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 James Montgomery Flagg  (1877 - 1960)

About: James Montgomery Flagg
 

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: illustration, figure, genre, portrait paintings

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BIOGRAPHY for James Flagg
Facts/Data
Birth
1877 (Pelham Manor, New York)
 
Death
1960 (New York City)

Lived/Active
New York


Self portrait - James Montgomery Flagg - Self Portrait


Often Known For
illustration, figure, genre, portrait paintings

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Illustrators
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following information was submitted in August of 2006 by American Illustrators Gallery:

James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960)

During a long and fruitful career, James Montgomery Flagg produced an immense and varied amount of artwork. A popular social gadabout and the life of a party, Flagg was constantly sketching friends, celebrities and politicians and always surrounded by beautiful models and sycophants. He clearly enjoyed his own ability at humor and satire as well as his fame as an illustrator.

By the age of twelve he was selling his drawings and cartoons to St. Nicholas magazine.  At the age of fifteen, he was a staff artist for both Judge and Life magazines, two of the nation¹s most successful periodicals.  Flagg grew up in the period when pen and ink ruled and printing technology was limited.  When halftone printing was accepted as a reproduction process, Flagg created images of beautiful women, which supplanted the portrait artists of previous decades.  It is true that Gibson had created a sensation with his early notion of a beautiful American girl, but Christy, Fisher and Flagg did likewise, with each of them producing early versions of coffee table books and magazine illustrations heralding a new world of fashion, styles, and beauty.  The society portraits created by John Singer Sargent were thusly thrown asunder and whole new prototypes of American beauty were created-bustles and chastity were disappearing and the illustrators ushered in a new era.

Flagg studied at the Art Students League in New York City (1894-1898), and then in London and Paris (1898-1900).  He was an active member of the Society of Illustrators, The Players Club, The Dutch Treat Club, and the Lotos Club-where he personally hung his poignant editorial cartoons in the grille room.  In 1898, he went to England to further his art studies and enrolled at the Herkomer School in Bushey, Hertfordshire an art school founded by Professor Hubert von Herkomer, the art critic who heralded Maxfield Parrish¹s work in critical reviews.

Upon his return from Europe, he created a comic strip 'Nervy Nat,' which gained immediate popularity winning him the commission for P.G. Wodehouse's stories where he created the visual characterization for the character 'Jeeves'. The first book he illustrated was Yankee Girls Abroad (1900), with pretty gals abounding who were superficially similar to The Christy Girl and Fisher's American Girl.  Flagg's notion was yet another example of what American's thought our women should look like.  His commissions ranged from cartoons, posters, magazine covers and inside illustrations, and advertisements to serious portraits, which were exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1900 alongside the academic painters from the Academie Julian. Books illustrated include An Orchard Princess, Simon the Jester, City People, Brinkley Manor, The Adventures of Kitty Cobb and in 1932 the seminal pin-up work, Virgins in Cellophane.  In 1946, his published his autobiography, Roses and Buckshot.  The magazines with his works included Colliers, Cosmopolitan, Hearst's International, Judge Magazine, Liberty, Life,  McClures Magazine, Photoplay, Redbook, Saturday Evening Post, The American Weekly, Women¹s Home Companion, and many others.

Flagg was a favorite illustrator of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst and due to their relationship he gained numerous other commissions including humorous short story illustrations (which he enjoyed doing most), and rapid portrait studies of Hearst's friends. Most of his sitters were generally upper-class society scions and celebrities including: actor John Barrymore and his sister Ethel, cartoonist Ham Fisher, unique humorist Rube Goldberg, and illustrator Charles Dana Gibson.

However, James Montgomery Flagg remains best known for a single painting, his iconic illustration of Uncle Sam proclaiming, 'I Want You' for a US Army Recruiting poster, an image still vivid to a vast majority of Americans.  Between the years of 1917-1919, Flagg produced forty-six posters for the United States Government, including the companion watercolor for 'I Want You,' entitled Miss Columbia. Flagg's Uncle Sam image is still used over and over. Mayor Rudy Giuliani's face was substituted for Uncle Sam just after 9/11 when New York City asked for  help after the World Trade Center tragedy. The model for Uncle Sam was Monty Flagg himself-a self-portrait.


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
James Montgomery Flagg was an illustrator, best remembered for his Uncle Sam "I Want You" poster, which was among the forty-six war-related posters he created between 1917-1919. He was a child prodigy who was contributing his illustrations to magazines by the age of twelve. He studied art in New York, England, and Paris.

When he returned to the United States in 1902, he found the country very different. Cars and electricity were becoming increasingly popular, and airplanes and motion pictures were just about to be introduced. Flagg began creating posters, magazine covers, and advertisements reflecting this national furor over progress. Posters became an important propaganda vehicle to encourage army enlistment and to sell war bonds with the start of World War I, and Flagg created the now famous Uncle Sam, "I Want You, poster for this purpose.

The figure of "Uncle Sam had first appeared in 1832 and was meant to be a personification of the U.S. government, hence the initials U.S. in Uncle Sams name, and the stars and stripes in his hat.

Flagg drew himself as the figure of Uncle Sam in the poster, although the poster had been used previously in England. Over five-million copies of the poster were printed. He would repeat his figure of Uncle Sam in the World War II poster, "Uncle Sam" and the "Red Cross Nurse", which he created in 1942 in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States entry into World War II. Congress adopted "Uncle Sam as a national symbol in 1961, largely to the credit of Flagg's illustration.

Flagg was a man who lived with great zest and fit the popular concept of the bohemian artist living the high life and easily creating artwork. He worked very quickly and seemed comfortable with a variety of subject matter. Early in his career, he did a cartoon feature of "Nervy Nat," and also illustrated the characters of the P.G. Wodehouse stories, creating the archetypical interpretation of the valet "Jeeves".

He was also a serious portrait painter and exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1900, at the National Academy of Design, and the New York Watercolor Club. In 1980, he was elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.

Biography from Bloom Fine Art & Antiques:
The following biography has been provided by Lisa Bloom, PhD.

James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) American.  James Montgomery Flagg was an illustrator, best remembered for his Uncle Sam "I Want You" poster, which was among the forty-six war-related posters he created between 1917-1919.  He was a child prodigy who was contributing his illustrations to magazines by the age of twelve.

He studied art in New York, England, and Paris.  Flagg seemed comfortable with a variety of subject matter.  Early in his career, he did a cartoon feature of "Nervy Nat," and also illustrated the characters of the P.G. Wodehouse stories, creating the archetypical interpretation of the valet "Jeeves".  He was also a serious portrait painter and exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1900, at the National Academy of Design, and the New York Watercolor Club. In 1980, he was elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.

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