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The craftsman
Vol. XVII, Number 3 (December 1909)

Foremost American illustrators: vital significance of their work,   pp. 266-280 PDF (4.7 MB)


Page 266


FOREMOST AMERICAN ILLUSTRATORS:
VITAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THEIR WORK
modern American illustrator, through much buffet-
g by the winds of misfortune, as well as through his
forced closeness to the minor actualities of life, has
scovered for his own soul's enlightenment that only
far as a man looks the truth in the face and uses
s art to make that truth clear is his work worth
              considering. For time has no other way of judging
art except by the truth it holds in solution. It is quite impossible
for a man to affect the public by a presentation of his own ideals in
his art; on the other hand, by expressing the truth he may vastly
stimulate a thirst for ideals,-a very different matter. For every
man's ideal is in reality his most personal possession, useful only to
himself, while truth which stimulates the growth of the ideal is of
great universal importance, and the wide varying charm in art is the
individual way each man has of speaking the truth.
   In speaking of American illustrators we do not wish to be
understood as including the makers of merely pretty pictures for
insipid fiction or the designers of mock melodramatic unreality.
This so-called art may be catalogued in America as pure journalism,
whether it appears in magazines (as, alas, it so often does) or in the
daily press (which seldom presents any true art whatsoever). Neither
shall we include decorative illustration, beautiful as is the work of
such men as Pyle, Penfield and Parrish. For in this phase of illus-
tration the interest lies mainly in color for color's sake, coupled with
an appreciation of dramatic history; whereas the group of men who
are practically historians of modern conditions more often than not
do not use color, and they find charm in the humblest, simplest
situations.
    The illustrators we have in mind as most significant in their rela-
tion to the development of this art in America are men who from our
point of view rank with John Leech, William Hogarth and Daumier,
men who are painters as well as illustrators, but who do not, in con-
sidering art, separate color into one category and form and line into
another. They rather gladly accept all mediums for their utmost
usefulness, and are far more concerned with the actual subject pre-
sented in art than the means of presenting it. For the subject in the
work of significant men inevitably stands for great underlying prin-
ciples, for the causes which govern conditions in life. No man who
illustrates well separates a single person or group of people in a picture
from the world-wide conditions which they represent.
    An artist, for instance, like William J. Glackens, draws a group
of tenement children playing boisterously on Washington Square.
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