The McCann Time Capsule: Norman Rockwell, J.C. Leyendecker and the Golden Age of Illustrators
Throughout our long history, our agency’s print advertising has drawn on the talents of some of the most renowned artists and illustrators of the 20th century, dating back even before the H. K. McCann and Erickson Co. agencies merged in 1930. As the TruthWellBrewed home page accompanying this McCann Time Capsule shows, this included work by Norman Rockwell (shown is a 1918 H. K. McCann Del Monte ad) and J. C. Leyendecker (shown is a 1929 Erickson Company Interwoven socks ad).
And both the McCann and Erickson agencies employed artwork that appeared in the Art Directors Club’s seminal 1921 “First Annual Exhibition of Advertising Paintings and Drawings.” That show included “advertising illustrations worthy of being included in an exhibition of original paintings and drawings used in American art.” This is what has been called the Golden Age of Illustration with many artists creating fabulous work for magazine covers as well as magazine ads.
The Art Directors Club itself, which was formed in 1920, sponsored the March 2-21, 1921, exhibition to highlight the high quality of advertising artwork at the time. Among its goals were “to show forcefully that good art and good advertising are consistent and that successful advertisers are using as high a standard of art as that used in illustration or shown in the average exhibition of studio painting” and “to emphasize the importance of illustration and its intelligent handling in advertising.”
The exhibition catalogue included about 300 black-and-white versions of the mostly four-color artwork included in the show, of which about a dozen entries represented McCann and Erickson agency work on behalf of their clients. Leyendecker and Rockwell are in this show, but not for McCann clients.
Many of the illustrators became famous in other ways as well, whether as artists and/or with life stories, like those of Henry Botkin’s or Neysa McMein’s, that made them part of the 20th century’s American creative history. Below are some examples of the McCann and Erickson agency illustrations exhibited in the show.
1. The pilgrims disembarking from the ship was illustrated by Henry Botkin (1896-1983) for Old Colony Trust Co., an H. K. McCann Co. bank client. Botkin, an abstract painter known for his collage paintings, was a cousin and close friend of George Gershwin’s who had also encouraged the composer to take up painting and served as his instructor. Botkin also joined Gershwin on his trip to South Carolina where “Porgy and Bess” was composed while Botkin painted scenes from the opera.
2. The stylish woman shown from the back was drawn for Erickson client Wallace Silver by Neysa McMein (1889-1949), who was also well-known as a portrait painter and for creating the image of Betty Crocker. But she was also one of the members of the Algonquin Round Table and, in fact, was portrayed by the actress Rebecca Miller in the 1994 film “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.”
3. The scene of a woman at her Royal typewriter was the work of Clarence Helck (1893 – 1988) for an H. K. McCann client.
4. The woman in the rocking chair reaching down for her shoes is from an ad for Erickson client Bon Ami and represents the work of Cushman Parker (1881-1940).
5. 5a & 5b: Nujol mineral oil apparently used various illustration styles as shown in these McCann ads, one with boxers by Charles Buckles Falls (1874-1960) and another of a girl with her doll by Walter Dean Goldbeck (1882-1925),