Anna Lee (Анна Щукина) (ana_lee) wrote,
Anna Lee (Анна Щукина)

John Held Jr. and the Jazz Age

"Но  нет-нет да  послышится  вновь  приглушенная  дробь   барабанов,   хриплые   вздохи тромбонов, и тогда я переношусь назад, к началу 20-х годов, когда мы  пили спирт и "с каждым днем нам становилось все лучше и лучше",  когда  впервые несмело стали подкорачивать юбки и девочки в облегающих платьях  выглядели все одинаково и повсюду встречали тебя осточертевшей песенкой "Да, бананов нынче нет", и казалось, что пройдет  всего  год-другой,  и  старики  уйдут наконец с дороги, предоставив вершить судьбы мира тем, кто видел вещи  как они есть, - и нам, кто  тогда  был  молод,  все  это  видится  в  розовом, романтическом свете, потому что никогда нам уже не вернуть  былую  остроту восприятия жизни, которая нас окружает."
Ф.Скотт Фицджеральд. Отзвуки века джаза

In American Cultural mythology the 1920s conjure up images of bathtub gin, raccoon coats, and tall, impossibly thin, short-skirted "flappers." F. Scott Fitzgerald nicknamed the period "the Jazz Age" and wrote novels that chronicled the lifestyles of the young and fun-loving. Many of the period's most enduring visual images were created by one of most famous artists, John Held, Jr.

His father, John Held, Sr., was born in Geneva, Switzerland, and showed early promise as an artist. Mormon educator John R. Park discovered Held while searching for talented individuals in Europe. As he had with other gifted youngsters, Park brought Held to Salt Lake City, legally adopted him, and began training him as a future art instructor at Deseret University. He was not to become an educator; instead, he enjoyed a successful career as an engraver, draftsman, and leader of a popular band. John Jr.'s maternal grandfather, James Evans, an English convert to Mormonism and a handcart pioneer, helped design sets for the theater, and his daughter Annie frequently acted in local productions. John Held, Jr., was born to John and Annie Evans Held on January 10, 1889.

John Jr. received no formal art training and always claimed that his father and sculptor Mahonri M. Young, a grandson of Brigham Young, were his only teachers. By age three John Jr. was drawing animals. A family legend maintains that when the child became lost in the mountains his frantic parents found him happily modeling figures out of some clay soil. The two John Helds became a familiar sight in downtown Salt Lake City. Eight-year-old John Jr. drove a horse-drawn cart with advertising panels, behind which John Sr. played his cornet to attract attention.

John attended West High School and then joined the staff of the Salt Lake Tribune as a cartoonist with his classmate, Harold Ross. Held left Utah in 1910 to seek his fortune in New York City; Ross and Mahonri Young did likewise. Ross went on to found The New Yorker magazine, which often featured Held's drawings; Young achieved success as a sculptor and remained lifelong friends with his fellow expatriate Utahns.

In addition to The New Yorker, Held sold cartoons to Judge, Puck, Vanity Fair, and Life--some of the most popular magazines of the era--and a number of other publications. His gentle satires and witty caricatures became enormously popular in the 1920s. He created Betty Coed, "the flapper," along with her escort, Joe College. The characters both borrowed from and contributed to the real-life image of the 1920s "Flaming Youth." The artistic versatility and restless energy that marked Held's life were already evident; although he quickly became a commercial success, he also engaged in "serious" art--including watercolor and sculpture, designed Broadway sets, wrote a comic ballet, illustrated other authors' books, and wrote children's stories.

Held made a fortune in the 1920s and traveled in the high-society circles that his art ever so gently satirized. He served briefly as constable of Weston, Connecticut, and even ran unsuccessfully for Congress, noting that he had never made an arrest and promising to redesign the Congressional Record and to do the covers himself. Like so many others, Held lost most of his wealth in the stock market crash of 1929. By 1931 most of his art markets had dried up, and he suffered a severe nervous breakdown. He gave up his Connecticut home, and his first marriage ended in divorce. He began painting somber works and writing novels and short stories.

Although Held never recovered his commercial success, he continued to create during the succeeding decades. Critics praised his painting and sculpture, and his Jazz Age cartoons never lost their appeal. The Carnegie Corporation sponsored him as artist-in-residence at Harvard and the University of Georgia. Held eventually settled on a farm in Belmar, New Jersey, with a new family and his beloved animals. He died of throat cancer in 1958. 


