Sunday, March 26, 2006

Life Drawing Sunday III: James Montgomery Flagg

James Montgomery Flagg, artist, illustrator, bohemian, booty-hound bon vivant, made his first appearance in Life at the age of fourteen. (The drawing at the left may or may not be that first one, but it was published when he was fourteen.) He started his illustration career at St. Nicholas Magazine at the age of twelve.

Though primarily, if not exclusively, remembered for his WWI "I Want You" recruitment poster, Flagg was an extremely prolific illustrator. Susan E. Meyer, in America's Great Illustrators, writes, "He received so many assignments that he claimed to have averaged an illustration a day for years - and the quantity of his work reproduced between 1904 and 1950 (as well as his earnings) substantiates the accuracy of this estimate." She also wrote about the quality of his work:

Flagg's greatest output was in pen and ink, the medium he considered most difficult. ...Flagg felt more comfortable working large, with space to move about freely. He anticipated the ultimate reduction by spacing the lines appropriately so that they would tighten without filling in when the drawing was reduced. Yet examination of these drawings full scale reveals his expert handling of a difficult medium, effects that are dazzling in their energy. He rarely used any form of cross-hatching, a common procedure for the pen artist, but rather achieved a full range of effects with simple parallel lines, placed with decisive economy. Solid blacks, brushed in swiftly, could indicate a volume beneath by mere suggestion. Scratching into the black tones, he obtained reversal - white on black rather than black on white - so that he could suggest detail in shadow. He worked in full control of the medium, yet the work appears effortlessly executed, spontaneous and assured.

Flagg also found time to write the screenplays for 24 silent films between 1917 and 1920. Ten of them were for a series called "Girls We Know" produced by Edison. One not included on the IMDB list and hesitantly attributed to Flagg has an excellent title.

The following drawings are from early 1923, part of an occasional, Reader's Digest-y sounding series called "You and Your -" that displayed Flagg's more humorous, almost cartoony, style.

1 comment:

Jeffrey said...

I am trying to find out about a Navy Christmas Card. The artist was James Mongomery Flagg. It is in an embossed portfolio which says "Christmas Greetings". It is a picture of a young woman and a goat. The size is approximately 8-1/2" X 13". Would you know anything about this?