MacCauley “Mac” Conner is an illustrator noted for his work in the mid-20th century, in particular at the height of his popularity and influence in the 1950s.
His style bridged the realism of early 20th century illustration, the flattened, graphic mid-century modern style with which he is most associated, and the more rendered approach of traditional romance novels and genre fiction. Much of his best known work was done in gouache, a common medium among deadline-bound illustrators — prized for its matt surface and fast-drying qualities — before it was displaced by acrylic and later digital media.
A new exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, “Mac Conner: A New York Life“, celebrates his work, concentrating on his 1950s style. The show is being promoted by drawing parallels between the fictional 1950s advertising and design agencies of the Mad Men television series and the real agencies of the era like the one Conner co-founded.
The museum’s website includes a gallery of images from the show, and you will find the same images repeated in other mentions on the web. The images on the museum’s site are relatively small, however. The largest and best reproductions of them are on the site of the English newspaper The Guardian (click in the upper right of the images in their slideshow to enlarge them).
It’s not easy to find other resources on Conner’s work, but there are a few. Notable is a Pinterest board posted by Georgette Cartwright Nichols on which the images may be small, but you get a broader cross-section of his styles. The images include romance covers and location paintings of landmarks here in Philadelphia, where Conner graduated from the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, which later separated into the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts).
“Mac Conner: A New York Life” is on view at the Museum of the City of New York until January 19, 2015.
Mac Conner is currently 100 years old. He was able to attend the opening of the show, and will turn 101 in November.