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The Al Parker Collection

Al Parker

Al Parker was born in St. Louis, Missouri and studied at Washington University's School of Fine Arts from 1923 to 1928. After opening a fledgling advertising agency with fellow students and beginning to work for national magazines, Parker moved to New York City in 1935. A cover illustration for House Beautiful won a national competition and garnered Parker jobs producing illustrations and covers for Chatelaine, Collier's, Women's Home Companion, and Ladies' Home Journal. In December of 1938, Parker began a thirteen-year stint of illustrating a series of fifty hugely popular "Mother and Daughter" covers for the Ladies Home Journal: dressed alike and paired in an evocatively designed action scene, the first cover created an overnight fashion sensation. Successive covers enjoyed unrivaled appeal, chronicling the evolution of an idealized American family as it prepared for war, homecoming, and rebirth (i.e., the baby boom). Parker was soon illustrating for countless magazines including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, McCall's, The Saturday Evening Post, Sports Illustrated, Pictorial Review, Town and County, and Vogue, constantly reinventing his endlessly snappy style and thematic approach, while experimenting with new media in order to keep his throngs of imitators stymied. In cooperation with the art director, he secretly illustrated an entire issue of Cosmopolitan employing different pseudonyms, styles, and media for each story. Parker is one of the select few illustrators whose personal touch immediately jumps out at the viewer, through crisp rendering and compositions not only bold, but positively idiosyncratic. Known as the Dean of Illustrators, Parker was one of the founding faculty members for the Famous Artists School and was elected to the Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame in 1965. The collection documents the personal life and career of the highly regarded illustrator from 1920 to 1985. Placed with University Archives in 2003 by Parker's son, the collection includes family memorabilia, photographs of artist models, original artwork, and publications featuring Parker's work.

Biography compiled by Todd Hignite. For additional information see The Illustrator in America 1860-2000, by Walt Reed, New York: The Society of Illustrators, 2001.

Selected Collections: Charles Craver | Al Parker | Robert Weaver | Robert Andrew Parker | Jack Unruh | Clifford Ara Condak | Harper's Weekly and The Century