mid century line art

Several images above from my copy of the New York Art Directors Club Annual for Advertising and Editorial Art 1952. Anonymous ad for Davis Delaney Printers, David Stone Martin, Ben Shahn from Love and Joy About Letters, Arden Poole for Lucien Lelong, Pat Prichard, Miroslav Sasek from This is Paris 1959, Ben Shahn book jacket 1962, "Andrew Warhol" for CBS Radio, Ronald Searle, Olle Eksell drawing on the cover of a Swedish magazine 1949, Ben Shahn, Arno Schuele book jacket

Somewhere around mid century a style of spidery line art emerged and went on to become ubiquitous in commercial art. Hand lettering too— some of it influenced by the rediscovery of 19th century ornamented wood type (see the Shahn book cover above). The pen and ink style was spindly and almost brittle— sometimes the lines incorporated ink blobs as though the pen scratched and stuttered its way across the paper. As you can see from the few samples above, big names like Ben Shahn and Ronald Searle worked in it, and relatively unknown illustrators like "Andrew Warhol" adapted it too. I recall a few Bugs Bunny cartoons from the 1950s that had some of it going on, and even Edward Gorey, in his early book jacket work, seemed to be influenced by it. It lasted organically as a popular style through the 1960s with some holdouts (like Searle and Saul Steinberg) simply continuing into the 70s and beyond in what had always been their personal style. I wish I understood better where it came from...

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