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