|Sheet Music Cover Art History - Continued|
|Following the trend that E.T. Paull was very much on top of, many publishers started to enhance their covers more so with art than just text. There are a number of broad categories of cover art that were used, the most obvious pertaining to the title or content of the music within. However, particularly in the case of piano rags or marches, the title did not always suggest a format for the cover art, so publishers and artists winged it. There was also a matter of the style of art that would represent the piece, whether the content within was clear or not. With that in mind, a few of the categories for what is now collectible cover art in addition to or replacing textual content might be as follows (in no particular order):|
Publishers established in the 1890s and 1900s saw the need for catchy covers immediately, particularly to accompany the emerging ragtime genre. In the 1890s, The introduction of photographic printing and offset presses, which were a modification of the lithography process, put fancy color covers within affordable reach of all commercial publishers. Some of the older firms resisted for some time, either continuing to use text-based covers or relying on commercial stock art in a monochrome format, but most of them either languished or caught on to the reality of marketing in a new century. A new field emerged from the need for what was, in essence, perpetual advertising - that of the career cover-art illustrator. Working within their own realm of personal talent, be it realistic portraits or eye-catching graphical content, many of them thrived throughout the ragtime era. Some publishers retained the services of an in-house designer or artist, but the top illustrators worked as independent contractors for whoever would buy their art. Some even created a catalog of stock illustrations, any of which could be used for a variety of pieces. Some of the most prolific are featured here. Thanks up front should go to Marion Short who with her husband Roy uncovered or collected information on a many of these artists when compiling her five books on Collectible Sheet Music Cover Art, all of which are highly recommended acquisitions for any collector's library
WILLIAM A. STARMER
AND FREDRICK S. STARMER
Born in new York City in 1868 to German immigrant parents, Edward was familiar with art production at a young age since his father worked as a professional engraver. According to a brief biography assembled by his granddaughter, Ann M. Pfeiffer Latella, the young man showed a predilection and interest for art at an early age. He dabbled in costume jewelry design and some illustration work for publications such as magazines and newspapers, but is best known for his often stunning sheet music cover art, in part because his signature appears on it more often than the other works. At some point in his youth he suffered a leg injury that resulted in a life long limp, and the eventual onset of osteomylitis that contributed to his death in 1932. His pain was such that he designed his own orthodic device to help him walk more comfortably.
Pfeiffer's first covers date back to 1892, and his volume of work spans over 100 publishers, indicating that his reputation as a freelance artist was likely considerable. His signature varied in scope from the simple EHP to Fifer to the official sounding Pfeiffer Illustrating Co.. However the majority of his works featured the unique E.H. Pfeiffer N.Y. script, which is as recognizable to collectors as the Disney signature is to kids. While many of his works reflect some representation of the title of the piece they adorn, he was particularly gifted with drawing floral motifs and attractive women, exercising careful consideration for near-photo realistic shading. Pfeiffer was also an early advocate of what became the Art Deco school of art by the late 1920s. Of particular favorites listed here are the highly stylized Bantam Step and three different versions of Wild Cherries.
CHEVALIER DE TAKACS
This unique illustrator and sometime composer was born in Hungary in 1880. His father, who may also have been an artist, was a Hungarian Count. Andréa immigrated to America from Budapest in 1899, and later in life would also refer to himself as "count" at least once in one novel that he illustrated. Once established in New York, where he lived out his life, André, as he then referred to himself, started on a path that left a fascinating legacy of artwork, the majority of it on sheet music covers dating from 1906 to 1919. He is known to have illustrated at least two novels, and created some commercial art as well for both posters and postcards. André also wrote a few songs and song lyrics, for which he illustrated the covers, as might be expected. One of these songs titled When Bessie Met the Bobby of Her Dreams was dedicated to his wife Bessie, and she was used as a model for his covers from time to time. Although he contracted to a wide variety of publishers, a large volume of his work was featured on compositions published by the Jerome Remick Publishing Company and F.A. Mills. There are indications that he may have been involved in the New York motion picture industry, perhaps as a set or art designer. The unusual signature was modified several times during his career. André died August 23, 1919 at the age of 39, his sad demise reportedly the result of a heart attack in a New York City taxicab. Bessie followed in 1927, and both are buried in Englewood, New Jersey.
De Takacs used lots of bold coloring in his work, such as in My Pony Boy, and was able to create both realistic images as well as pleasingly abstract ones. He was quite versatile with the "fade-away" technique, where the clothing or other portions of a subject is of the same color or pattern as the background, making the the relevant portions stand out more while the rest of the figure fades into the background (see Calico Rag [not by De Takacs] for a vivid example of this technique).
Many thanks for additional information and verification go to Andrea Ellis who was named after her great grandfather, as well as Keith Emmons of HulaPages.Com. The last few years have been a voyage of discovery for her family as well in regards to André De Takacs' artistic legacy.
