Biography: Al Parker

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Birth/Death

Birth: 1906
Death: 1985

Occupation/Title

Illustrator

Bio Summary

Al Parker was born in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1906. He graduated from Washington University School of Art in 1928. In 1935 he moved to New York where he got his first break by submitting winning cover art for a contest by House Beautiful.

His reputation spread to other publications and soon his fresh, innovative work was in high demand. Parker secured his career as an illustrator with his famous “Mother and Daughter” cover series for Ladies Home Journal. The covers identified the publication for the next 17 years.

He married his college sweetheart Evelyn. They had 2 sons, Kit and Jay, and a daughter, Susan.

Early Life/Family

His artistic talent was notable from an early age. Though his grandfather helped pay for the first year at Washington University School of Art, Parker had to pay most of his tuition himself by playing the saxophone, clarinet, and drums in a local jazz band.

Education/Training

Graduated from Washington University’s School of Art, Saint Louis, Missouri, in 1928.

Career Outline

His illustrations highlighted publications such as Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, House Beautiful, McCalls, Sports Illustrated, Collier’s, The Saturday Evening Post, and Vogue.

Parker is noted as perhaps the most important illustrative and graphic design influence of the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. His works captured the idealized suburban lifestyle, and the evolving cultural roles of women and their families. Though his illustrations were often considered bold, he never lost the feeling of warmth and tenderness in his subjects.

He heavily inspired so many illustrators that he needed to change his style constantly to stand out from everyone else. Parker is also credited for inspiring his readers to match the trends of the day, as he always portrayed his women in the latest fashions.

Comments On Style

Parker was a master of many different styles and mediums. He is best known for his bold, flat colors and shapes, and his modernist linework and use of patterns together with fashionable women. His dynamic and innovative ventures into the world of illustration helped define the unique visual style of the era. Parker’s range of skill was so diverse that he once did every illustration in a Cosmopolitan issue in different styles and under different pseudonyms.

Influences

Personality

Described by illustrator Will Davies in a brief anecdote (“A Visit with Al Parker”) as “a real gentleman.”

Anecdotes

Miscellaneous

Filmography

Honors

Collectively received 25 awards and honors for his art. Elected to the Illustrator’s Hall of Fame in 1965. Recently awarded with a U.S. postal stamp design.

Related Links

100 Years of Illustration: Al Parker

Bibliographic References

Al Parker Bio

Finding Aid for the Al Parker Collection (HTML version)

A Visit with Al Parker

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Contributors To This Listing

Kelli Buescher

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