John Held Jr.

If ever an artist's work so consummately defined a particular era, it was that of the Roaring Twenties illustrator John Held, Jr., whose creations both set the standard for-and gently ribbed-a generation. More than any other artist of his time, Held expressed in his pictures the bold spirit of the Jazz Age. It was a time of bustling commerce, booming enterprises, and engaging recreation. Society's elite were dining at Sardi's, the adventurous were doing the Charleston and the Shimmy in dance marathons, and the flapper was in full vogue, out and about in pursuit of a good time. Chronicling it all, for magazine readers coast-to-coast, was John Held, Jr.

Held's highly stylized illustrations are the centerpiece of "John Held, Jr. and the Jazz Age," a lively new exhibition on display through September 8, 2002 at the Norman Rockwell Museum. The exhibition follows Held's career through the heyday of his successes as a leading illustrator for the most popular magazines of the times. While his drawings were published in such publications as Life and Judge, it was his work for the fledgling magazine "The New Yorker" that established Held in the eyes of the nation. His depictions of Betty Coed, the prototypical "flapper" (along with her gentleman friend, Joe College), became the quintessential definition of the decade's "flaming youth." Readers of "Harper's Bazaar," "Redbook," and "Vanity Fair" would be hard-pressed to avoid Held's ubiquitous depictions of the Jazz Age's high-living college crowd. The characters' contemporaries got a real kick out of Held's creations, and parents of the younger generation turned to these illustrations for a clearer understanding of their children. Held was one of the preeminent artists of his day. Notes Walt Reed, guest curator of the exhibition and founder of Illustration House, Inc., a gallery in New York City specializing in the field of illustration, "It was a boom time. Advertisers and publishers competed for Held's talents with open checkbooks."

Some of Held's earliest pictures depicted dancers in the spotlight, a notable precursor to the flapper images that would immortalize his art. Once the Depression brought an end to more lucrative assignments, Held turned from pen-and-ink and watercolors to sculpture and wrought iron in order to reenergize his then-flagging career. Held is also known for his quirky takes on cartography: His parodies of maps, which frequently appeared in such publications as "The New Yorker," were full of pithy commentaries and extraneous details and were completely out of scale. (left: John Held, Jr. "She Missed the Boat," "Life" magazine cover, April 28, 1927, Reproduced with permission of Illustration House and the estate of Margaret Held)

While his proficiencies spanned all mediums, Held's special talent was his knowing brand of humor, which so significantly charmed his audiences. Held created a cartoon character named Margy who transitioned from sporadic magazine appearances to a dedicated, syndicated newspaper strip. The cartoon "Oh! Margy" spawned a sequel, "Merely Margy," and would soon be joined on newspaper pages by another strip, "Rah Rah Rosalie." For his strip work and flapper drawings, Held was reportedly the most prolific and highest paid graphic artist of his day. "This is a witty and unusual selection of work by an artist who beautifully captured the spirit of the Jazz Age," says Laurie Norton Moffatt, director of the Norman Rockwell Museum.








John Held Jr., Lucky Strike Half and Half Tobacco ad, 1927


 Life, the humor magazine

Everybody knows about LIFE, the magazine of photojournalism that first appeared in 1936 and still is with us today in various printed forms. But LIFE was also the name of the foremost American humor magazine of the period 1890-1930, and LIFE (the humor magazine) was an important and influential magazine in its time.

When the founders of TIME wanted to start a new magazine that would show America the world, they decided that the title had to be "Life." Someone was already using that title; so they bought it from them. LIFE, which hadn't been doing well during the Depression, was combined into JUDGE. And That was That.

The later covers of LIFE resemble nothing so much as the first covers of THE NEW YORKER. The magazines even overlapped in time, publishing many of the same artists months apart. Yet many LIFE covers looked totally like the cover of the preceding issue, or the next one; and sometimes not like anything ever published on any other magazine. It must have been a challenge to find it on the newsstand.













Ф.Скотт Фицджеральд. Отзвуки века джаза

John Held Jr.

Tags: 1920s, illustration
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