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The great American illustrators of the 20th century captured American history unlike any artist before them, while popular publications such as the Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping, Collier’s, Life, Scribner’s and others carried their timeless images to millions of Americans, into their hearts and homes. From iconic cover illustrations to advertisements, today these compositions provide a glimpse into a bygone age. Capturing small moments from everyday life, the art of illustration forges a portrait of a country and its people, shaped by periods of peace and war, moments of economic despair and of great societal change.

A   M   E   R   I   C   A   N      S   T   O   R   I   E   S:

THE ART OF ILLUSTRATION

A   M   E   R   I   C   A   N

S   T   O   R   I   E   S:

THE ART OF 

ILLUSTRATION

UNDRESSED: AN EXPLORATION OF THE NUDE

UNDRESSED: AN EXPLORATION OF THE NUDE

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The Freesoil Printery by Stevan Dohanos, commissioned by the Curtis Circulation Company, circa 1947, M.S. Rau (New Orleans)

Simply defined, an illustration is any picture accompanied by text, and the art of American Illustration emerged as artists created images to be printed alongside stories in newly popular periodicals. However, the art form quickly flourished and evolved to include both advertisements and cover illustrations. 

Lifeguard, Save Me!, by J.C. Leyendecker, Saturday Evening Post cover, August 9, 1924

Giving the Play Call by Paul Martin, Collier's cover, October 25, 1924

Fade-Away Girl by Coles Phillips, Good Housekeeping cover, July 1913

Compositions created to grace the covers of a magazine are considered the height of the illustration art; these illustrations had to tell an entire story without any words, and that story had to be engaging enough to make you want to buy the magazine at a glance. This was far more challenging than creating art to accompany a written story, which is why covers are often the most coveted examples of the art form.

 In this online exclusive exhibition, M.S. Rau traces the history of this uniquely American art, exploring the technological changes, artists and periodicals that have defined and shaped the art of illustration over the decades. Bringing together a carefully curated selection of works from M.S. Rau’s own collection with important examples from museums, this exhibition highlights the nostalgia, humor and artistry that makes American Illustration so special.

The Theory of Relativity. The gas-powered car. The radio. The first decade of the 20th century would truly be remembered as the decade that invented the future.

Conflict came to the entire world as the United States was drawn into its first World War, a conflict in which one million American soldiers would fight.

 1890-1914 

THE DAWN OF A NEW CENTURY


The prosperity of the 1920s came to an end with the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which precipitated the greatest economic decline in U.S. history.

While the rest of the world was rebuilding following WWII, the continental U.S., physically untouched by the war, enjoyed the new prosperity of peacetime.

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 1914-1929

THE GREAT WAR AND THE ROARING  TWENTIES

 1930-1945

THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND A SECOND WORLD WAR

1950-1968

CIVIL RIGHTS AND THE AMERICAN DREAM

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