Advertising Illustration Gallery

Advertising illustration in the Golden Age of Illustration resulted in some of the most memorable, influential, and popular art of the era. Most successful illustrators produced paintings and drawings for advertising.

Armed with the knowledge that one picture can be worth a thousand words, art directors commissioned the best-known artists of the day to produce eye-catching, effective advertising art. Magazines took full advantage of color printing and photo-engraving to reproduce high-quality images.

A few artists, such as Coles Phillips and J. C. Leyendecker are best known for their advertising illustration, while others, such as James Montgomery Flagg and Charles Dana Gibson, are equally recognized as story illustrators.

Both advertising and illustration share a common goal: to persuade the viewer. Advertising is communication designed to convey a commercial, political, or ideological message.

Illustrations are graphic images that clarify text, direct the viewer's eye, and create an intentional, lasting impression. In that sense all illustration art is, by definition, advertising. It advertises and enhances the message of the text it accompanies, and persuades the viewer to read the text.

Both advertising text and editorial text can use illustration art to catch and direct the eye and create emotional context.

Advertising art in the 1880s consisted mostly of simple black and white wood engravings of products. By 1900 advances in photo-engraving and printing made full-color art feasible and advertising as an art form blossomed. Advertising graphics then and now, for better or worse, contribute to contemporary culture worldwide.

Here are some examples of advertising art demonstrating the wide variety of styles and approaches applied in the United States from 1880 to 1920. and The Illustrators. You can find more examples in the other Image Galleries. And even more great examples in The Illustrators.

Illustration for Kellogg's cereal, Joseph Christian Leyendecker, 1915. His bold, colorful graphic style worked well for posters, magazine covers as well as advertising illustration.

J. C. Leyendecker built his fame on cover illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post and fashion art for Hart, Shaffner & Marx, Arrow shirts, and Kuppenhiemer. His younger brother Frank X. Leyendecker also produced illustrations for advertising and poster designs.

Cream of Wheat breakfast cereal, art by N. C. Wyeth, 1906. One of the best-known American artists of the Golden Age, Wyeth produced hundreds of story illustrations for books and magazines. His highly-recognizable style served as an understated endorsement for commercial products.

James Montgomery Flagg, for Cream of Wheat Company, 1908, reproduced in both color and black and white.

Illustration by Alice Barber Stephens for Ivory Soap, 1908. When color was introduced to magazine art in the early twentieth century, advertising agencies were quick to recognize its potential. Soap ads had for decades appeared in black line only, making it difficult to emphasize cleanliness and purity, important product sales qualities. Color accomplished what words alone could not.

Jello ad painted by John Newton Howitt, 1922. Food advertising benefited from color in magazine illustrations too. The woman' red jacket and the objects near her reflect the crisp appetizing colors of the popular gelatin dessert.

Art by Maurice Logan for Sunsweet Growers, 1920. Logan, a popular cover artist for Sunset Magazine and California Motorist, produced many illustrations for product advertising in the 1920s and 1930s.

A clever use of reflections in a mirror to focus attention on a Waltham mantle clock in this 1920 ad appearing in Harper's Magazine. The art is unsigned, a common occurrence during the Golden Age of Illustration.

Soap ads by 1922 had come a long way from simple black line drawings. Intense competition between soap manufacturers led to imaginative use of fine art styles to project product quality. Here, an unsigned piece suggests the Pre-Rafaelite complexity of Dante Gabriel Rossetti with art nouveau touches.

Art by Maurice Logan. Advertising for gasoline faced the same challenge as soap ads: competing products were almost identical and had to be sold by emphasizing perceived quality differences. In the 1920s the words “new” and “improved” appeared often.

Another example of Maurice Logan's advertising illustration in the early 1920s.

Below: Maurice Logan's poster style using thick oil paint and bold colors reproduced well in magazine pages. His paintings, delicious as frosting on a cake, enjoyed wide popularity with American audiences.

Ad for Fisk Tires, 1922. Cartoonists found work in advertising. In this example, Leslie Thresher adds humor to an otherwise institutional ad for Fisk Tires repeating their famous slogan, “Time to Retire.”

Magazine ad for Life Savers, 1921. M. Leone Bracker mixed cartoon technique with a hint of Maxfield Parrish fantasy for this illustration.

Ault & Wiborg of Cincinnati, Ohio, a leading manufacturer of printing inks and dyes, produced a beautiful series of color ads designed by poster artist Will Bradley and others. From 1900 to the 1920s their ads featured themes from art history. These two are from The Printing Art magazine, 1907-08.

American Radiator Company advertising illustration by Herbert Paus, 1919, featuring an American history theme.

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