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 George E. Hughes  (1907 - 1990)

About: George E. Hughes
 

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Lived/Active: Vermont/New York      Known for: Magazine illustration, cover art

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Ad Code: 3
George E Hughes
from Auction House Records.
Painting for the Saturday Evening Post cover of the March 14, 1953 issue titled "Baby Book"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Papillon Gallery:
George Hughes
1907-1990

George Hughes was born in 1907 in New York City. Like many other Saturday Evening Post artists, he bypassed a formal college education and studied art and mechanical drawing for three years in New York's Art Students League* and the National Academy of Design*. Once out of school, he worked as a freelance fashion illustrator. His work often appeared in such bastions of high style as Vanity Fair and House and Garden magazine.

In 1936, Hughes was offered a position in Detroit, Michigan as a Mechanical Designer for an automobile manufacturer. Unhappy with his life there and longing for a chance to illustrate for a major magazine in the East, he packed his belongings and returned home to New York. Hughes married, but unfortunately the marriage was short lived.

In New York, his career as a commercial artist would begin to take flight as he struggled to fine-tune his work. Hughes eventually married again and started a family with his new wife, Casey. It was not until 1942 that he landed his first assignment with The Saturday Evening Post by illustrating a short piece of fiction. His next assignment was to paint portraits of the top American Generals heading our wartime operations in Europe for a series of Post stories entitled "These Are the Generals." Although these early pieces were rudimentary and stiff, it would give Hughes the practice and exposure he needed to continue along his career path. As he went from photographs to live models, the quality of his art reached a new plateau. Shortly thereafter, Ken Stuart, the Post's art director, began to consider Hughes as a potential cover artist.

Having secured enough work to move from New York City, George began to consider the possibility of establishing himself in a setting more fitting for his two young girls. Hearing of Arlington, Vermont through the artistic grapevine, he was drawn to this community for several reasons. Arlington was a quaint town of about 1,600 people that was situated in the foothills of the mountains at the southern end of Vermont. It maintained a rural setting with ski slopes on the horizon and fishing streams within striking distance. An added bonus was that three well-known Post artist and their families, the Rockwell's, Atherton's and Schaeffer's, were full-time residents, which lent an air of sophistication. All of these attributes were appealing to George and Casey Hughes, and in 1946, they purchased a local farm. The Hughes family immediately settled in by having a house warming. Norman Rockwell suggested a costume party, and so the Hughes concurred. It turned out to be a great way to break the ice and forge lasting friendships among this tight knit community.

Hughes’ first major artistic rendering was painted in the early fall of 1947 and showcased on the cover of The Post on April 17, 1948. Taking advice from the many artists-in-residence, his initial works reflected a work ethic and precision that had come to be the hallmark of a Post artist. George used models from the area suggested by his friends, and he spent a great deal of time making sure that all of the details of the picture were accurate. Although with time and confidence his personal style would begin to emerge with force, his humor and sophisticated styling could be detected from the beginning. Choosing themes that showed the humor behind the daily dilemma of living in this new urban society, Hughes used vibrant colors and sophisticated, fashion conscious models to create his scenes. He also favored settings and situations that were cosmopolitan and decidedly upper middle class. The women in his images were always dressed impeccably with coiffed hair and perfect make-up. The men could always be found in starched oxford cloth shirts, and pleated slacks.

Rockwell and Hughes developed an interesting relationship over the years. The famous Rockwell would run into the impressionable Hughes on the street and ask his opinion of an idea he was working on, soliciting advice. George would give his honest impression, only to notice later that Rockwell had done just the opposite of what was suggested. It became a regular pattern, which would give each of the men countless hours of entertainment over the years.

Hughes’ Post covers were a great success with his public, each able to recall similar family scenes. His authentic blend of humor and truth caught the imagination of a generation that was in the process of redefining itself. Most of Hughes’ covers dealt with modern family life, and he would use the children as protagonists to bring home an embarrassing little vignette. An endearing Post cover dated September 23, 1950, shows the father swallowing a spoonful of nasty tasting medicine in the hope of getting his young son to comply. Another Post cover dated December 12, 1953, finds a father just home from a long day of work having to remove the toys from the driveway in order to get his car in the garage. Yet another Post cover depicts a mother frantically running after the school bus simply to deliver little Johnnie’s lunchbox to him. Hughes could always bring a smile to the observers face. Between the years of 1948 and 1962, Hughes would paint 115 Post covers, making him the most prolific artist during this period.

Hughes’ last Post cover appeared on July 14, 1962. In the early 60’s, the Post began a transition using photographs instead of illustrations on the covers. George continued to illustrate for other magazines such as McCall's, Woman’s Day, American Magazine and Reader's Digest until the mid seventies, then shifted his focus to portraiture. He lived a long and happy life with his second wife, Casey, and five daughters.

He died in 1990 at the age of 90.

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