Illustrator Al Parker helped define 1950s domestic ideal

 Yesterday my husband David and I went to see “Ephemeral Beauty: Al Parker and the American Women’s Magazine, 1940-1960” an exhibit chronicling the career of illustrator Al Parker, on view at the Normal Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass. Parker is an illustration-world legend, renowned for cover art for leading mid century magazines and advertising.

It was a really beautiful exhibit and a thrill for 50s style enthusiasts. While not specifically about decorating, it provided important context about some of the factors driving aesthetics and aspirations of the time. It helped me understand better, for example, how the colors so associated with the period came about.

Magazines were even more popular immediately after the war than they are today, because television was not ubiquitous yet. And, illustrations were preferred over photos. Illustrations were highly idealized: “Their ingenious, romantic images portrayed a compelling picture of the life that many aspired to, delineating a clear path to fulfillment and success.” Think about it – we all remember the “great graphics” from the 50s. The preference to use illustrators, and their point of view during the period, is why.

We caught the exhibit at the end of its run, it’s over on Oct. 28. After that, it’s traveling to the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis Nov. 16-Jan. 28, 2008. I don’t know how long the Rockwell will keep their exhibit info online. It is well worth reading – so if you’re interested, take the time now!

And, if you’re near enough to the Berkshires to make a visit, know that the leaves are about at their peak right now, and I bet next weekend will still be quite beautiful!

Categoriespostwar culture
  1. Sumac Sue says:

    This type of illustration was just perfect for the era, and Al Parker is a master at it. Love how he uses the touches of black to draw attention to the woman’s two loves, the man and the telephone.

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