Harry Anderson

Harry Anderson illustration
Harry Anderson was an illustrator active in the mid-20th Century, particularly during a period when the influences of modernism, editorial photography and changes in printing and reproduction techniques were encouraging many illustrators to forge new paths.

While illustrators like Al Parker were redefining the way representational imagery was incorporated with design elements in magazine illustration, Anderson held fast to the principles of traditional representational imagery, producing warm, straightforward and richly modeled paintings for magazines like The Saturday Evening post, The Ladies’ Home Journal, Colliers, Redbook, Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping.

It’s not that Anderson’s approach was unaffected by the tendencies of his contemporaries to flatten objects into their geometric fundamentals and emphasize negative shapes, it’s that he never let those influences override his devotion to the principles of representational art that he admired.

Devotion of another sort played an important part in Anderson’s career. After his marriage, he and his wife joined the Seventh Day Adventist church and he began to devote a good deal of his energy to creating religious themed paintings, which he created at near minimum wage, in addition to his regular commercial work. These days he is probably better know for those paintings than his commercial illustration. The first of them, a painting called “What Happened to Your Hand”, showed Christ amid contemporary children, a scene that seems innocuous now, but caused controversy and was considered blasphemous by some at the time.

He also went to work for Haddon Sundblom’s studio, producing work for a number of commercial accounts. In both the commercial and religious areas of work, his paintings have a feeling of warm emotion and the play of light, often bright sunlight, but at times moody interior light in the case of romance themed articles for women’s magazines. His approach was very painterly, enriched by broad, visible brushstrokes and a luxurious feeling of paint, with roughly scumbled background textures and drybrush techniques, particularly in his later work.

Much of the work in the middle of his career was in water-based casein. He had to abandon oil paint due to allergies to turpentine, but was able to return to it later with the availability of alternate thinners. His casein paintings often have the remarkably painterly look of oil paintings.

Anderson was featured in American Artist in 1956; he received awards from the New York Art Directors club and other notable organizations, and was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1994.

Kent Steine wrote and excellent article that was published in the October 2000 issue of Step by Step Graphics and is reprinted on Stein’s site: Harry Anderson and the Art of Loose Realism. The article is partly biographical, but goes into wonderful detail about Anderson’s palette, materials and technique.

There is currently a Harry Anderson painting for sale on Heritage Auction Galleries for which a large image has been posted that will allow you to see his technique clearly. (Click on “Look Closer”.) It may not be there for long.

There is a a nice introduction to Anderson’s work on American Art Archives and a tribute page on Pinkoski.com , with photos of Anderson at work in his studio.

One of the best resources is Leif Peng’s wonderful Flickr set for Anderson, in addition to his two Today’s Inspiration blog posts on him here and here.


7 Replies to “Harry Anderson”

  1. Beautiful image (the wistful ring shopper), but almost as exciting is the Heritage Auction Galleries site

    I have never seen such large images of artists whose work I admire, and new folk to explore!

  2. Anderson was one of the best painters from that era. He was also a good friend of Tom Lovell when the two of them were students together at Syracuse. Lovell told me that he learned everything he knew from Anderson, but I’m sure they taught each other. You can see a lot of Zorn and Sargent in Anderson’s approach to painting, even though he worked in water-based media.

  3. James,

    Thanks. I hadn’t thought about the Sargent/Zorn influence, but you’re right. Thanks for reminding me that I should get around to featuring Tom Lovell. I have Haddon Sundblom scheduled for Christmas.

  4. In the mid-1940s Harry Anderson did some illustrative artwork for popular US magazines. I am searching for the magazine in which the story, “Beyond the Gate” appeared. I believe it was in either the Ladies’ Home Journal or Woman’s Home Companion. If anyone has any definitive information about this story and illustration I sure would appreciate it.
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