators. Hughest continued illustrating for other magazines, such as McCalls, Reader's Digest, and Cosmopolitan, until the mid-'70s.

In his later years, Hughes turned to portraiture, although he continued illustrating books and advertisements. For personal pleasure (and occasional profit), he painted watercolors and screens.

George Hughes died in November of 1989. Yet, his legacy lives on. In his time he helped shape the way we wanted to think of ourselves, and now he helps us to remember those special times and the way we were.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:art work of George Hughes
Author:Pettinga, Steven C.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:May 1, 1992
Words:775
Previous Article:The summer of my discontent.
Next Article:Still time to plant.
Topics:


Related Articles
T.G. WESTERMAN NAMED SENIOR V.P. AT HUGHES AIRCRAFT
IDB BROADCAST JOINS GALAXY 1-R LINEUP
Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America.
HUGHES NAMES LEWIS INDONESIA COUNTRY DIRECTOR
NEW PRESIDENT FOR ST. GEORGE CRYSTAL HAS RETAIL FOCUS.
Christine Hughes, Elected to Infodata Systems Board of Directors.
AN EYE ON AMERICA AND ITS ART; HUGHES GOES BEYOND THE GALLERY WITH BOLD STROKES IN PBS SERIES.
Auto exotica. (Artifact).

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters