October 2, 2009

The Art of Frankenstein : Al Parker



At a Halloween party, a teenager in a stiff Frankenstein mask steals a kiss.

The artist, Al Parker (1906-1985), was a giant among American illustrators. Beginning in the late Thirties and on through four decades, Parker’s sharp, sophisticated art proved wildly popular and massively influential. In the Forties, his covers for The Ladies’ Home Journal shaped popular fashion trends in America and his sparse, modernistic style was so highly praised and widely imitated that he became known as The Dean of Illustrators.

Ever experimenting, staying ahead of the curve he himself had drawn — the so-called “Parker School of Illustration” — the artist amazed his fans and constantly challenged his peers. Famously, in an act of sheer virtuosity, using pseudonyms and working in five different styles, Parker illustrated every story (including Ray Bradbury’s The Swan) in the September 1953 issue of Cosmopolitan. Even Norman Rockwell wrote him a fan letter, stating, “While the rest of us are working knee-deep in a groove, you are forever changing and improving.

The Halloween cover for the November 1, 1959 issue of the American Weekly newspaper supplement is a superb example of Parker’s urbane wit and typically dynamic composition. The subjects are cheated off center. The girl leans diagonally across the page, her gaze and the costume’s sweptback rabbit’s ears pointing to the large negative space at left. The girl’s costume and the boy’s blazer are also abstract shapes, fields of flat color, with the bold orange pumpkin anchoring the composition, its color picked up in a napkin, the pie, coat buttons and tie, and the teenage monster’s eye.

An interior illustration is a black and white variation of the cover, using the same elements, with the boy revealing his face. The over-the-head Frankenstein mask and monster hand gloves were items widely available in novelty shops or in the back pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland.

The illustration’s theme and the issue’s 1959 date make this an important cover, an early acknowledgement by mainstream publishers of the gathering Monster Boom ignited by the Universal Monsters revival on late-night TV. Monster magazines were just getting underway and, soon, trading cards, Aurora kits and countless monster toys would saturate the marketplace.

Al Parker’s fabulous illustration signaled that Monster Kids had arrived.


Al Parker bio on Wiki and Illustration House.

Artwork by Parker, and A Visit with Al Parker on the excellent Today’s Inspiration.

Al Parker on Lines and Colors.

Parker art: on Deadlicious, and a wonderful Flickr set collected by Leif Peng.

American Weekly illustration found on The Percy Trout Hour.


11 comments:

Shawn Robare said...

Man I really dig this cover. It's both sleek and simple, but it's also deceptively detailed. I love Frankie-Teen's gloved nails digging into the girl's bunny costume every so slightly. Between that the dead stare molded into the mask it makes the cover just a tad creepy, but just a tad. Thanks for sharing this!

Tamfos said...

The amazing Al Parker and Frankenstein! Now that's a combo! And you gotta love the domino mask on the Jack O' Lantern. Always thinking, was Al.

Filo Loco said...

great cover ! thx ;-)

Stephen said...

Wow, I'd never seen this before. Al Parker and Frankenstein (or Halloween for that matter)... Thanks for sharing!

rob! said...

Beautiful piece. Ah, if only magazine covers still looked like this...

John Rozum said...

That is a beautiful cover. Thanks for sharing that, Pierre.

Sam said...

That is an awesome. The girl kinda sorta looks like Audrey Hepburn.

Andy 7 said...

Beautiful indeed.

prof. grewbeard said...

coolest thing i've seen in a long time!

Christopher said...

now thats CLASS!

wyrmphreak said...

What a great cover!! I love the style and the muted colors, so different than the flashy, glossy stuff of today. That interior illustration is such a brilliant way to tell a small little story with a magazine cover. For whatever reason, showing that glove clutched in his other hand is such a nice detail. Thanks for the post!