Art from the Golden Age of Movie Magazines

We at the Pictorial love Earl Christy. And Rolf Armstrong. And McClelland Barclay. And R Wilson Hammell. And Charles Edward Chambers. And all of the other American artists from the early 20th century that made up advertising’s great, golden age of Illustration. Not only because of what they did for  women’s journals and literary magazines but, of course, for the exquisite works of art created for American movie magazines. Photoplay, Modern Screen, Picturegoer, Screenland et al. Working largely from celebrity photographs, and in mediums such as oil and pastel, their work was firstly functional and not always … shall we say … artistic (hey, they had a hell of a workload, OK?) But when they were able to push the creative envelope, oh mama! The results were downright breathtaking.

According to the superlative website Grapefruit Moon, “The printing industry with its technological advancements and the American Industrial Revolution made for a multicolor offset printing process that was fast, affordable, and flat-out glorious in print. Cover artists were much in demand, earned lavish salaries and often became household names and stars in their own right.” Of course the likes of Norman Rockwell are venerated these days for their work, but today, for no reason at all, the Pictorial felt obliged to tip its hat to the illustrators of the great American movie magazines of yesteryear.

Below is a culled retrospective of some of our favorite eye-popping, sensational, drool-worthy illustrations of that explosively creative era.

* * *

Constance Bennett, by Earl Christy
Constance Bennett, by Earl Christy
Norma Shearer, by Marland Stone
Norma Shearer, by Marland Stone
Anna Q Nilsson, by Rolf Armstrong
Anna Q Nilsson, by Rolf Armstrong
Ann Sheridan, by Earl Christy
Ann Sheridan, by Earl Christy
Bette Davis, by John Rolston Clarke
Bette Davis, by John Rolston Clarke
Claudette Colbert, unknown artist
Claudette Colbert, unknown artist
Joan Crawford, Wilson Hammell
Joan Crawford, Wilson Hammell
Katharine Hepburn, unknown artist
Katharine Hepburn, unknown artist
Carole Lombard & Fred MacMurray, by Earl Christy
Carole Lombard & Fred MacMurray, by Earl Christy
Martha Mansfield, by Rolf Armstrong
Martha Mansfield, by Rolf Armstrong
Mary Astor, by Earl Christy
Mary Astor, by Earl Christy
Myrna Loy & William Powell, colorized studio photo
Myrna Loy & William Powell, colorized studio photo
Norma Talmadge, by Earl Christy
Norma Talmadge, by Earl Christy

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Gen Y reject and wage slave extraordinaire.

7 thoughts on “Art from the Golden Age of Movie Magazines

  1. wow, these are great! the artist who did the Carole Lombard painting captured her perfectly! (well, they are all perfect, but that is the most perfect!) I love how they did the blush on the cheeks in the early 30’s, too!

    1. oh i’m so glad you like them, kate! and i think you’re a cinch to do that kind of work–look at how good your own paintings are!

  2. I like that one too–Norma was an exceptionally beautiful woman. It’s ironic, in my opinion, that Norma should be the subject of this particular cover about the onslaught of sound when the talkies would prove to be detrimental to her career. I also LOVE the Kate Hepburn cover with its ‘Will Films Be More Daring in 1934’–little did they know it would be the year the Hays Code started on its morality crackdown.

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