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    How Illustration became Art

    Posted by John Stocks on 27/06/2017

    How Illustration became Art

    The 1950’s and 1960’s were the hay day for magazine illustration. The War Years were a thing of the past, paper came off ration and ‘lifestyle’ illustration flooded the pages in glorious colour. Commercial artists, many of whom had started their careers in art school, were in now in high demand. 

    In 1950 a new kind of arts agency, Artist Partners was born. Working in collaboration with the biggest names in commercial illustration and the top magazines it was soon the inundated with requests for representation.  By the late 1960’s AP was representing over 50 of the top commercial artists and designers in the world including Felix Topolski, Alistair Michie and Saul Bass who were in constant demand due to their artistic capabilities. Illustration was the only way to create the imagery required for the latest underwear or holiday advert, aside from photography which was on the rise and would begin to take over with the birth of the Celebrity magazine in the 70’s. Today of course it would all be done digitally.

    Back in the 50’s there was a very clear and wide divide between Art and Illustration with the later considered vastly inferior.  This is still true today to some extent with a continual debate raging as to the definition of ‘Fine Art’. From the 1980’s there began to be interest in the commercial art form of the 50’s and 60’s, but it wasn't really until the rise of Retro in the 2000's that people started to look at the illustrations of these decades properly and say 'Wow! this is iconic'. The most fabulous drawn images perfectly depicting the spirit of the 1950's and 60's people, buildings and transportation. Illustrations forgotten about in drawers went from being worth a few pounds to be worth several thousand pounds and continue to prove popular with buyers and collectors today.


    Image credit: Artist Partners 60th Anniversary brochure