Sunday, July 17, 2011

Pulp Art: The Robert Lesser Collection

In 1901 a group of nine artists and a businessman founded the Society of Illustrators with the object to promote the art of illustration and to hold exhibitions.

The 90 works on display at the Museum of American Illustration courtesy the society are now a part of the collection of the New Britain Museum of American Art, promised gift of Robert Lesser, who started collecting pulp paintings, comic books, and comic-character toys in the 1950s. As a student at the University of Chicago, Lesser’s literature studies combined with his fascination with popular culture kindled his interest in studying and collecting pulp art and comic memorabilia.

In 1975 he wrote ‘A Celebration of Comic Art and Memorabilia’, an informational collector’s guide; in 1997 he published ‘Pulp Art: Original Cover Paintings for the Great American Pulp Magazines’, a full-color collection of pulp paintings and history that includes expert interpretation.

The style of artwork created for pulp magazines is often compared to Norman Rockwell’s cover designs for the “Saturday Evening Post,” but the character of the paintings was quite disparate from Rockwell’s jovial depictions of everyday life. Pulp Art flaunted unsettling images of violence, racism, sex, and crime. The publishing houses that produced pulp fiction destroyed much of the artwork produced for the magazines after printing. The images weren’t suitable for display in homes or museums so artists and auctioneers deemed them worthless. Tens of thousands of pulp paintings were created, out of which only a small number survive today.

The virtual National Museum of American Illustration, where artworks from the ‘Golden Age of American Illustration’ and from other eras are presented in the ‘Gilded Age’ architectural frame of Vernon Court (1898). Visitors can appreciate our American Imagist Collection as a medley of beautiful pictures, but also as a historical overview of our unique culture.

These works sum up the country’s visual history, as if illustrating American civilization. The original paintings and drawings in the Collection were created for reproduction in books, periodicals, advertisements, and art prints. In the process, illustrators created iconic images, a mythology of history, and a virtual catalog of bygone styles and days.

No comments:

Post a Comment