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An example of work by Willard Downes
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|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following is a text of the "Downes" from Ramsey Pavitt, from Great Falls, Virginia, and a collector of the artist's work:|
Willard Downes, noted illustrator and city resident
Alfred Downes, 92, of Gulfport, Fla., a commercial illustrator and fine
arts painter, died Saturday, Nov. 11, 2000, in Florida.
Downes was born in Washington and grew up in Fredericksburg. He went to
New York City at age 17 to pursue a career as an artist. He spent more
than 40 years there as a newspaper, magazine and advertising artist,
before he moved back to Fredericksburg in 1978.
years, Mr. Downes learned the craft of gold leaf and worked with
wrought iron. He was hired to help paint billboards for Columbia,
Paramount and Warner studios, in Atlantic City, and then in
He also did abstract painting and portrait
drawing of movie stars of the 1930s, including Tallulah Bankhead, Clark
Gable, Errol Flynn and Spencer Tracy. One of his most profitable
drawings turned out to be his sketch of publisher and movie mogul
William Randolph Hearst for "Editor & Publisher" magazine. It led
to a part-time job with the Hearst newspapers.
In New York, he
attended the Art Students League, the National Academy of Design and
the Industrial Arts School, and started a dual career as a commercial
illustrator and fine-arts painter.
In all, Mr. Downes turned
out dozens of portraits for newspapers, at least 50 press kits for the
movie companies, and hundreds of paperback book covers. He headed up
the $15 million advertising campaign for Kent cigarettes.
works have been displayed at the Jasper Gallery at Madison Avenue and
East 57th Street in New York, the Gallerie Julian in Olde Town
Alexandria, the Hull Gallery and the Venable Neslage Gallery, both in
Washington, the Parsons Museum in Southhampton, N.Y., the Saharooni
Gallery in Naples, Fla., and locally at Gallery DeMay on Caroline
His work included illustrations for such magazines as
The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan,
Ladies Home Journal, as well as book publishers such as Fawcett, Golden
Books, Manhunt, Readers Choice and Popular Library.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was a free-lance illustrator for "The Free Lance-Star".
Downes' original paintings of Yellowstone National Park that were
created for Kent, and posters for the "I Am Still an American" series
created during World War II, now reside in the Library of Congress. His
newspaper reproductions of stars of stage and screen have been promised
to the Smithsonian Institution.
He held memberships in the Society of Illustrators, the Cartoonists Guild and the Newspaper Guild.
Survivors include his wife, Paulina Fetzko Downes; a son, Willard Downes of Sacramento, Calif.; and three grandchildren.
A grave side memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday in Fredericksburg Confederate Cemetery.
Laurel Hill Funeral Home, Spotsylvania, is handling the arrangements.
The following is from Will Stutts:
shall endeavor to be of assistance. I know that Downes was born in
Washington, DC, and died there in 2000. He, of course, was American and
his works reflect same. He moved at 17 years of age to New York City
and began a long career as, primarily, an illustrator and caricaturist.
He was employed by major movie studios (MGM, Paramount, etc.) in the
1930s and 40s, and many of his works were caricatures of major film
stars. He seems to have 'dabbled' in a variety of media including
modern impressionism in the 50s.
I do know that some of his
works are in the Library of Congress and, I think, Smithsonian
collections -- he did illustrations of National Parks for the Parks
Service. I believe he remained rather active until late in his rather
long life (he was born in 1908).
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