A common misconception by many people is that Norman Rockwell illustrated all of the covers for The Saturday Evening Post magazine. Although Rockwell is by far the most famous illustrator of the magazine’s covers throughout the 20th century, he is only one of many. During the great period of American illustration, many of the finest illustrators contributed covers for the magazine. A list of these would include J.C. Leyendecker, Harrison Fisher, James Montgomery Flagg, Stevan Dohanos, John Falter and John Clymer to mention a few.
Norman Rockwell gained the most recognition more from his ability to market himself than for any other reason. His style captured America’s hearts and is often referred to as “Rockwell America.” Credit also has to be given to Rockwell as having created the most covers. In his 47-year career with the Post, he created 326 covers. His first was featured on the May 20, 1916, magazine and his last was December 14, 1963.
Before Norman Rockwell was hired by the Post, the most popular artist was J.C. Leyendecker, who runs a close second to Rockwell with a credit of 316 covers. His career spanned 40 years from February 7, 1903, to January 2, 1943. In the early days, Leyendecker’s style was copied by many of the artists including Rockwell. J.C. Leyendecker is best known for his adorable babies that were almost always on the cover for the New Year edition. As Rockwell developed his own style and became more popular, Leyendecker found that he needed to imitate the Rockwell style in order to have his cover art selected.
Another artist who is often mistaken for Norman Rockwell is actually one of this author’s favorites among the Post cover illustrators. Stevan Dohanos created 124 covers for the Post beginning March 7, 1942, and ending on Oct. 11, 1958. His April 7, 1951, cover showing three young boys admiring a fabulous Harley-Davidson motorcycle is requested more than any other magazine cover and commands top dollar. Seekers usually incorrectly ask: “Do you have the Rockwell cover with the 1950s Harley-Davidson?” when the cover wasn’t a Rockwell creation at all. Dohanos was remarkable with his attention to details and exhibited incredible depictions of American life.
John Falter, a native of Nebraska and famous for creating more than 300 war posters during World War II, created 123 covers for The Saturday Evening Post. Falter also had a good feel for the American way of life and paid much attention to the tiniest of details. Falter was commissioned to do the cover for the January 16, 1943, Post cover as his first. His last cover was for the September 15, 1962, issue of the magazine.
John Clymer, best known for his Western art and his respect for historical accuracy, created 81 covers for the Post during his 20-year career with the magazine. His magazine covers usually portrayed a wildlife scene or landscape with rolling hills, mountains and homesteads. This is a small sampling of artists who created the spectacular covers for the most well known American magazine of our time. As you can see … they weren’t all done by Rockwell.
Bev Owens is the owner of The Paper Trail, an online store, and she also manages the Carmel Old Town Antique Mall in Carmel, Ind. For more samples of The Saturday Evening Post covers visit her online shop at www.bevspaper.com.