Between the Lines: The Illustrations of Frederic Varady

Frederic Varady (1908-2002) had a distinctive style later in his career. When browsing through the Varady tear sheets in the Walt Reed Illustration Archive, it was intersting to see how his style evolved throughout his career. His illustrations from the 1940s appear to be the typical two-color illustrations that were popular during this time period.

Cosmopolitan, July 1945

Cosmopolitan, July 1945

 

Varady seemed to be following the industry’s standard formula of what was expected of illustrations published in periodicals.

 

It appears that he started using lines as a technique to add interest and depth to his illustrations sometime in the mid-1940s. Perhaps he had established himself enough as an illustrator to take creative liberties with his work, which resulted in illustrations that felt more progressive than his earlier pieces.

Saturday Evening Post, May 1944

Saturday Evening Post, May 1944

Unknown Publication, ca.1940

Unknown Publication, ca.1940

Unknown Publication, ca.1940

Unknown Publication, ca.1940

 

Varady’s work shifted drastically in the 1950s. His illustrations from this decade embodied a flattened, modernist style.

Cosmopolitan, May 1955

Cosmopolitan, May 1955

Cosmopolitan, December 1952

Cosmopolitan, December 1952

Unknown Publication, ca.1950

Unknown Publication, ca.1950

 

His technique evolved radically to create pieces that made use of silhouettes, fully rendered figures, line drawings, and shapely text areas to create eye-catching illustrations.

Unknown Publication, 1953

Unknown Publication, 1953

Unknown Publication, ca.1950

Unknown Publication, ca.1950

Unknown Publication, ca.1950

Unknown Publication, ca.1950

 

In addition to his use of lines, Varady utilized opacities and the juxtaposition of two color illustrations next to full-color ones.

Unknown Publication, ca.1950

Unknown Publication, ca.1950

Cosmopolitan, July 1952

Cosmopolitan, July 1952

 

Finally, Varady knew how to compose his pieces in a dynamic way. In some instances, the sense of movement attracts the eye.

Collier's, November 1953

Collier’s, November 1953

Cosmopolitan, December 1952

Cosmopolitan, December 1952

 

In some pieces, his use of negative space is visually striking.

Cosmopolitan, December 1952

Cosmopolitan, December 1952

Unknown Publication, ca.1950

Unknown Publication, ca.1950

 

Reviewing Varady’s many tear sheets (the Walt Reed Illustration Archive at MGHL has over 200) revealed many nuances throughout his career.

 

The Varady tear sheets, along with many others, are in the process of being digitized as part of a CLIR Grant. The high resolution files will be available on Shared Shelf Commons in early 2018.

About the author

Andrea Degener is the Visual Materials Processing Archivist in the department of Special Collections at Washington University Libraries.