Illustration: Lawson Wood- The Monkey Painter

Lawson Wood's Monkeys

Lawson WoodLawson WoodLawson Wood is one of the most unusual artists of the golden age of magazine illustration, largely because of the subject he chose to illustrate- monkeys… well, to be scientifically accurate, most of them are apes, but to a cartoonist, a monkey is a monkey.

Wood was born in London in 1878 to a family already well outfitted with artists. He developed his skills swiftly, and by age 18 he was a published illustrator. By the early years of the 20th century, he was established as an artist adept at both "straight" subjects and humorous fantasy. His images of cave men and dinosaurs were particularly popular in England, but the paintings that brought him fame in America were his monkeys…

Lawson Wood's Monkeys

This album was brought to us to digitize by archive supporter, Mike Fontanelli, and it gives you a good idea of how much Wood got out of his silly subject matter. Wood’s Gran’pop Monkey and friends graced the cover of many issues of Colliers, and there was even talk of adapting the characters to star in a series of animated cartoons. Ub Iwerks was slated to produce the series, but the outbreak of war and the closing of Iwerks’ studio nipped the idea in the bud. However, Wood understood the value of merchandising early on; he even headed up his own toy manufacturing firm, and he died a very wealthy man in 1957.

Some people can’t get past the "kitsch factor" of Wood’s illustrations. But even those who hate his work have to grudgingly admit that he had wonderful painting technique. Love him or hate him, here is Lawson Wood…

Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Mike Fontanelli recently brought by a big stack of vintage Colliers magazines with Wood covers for us to scan as well. Check these babies out!

Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys

The other day, I was surfing blogs and I came across a post that popped my eyes on Will Finn’s blog, Small Room. It featured scans of a fabulous Wartime era calendar by Wood from Will’s collection. I dropped him a note and he generously brought it by for us to scan. Here are a few samples…

Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys
Lawson Wood's Monkeys

There are more images from this great calendar in Will’s article on Lawson Wood. If you haven’t bookmarked Will’s page yet, you should. Where else are you going to find inspiration and insight like the stuff on Will Finn’s Small Room?

For more info, see Bud Plant’s terrific Lawson Wood Bio. Many thanks to Will Finn and Mike Fontanelli for their generous support of this project.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

IllustrationIllustration

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit spotlighting Illustration.

7 Responses to “Illustration: Lawson Wood- The Monkey Painter”

  1. Tice says:

    Great, just great. Thanks for the pictures.

  2. Dr. Acula says:

    I saw one of those Iwerks Granpop cartoons on YouTube.

  3. Julie Drew says:

    Thankyou SOOOOO much for sharing these wonderful images of one of my all-time favourite artists with the world! I have a very comprehensive collection of Lawson Wood’s early works as well as his large, brilliant ‘Old Nursery Rhymes’, ‘Granpop’s (and other)Annuals’ and fantastic Calendars.His animal books are also filled with amazingly gorgeous baby critters from Bears Cubs to kittens and ducklings,bringing a smile to my face no matter how many times I look at them!!
    I worked in an art gallery in the 90′s where we sold many framed editions of his very early ‘Policeman’ images,including ‘Nine Pints of the Law’.This was when I really became a fan of this extremely clever artist.Being a collector of old and antique children’s books,I have come across many of his less-known images in such books as ‘Little Folks’,'Playbox’,'Printer’s Pie’ and other large annual volumes of the very early 20th century.I feel extremely fortunate to now have copies of these wonderful books,and advertising pieces. The only items I have unfortunately not started to collect are the American magazine covers he became so famous for,such as Colliers. I do however have many of those images in my collection on other articles of Ephemera.
    What a truly brilliant man he was,being able to appeal to both adults and children alike!! I feel very fortunate to have ammassed such a large & satisfying collection of his images which I am able to enjoy at my leisure.
    I hope that many more folk the world over will also appreciate his brilliance now that we have the internet helping to share it……

    Many warm smiles, Julie Drew in Australia

    • Sarah Lavis says:

      Hi,

      I am looking to get hold of a high quality image of one of Lawson Wood’s prints. It is the ‘Now, that’s what I call music’ Danish Agricultural Produces poster. It has a pig leaning over a wall with his ear to a whistling chicken. If anyone has any advice on how I could find access to the artwork (be it in a book, or if you know of a collector or an expert that can help me) I would be very grateful. Please email me if you can help sarah.lavis@reeftv.com

  4. Jeff Kezar says:

    I am so glad to have come across this site. Very fun art work. You have to look at it and figure it out. Amazing! I just found an ink blotter ad for my company, Northern Pump Co. Minneapolis. It was done by Mr. Wood. It’s a picture of one older monkey surfing while holding on to a rope attached to a young monkey in an interesting little paddle boat. It say’s “Let’s Stay on the Crest” and “Monkey Business is for Monkeys”. We’ve make large caliber Navy guns since about 1940 and somehow Lawson was hired to do a blotter. I wonder if I could scan it and submit to your sight. It would be interesting to know what it’s worth.

    Well, thank you!
    Jeff

  5. Jeff Kezar says:

    Quickly I have learned that there are LOTS of ink blotters with Lawson Wood artwork. At least one other company’s ink blotter ad has the same surfing monkeys. I just can’t start collecting anything else, but it sure will be fun to keep an eye out for his enjoyable work. -Thanks again

  6. Carole Clarkson says:

    I have an original 1925 Lawson Wood of a fat lady trying to get through a turnstile and also 2 boys trying to move a piano down some steps. Could anybody tell me any more about these two originals please?
    Thank you
    Carole Clarkson

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