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Harry Beckhoff illustration for the fiction story "The Day's Work" (Collier's May 1948). From the Walt Reed Illustration Archive.
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John M. Olin Library, Level 1, Julian Edison Department of Special Collections Reading Room

Bend it Like Beckhoff: Exploring the Career of Harry Beckhoff

The Bend it Like Beckhoff exhibition explores the work of Harry Beckhoff. Beckhoff nearly became an accountant instead of an illustrator after being told in high school that he “had no particular flair for humorous drawing.”

Yet Beckhoff’s drawings for Collier’s, published in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, demonstrate a sly wit. Beckhoff was known for his expressive character silhouettes, which he used to punctuate the action and drama of a story.

Beckhoff was stylistically influenced by Belgian and French artists working in the ligne claire or “clear-line” style, which relies on blocks of color or tone bounded by lines with no cross-hatching. The materials in the exhibition explore Beckhoff’s use of line and color, a prominent trope throughout his career, in addition to profiling the artist himself.

Dowd Illustration Research Archive (DIRA) logo.

The materials on display are from the Walt Reed Illustration Archive and feature tear sheets and original works of art. The Walt Reed Illustration Archive holds over 250,000 magazine tear sheets, thousands of periodicals, and over 100 pieces of original art created for commercial illustration. The Walt Reed Illustration Archive is part of the Dowd Illustration Research Archive.

The Bend it Like Beckhoff exhibition was curated by MFA in Illustration & Visual Culture student Jeffery Johnson.

Header Image Credit: Harry Beckhoff illustration of “The Day’s Work,” Collier’s fiction story, May 1948. Magazine tear sheet from the Walt Reed Illustration Archive.