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 Dean Cornwell  (1892 - 1960)

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Lived/Active: New York/California      Known for: illustration, genre, interiors, mural painting

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Ad Code: 2
Dean Cornwell
from Auction House Records.
Picnic in the Park
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Dean Cornwell became a premier illustrator and teacher of illustration and also a muralist.

He received his first training from Paul Plaschke at the local YMCA, and by age 18, he was a cartoonist for the Louisville Herald.  In 1911, he moved to Chicago where he worked in the art department for the Chicago Tribune and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1914, he received his first major commission, which was for The Red Book Magazine, and in 1915, he moved to New York and enrolled in the Art Students League and then at Harvey Dunn's school of illustration in Leonia, New Jersey.  His illustration work included Redbook and Cosmopolitan and was based on his theory that good illustration had its basis in good painting, so all of his illustrations were initially paintings.  In New York, he was also a protege of Nicolai Fechin, the Russian portraitist who had arrived in New York in 1923, and some of this conviction about painting may have come from Fechin.

Wanting to become a muralist, Cornwell went to London to study with Frank Brangwyn.  In 1927, he began a five-year period of mural painting in California including the Los Angeles Public Library and the Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands. and he assisted David Siqueiros with the Olvera Street mural, América Tropical.  He also did murals at The Bethlehem Steel Company, New York's General Motors Building, the 1939 World's Fair, the Lincoln Memorial in Redlands, California, and Rockefeller Center.  He died in New York City where he had been a member of the Salmagundi Club.

Sources:
Edan Hughes, Artists in California Before 1940
Bozeman Bulger, 'A Black Angel', The Red Book Magazine
Arthur Millier.“Huge Fresco for El Paseo,” Los Angeles Times (August 24, 1932, p.15.)


Biography from American Illustrators Gallery:
Dean Cornwell began his career as an illustrator in 1914 and worked steadily at his avocation until his death at sixty-eight. His art appeared regularly in popular magazines and important books written by a number of the most outstanding authors, including Pearl S. Buck, Lloyd Douglas, Edna Ferber, Ernest Hemingway, W. Somerset Maugham, and Owen Wister.

This left-handed illustrator painted more than twenty murals for various public institutions and in the process became one of the nation’s most popular muralists.

Cornwell was born on March 5, 1892 in Louisville, Kentucky and his father, Charles L. Cornwell, a civil engineer, largely influenced the young boy’s interest in drawing due to his drafting of industrial subjects for hours on end. Because of his father’s engineering career, there were always sketches of bridges and railroads found around the Cornwell house and they intrigued young Dean who found it incredulous that they could be drawn so exactly.

A similar influence on his career was the nearby Louisville and Portland Canal constructed during the Industrial Revolution. As a result of its magnetic attraction for the young boy, one of Cornwell’s earliest drawings at 13, is entitled ‘Tell City’, a sketch of a steamboat passing through the Louisville and Portland Canal.

Like so many other illustrators of note, Dean attended the Art Students League in New York. He was there in 1915 and met Charles Chapman and studied under Harvey Dunn, a leading disciple of Howard Pyle. Harvey Dunn proved to be a great influence on Cornwell in respect to color theory and composition. Dean was also lucky to study under the notable Frank Brangwyn, an English muralist of worldwide fame.

Dean Cornwell’s work reveals a combination of dynamic colors with a formal composition of the elements he wished to capture within a limited space. He was known to create countless studies on paper before finally committing an image to canvas. This on-going refining process was an approach which created magnificent results, and his works were promptly accepted by art directors and publishers for the finest magazines including; Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, and The American Magazine.

In his painting, ‘Desert Healer’, Cornwell’s composition invokes both the gravity of the situation and painting structure, giving the viewer a tactile sense of the atmosphere created. The vast space of the sky above represents infinity counter-balanced with the sand on earth below, while the hero of E.M. Hull’s story lies across the canvas and delicately divides the two, as the central focus-a powerful statement.

By the 1930’s and 1940’s, Dean Cornwell became known as the ‘Dean of Illustrators,’ with his patriotic images and war posters everywhere, as were his advertisements for blue chip companies like Seagrams, Palmolive Soap, Scripps-Howard newspapers, Coca-Cola, and General Motors. Cornwell painted a series of advertisements for Wyeth Laboratories, which commemorated important occasions in the history of medicine, such as ‘Conquerors of Yellow Fever’.

The Wyeth commission advertisements became collectibles if one could be found that was not badly faded for having been on display in a drugstore window.

