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 Rea S. Irvin  (1881 - 1972)

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Lived/Active: New York/Connecticut/California      Known for: magazine cover illustrator-cartoon

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Ad Code: 3
Rea Irvin
from Auction House Records.
Magazine cover: Young equestrienne in steeplechase race
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in San Francisco, CA on Aug. 26, 1881. Irvin studied at the Mark Hopkins Art Institute and early in his career worked for the San Francisco Evening Post. After 1925 he was on the staff of the New Yorker as an illustrator and art editor for over 30 years. He spent his last years in Frederiksted, Virgin Islands. Irvin died on May 28, 1972. Exh: Meet the Artist, De Young Museum, 1943.
Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
American Art Annual 1915-33; Who's Who in American Art 1938-70.
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Brandywine River Museum:
Few artists have had as enduring an influence on one magazine as cartoonist Rea Irvin has had on The New Yorker. As the magazine's first art editor, Irvin (1881-1972) created a style that continues to define the publication to this day, witty, urbane, and socially and culturally aware. He is known for his distinctive thin and trembly line, poached eyes, and almost oriental splendor of his drawings.

Born in San Francisco on August 28, 1881, Irvin started his career in illustration as an unpaid cartoonist for The San Francisco Examiner.  His only former training consisted of six months' study at the Hopkins Art Institute. At the age of 25, he moved to the East Coast and was soon a regular contributor to Life and Cosmopolitan magazines.

In 1924, Irvin joined an advisory board to help launch The New Yorker.  For the cover of the magazine's debut issue the next year, Irvin created Eustice Tilley, a smartly attired dandy with a monocle and top hat.  This amusing and worldly, yet somewhat detached, character embodied the spirit of the new publication.  Tilley quickly became Irvin's signature piece and has reappeared on the magazine's cover every year since, with one exception--1994.

Irvin, as a veteran editor of Life magazine, served for twenty-one years as the art director of The New Yorker.  It was said that the first issues of the brash, new magazine were so top heavy with art that one observer dubbed it, 'The best magazine in the world for people who can't read.'

Between 1925 and 1958, Irvin's work appeared on 169 covers of The New Yorker. Hundreds of other illustrations by Irvin were also published inside the magazine.  In addition to his illustrations, Irvin contributed significantly to The New Yorker's layout and design.  He created the magazine's sharp and casually elegant type style, which is still known as "Irvin type," and he added the squiggly column rules that provide a distinct delineation between text and illustrations.

In 1967, Irvin gave his personal collection of 412 works on paper to the Museum of the City of New York.  In March 2000, an exhibition of his work, "The Talk of the Town; Rea Irvin of The New Yorker", was shown at the Brandywine River Museum.  It presented 83 original illustrations from the Museum of the City of New York's extensive collection of Irvin's original covers, drawings and cartoons.  The exhibition featured many of these works, including caricatures of contemporary figures such as Diego Rivera and Pablo Picasso, and parodies of social issues.  One example, The Unity of the Allied Nations which appeared on The New Yorker's July 1, 1944 cover, depicts the American Eagle, the Chinese Dragon, the Russian Bear and the British Lion clearly united in the pursuit of victory during World War II.  The exhibit introduced visitors to the broad range of Irvin's talent and explored his enduring influence on The New Yorker magazine and American illustration.

Rea Irvin died on May 28, 1972, in Fredericksted, Virgin Islands, at the age of 90.




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