Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator is the gorgeous new book from Manuel Auad of Auad Publishing. This volume follows up the similarly beautiful treatment given to Albert Dorne and Robert Fawcett. I have been wanting to give this book a proper overview since it arrived in the mail and now is the time.

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator
Those unfamiliar with the career and work of Al Parker will be pleased and surprised at the breadth and depth of Parker’s work. I knew that he was a consummate experimenter, but this volume truly shows his reach and the incredible range he was able to exhibit in a career spanning five decades. Parker was a chameleon. Always searching for the latest look that would fuel his own aesthetic hunger and yet be something fresh and appealing to the public audiences he served.
Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator
Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator
Al Parker (1906-1985), is perhaps the most influential illustrator of the twentieth century which is no small claim given the incredible breadth of talent that has plied the trade since Howard Pyle began teaching N.C Wyeth and others in the Brandywine valley of Pennsylvania in the early 1900’s. Parker’s early career was spent filling the glamour and women’s magazines of the 1930’s with idealized pictures of beautiful women. His work was often featured in the most popular publications of the day such as Ladie’s’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping and McCall’s He is often credited with establishing the modern glamour aesthetic.
Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator
Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator
In the 1939 he began a string of covers for Ladies Home Journal that featured a mother and daughter pair engaging in various activities such as skating, sledding, raking or even changing a car tire. This series became so popular that it continued until 1952. As demand for his work increased, Parker became one of the most respected and famous illustrators in the country.
Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator
Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator
Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator
That fan following even extended to the most famous illustrator of the day, Norman Rockwell, who sent a letter to the younger Parker which read in part:

“It is simply extraordinary, your amazing creativeness, taste and versatility. While the rest of us are working knee-deep in a groove, you are forever changing and improving. You have brought more freshness, charm and vitality to illustration than any living illustrator”

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator

Despite his success and popularity, Parker was never one to sit on his laurels. Regarding his own penchant for trying new things, he once remarked:

“I think one of the things I like most about illustration is the fact that things are always changing. It’s always tomorrow.”

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator

Parker even once illustrated an entire issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, choosing a fake name and a different style for each piece of artwork he created for each story.

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator

As evidenced by the following series of pictures, it is clear that Parker never shied away from trying new things.

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator

Another aspect of the book I really enjoyed were the sections that included reference photos used by Parker with the accompanying finished illustrations, an interview with Parker reproduced from 22 Famous Painters and Illustrators Tell How They Work, and a short essay of remembrances by Parker’s niece Margaret Matchin.

Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator
Al Parker: Illustrator-Innovator

Although I was familiar with Al Parker from my studies of illustration history and an exhibit of his work at the Norman Rockwell museum, this volume brings into sharp focus the true depth of Parker’s work as well as his impact on illustration and the public aesthetic. I highly recommend this volume to any fan of illustration, art or pop culture. It is well worth the cover price.

You can buy the book at Auad Publishing’s site

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