Paintings by Cornwell have been exhibited in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Chicago Art Institute and the National Academy of Design. He taught and lectured at the Art Students League in New York City and at museums and art societies throughout the United States. James Montgomery Flagg paid him a tribute when he said, “Cornwell is the illustrator par excellence-his work is approached by few and overtopped by none...he is a born artist.

”©2004 Natioanl Museum of American Illustration

Biography from Newman Galleries:
Dean Cornwell began his career as an illustrator in 1914 and worked steadily at his avocation until his death at sixty-eight.  His art appeared regularly in popular magazines and important books written by a number of the most outstanding authors, including Pearl S. Buck, Lloyd Douglas, Edna Ferber, Ernest Hemingway, W. Somerset Maugham, and Owen Wister.  This left-handed illustrator painted more than twenty murals for various public institutions and in the process became one of the nation’s most popular muralists.

Cornwell was born on March 5, 1892 in Louisville, Kentucky and his father, Charles L. Cornwell, a civil engineer, largely influenced the young boy’s interest in drawing perhaps from his own work drafting and particularly for industrial subjects.  Because of his father’s engineering career, there were always sketches of bridges and railroads found around the Cornwell house and they intrigued young Dean as he found it incredulous that they could be drawn so exactly.  A similar influence on his career was the nearby Louisville and Portland Canal constructed during the Industrial Revolution.  As a result of its magnetic attraction for the young boy, one of Cornwell’s earliest drawings done at the age of 13, is entitled ‘Tell City’. It is a sketch of a steamboat passing along the Louisville and Portland Canal.

Like so many other illustrators of note, Dean attended the Art Students League in New York in 1915, where he met Charles Chapman and studied under Harvey Dunn, a disciple of Howard Pyle.  Harvey Dunn proved to be a great influence on Cornwell in respect to color theory and composition. Dean was lucky enough to also study under the notable Frank Brangwyn, an English muralist of worldwide fame.

Dean Cornwell’s work reveals a magnificent combination of dynamic colors with a formal composition of the various elements he wished to capture within a limited space.  He was known to create countless studies on paper before finally committing an image to canvas.  This on-going refining process was an approach, which created magnificent results, and his works were promptly accepted by art directors and publishers for the finest magazines including; Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Good Housekeeping, and The American Magazine.  In his painting, ‘Desert Healer’, Cornwell’s composition invokes both gravity and structure, giving the viewer a tactile sense of the atmosphere he creates.  The vast space of the sky above, infinity counter-balanced with sand on earth below, with the hero of E.M. Hull’s story, delicately dividing the two, as the central focus is a powerful statement.

By the 1930’s and 40’s, Dean Cornwell was known as the ‘Dean of Illustrators,’ his patriotic images and war posters were everywhere as were his advertisements for these blue chip companies; Seagrams, Palmolive Soap, Scripps-Howard newspapers, Coca-Cola, and General Motors. Cornwell painted a series of advertisements for Wyeth Laboratories, which commemorated important occasions in the history of medicine, such as ‘Conquerors of Yellow Fever’. The Wyeth commission advertisements became collectibles one could be found which was not badly faded for having been on display in a drugstore window.

Paintings by Cornwell have been exhibited in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Chicago Art Institute and the National Academy of Design. He taught and lectured at the Art Students League in New York City and at museums and art societies throughout the United States. James Montgomery Flagg paid him a great tribute when he said, “Cornwell is the illustrator par excellence-his work is approached by few and overtopped by none...he is a born artist.”

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, I:
Dean Cornwell
Born: Louisville, Kentucky 1892
Died: New York City 1960

Eastern illustrator, mural painter, teacher

A left-handed painter, Cornwell studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and then in New York City with Harvey Dunn and Charles S. Chapman. An important illustrator, Cornwell was president of the Society of Illustrators by 1922. He worked for many national periodicals and advertisers and taught illustration at the Art Students League. He later studied mural painting with the English artist Fran Brangwyn and in 1954 was president of the National Mural Painters Society.

A celebrity himself and a friend of Charles Russell, Ed Borein, Frank Tenney Johnson, and Clyde Forsythe, Cornwell was a regular in the studios of the Western artists. He painted Western scenes when called for by the text. His series Pioneers of American Medicine included The Dawn of Abdominal Surgery performed in the Kentucky of 1809 that was the frontier of the time. He traveled to the site and to a museum, with detail drawings for each element. Then, he sketched his first visualization in ink and wash on yellow paper about 3 x 5”. Preliminary figure studies followed with a model. Next, there were as many as four oil sketches, sometimes made on top of Photostats of an acceptable drawing. For the finished painting, a print of the final sketch was traced onto the canvas with black pencil. Tones were washed in with a varnish medium before the figures were modeled.

Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing

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