What is Golden Age Illustration?

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Golden Age Illustration, generally speaking, refers to commercial art created in America between 1880 and 1920, when legendary illustrators such as Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, and Charles Dana Gibson produced their finest work.

Scores of popular magazines packed with illustrations by hundreds of illustrators circulated weekly and monthly to homes across America.

Its how Americans stayed connected to their world before radio and television. Illustration art was the visual medium of the era.

That era is long past, but the creative brilliance of the illustrators lives on. Almost all artwork reproduced in magazines and books was created as oil or watercolor paintings, pen and ink or pencil drawings, or combinations of these. Below are a few examples of each medium. For more examples, check out our Golden Age Illustration Image Galleries.

Jesse Wilcox Smith Charles Wellington Furlong James Montgomery Flagg

ABOVE, Oil Paintings: left, Jesse Wilcox Smith, 1911; center, Charles W. Furlong, 1905; right, James Montgomery Flagg, 1917.

James Montgomery Flagg Lobster Gregory

ABOVE, Watercolors: left, James Montgomery Flagg, 1911; center, Lobster by E.J. Gregory, 1900; right, E.J. Gregory, 1898.

Ink drawing Ashe Charles Dana Gibson

ABOVE, Ink Drawings: left, ink line and wash, J.R. Flanagan, 1919; center, ink wash, Edmund M. Ashe, 1905; right, pen and ink, Charles Dana Gibson, 1903.

Wladyslaw Benda Rye, England Lester Hornby

ABOVE, Pencil Drawings: left, Wladyslaw Benda, 1913; center, P. Noel Boxer, 1912; right, Lester Hornby, 1905.

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