Very little is available on this talented artist whose primary legacy graces a number of large format covers from the early 1900s to around 1914. Frew (b.c.1875) was able to produce quality artwork on demand, and some of his concepts combine the simple with the intricate. In many cases the subjects would be well rendered with careful shading while the backgrounds were very basic. His work was not as dimensional as other serious artists, but covers such as the comical Dill Pickles Song and the entrancing Solace are nonetheless visually stimulating. His most widely circulated work, due in part to the success of the piece within, is the famous Alexander's Ragtime Band. Frew worked within a limited circle of publishers, and reputably suffered from eccentricities that many associated with artistic types, a factor that may have made his working relationships difficult. He died in a mental hospital in the 1920s having exhausted his funds.
Albert Barbelle (b.1887) was a French-American artist who spent much of his initial formal study in Paris and London learning both traditional and commercial art. Once back in New York he continued painting, but also contracted as an advertising and sheet music cover artist. His involvement with music increased when he married composer and pianist Paula Fuchs. The volume of work turned out in some forty years was quite impressive, with the earlier large format sheets usually signed with his full name, but later works only as Barbelle. Later in life he was able to arrange some gallery shows of his paintings. He was actively involved as an artist until his death in 1957.
Barbelle's work was wide ranging, including enhancing photographic subjects, fantasy creations and interesting silhouettes, but his forte was in painting beautiful women. He was very conscious of style and fashion, and was careful to keep his work contemporary as both of those elements evolved through the decades. His use of color was more subtle than some artists, but always tasteful, often with one particular hue deliberately highlighting a picture for effect.
The identity of the artist (or artists) behind this mystery signature has not, to date, been identified with any level of certainty. However, researcher Keith Emmons has uncovered the origin of the famous Rosebud Symbol and the man who likely ran the studio. His name was Morris Rosenbaum (German for "rose bush") who formed the Rosenbaum Studios (R.S.) in Manhattan in the early 1910s. A Polish immigrant who moved to the U.S. with his parents in the 1880s, Rosenbaum is likely responsible for these cryptically signed covers which date back as far as 1906. As many as fourteen variations of the Rosebud symbol appeared with the initials R.S. on art that graced the covers of many pieces, suggesting the hand of multiple artists. Around 1913 Rosenbaum had employed the famed illustrator of the Oz books W.W. Denslow. For some time the studio was employed nearly exclusively by the Leo Feist publishing house (1912 to 1919) and later the Irving Berlin company (1919 to the late 1920s). An alternate suggestion for the R.S. name was that yet another Starmer, this one named Rose, had entered the commercial art profession, but this seem unlikely.
The number of minor and major variations
of the symbol alone suggest that it is likely the work of four or more
artists which are represented over a nearly 27 year span of the studio's
cover art production. Some showed just the rosebud and others the stem and
rose in varying proportions. Other variations in the use of color palettes
and line style on the drawings themselves further reinforce this contention.
The advantage of utilizing a staffed studio was that fees were generally
standardized, and the staff could be called upon to provide a wide variety
of needs, such as full color drawings or simple border art for a
photographic cover. As with the large number of E.T. Paull engravings from
the Hoen Company, it will difficult to discern the work of individual
artist's contributions, even if their names are known.
Gene Buck (b. 1885) was as nearly well known as a musician as he was for his cover art contributions. He had formal training at the Detroit Art Academy, focusing on Art Noveau. Buck was soon employed by the Jerome Remick company in New York as a staff illustrator where he reportedly produced over 5000 covers, although this includes arranging photographic as well as text-based covers. Evolving from his initial training he became adept at Art Deco even before it had recognized as an independent style. The bulk of his illustrations range from 1904 to 1914, a time when he started experiencing severe vision problems.
Starting in 1910 Buck tried his hand at composing. Many of his earliest songs as a lyricist to the music of Dave Stamper appear on a series of Edison Diamond Discs from the 1910s. Gene was quite active in the New York music scene and mingled with stars of stage and screen. He spent many years in the employ of Flo Ziegfeld contributing both writing and set design for the famous Ziegfeld Follies. He continued composing into the 1920s and was the President of ASCAP (American Society of Composers and Publishers) from 1924 to 1941. Buck died on the west coast in 1957.
Notable in Buck's style is the use of
minimal color palettes, often leaving many elements of the cover clear or
showing a single color that would define the cover. The people were
consistently drawn with succinct expressions, and the artistic elements when
they appeared were well-defined although simply colored and logically
patterned. Many of his covers do not bear his signature, but his distinct
lettering technique on the Remick issues certainly help give them away.
There is very little professional or family information available on this elusive artist. Born in Furth, Germany, Henry Reichard (who most often signed his work as H. Reichard) was based in St. Louis during the ragtime era, and most of his covers appear to be from publishers in that city, including many on featured items in the John Stark catalog. He worked well with line-shaded motifs, and appeared to be comfortable with either pencil or charcoal in his renderings laced with some watercolor. With little exception there is some form of flora or floral motif in most of his artwork, and a level of fine detail in all of it. Reichard's sheet music drawing career may have been short lived, as all of of his covers appear only in the 1910s. Reichard's brother was also an artist, and both had works featured in the famous Pan American Exposition held in Buffalo, New York in 1901, site of the assassination of then-President William McKinley. Henry died in 1946.
Sydney Leff (b. 1906) was both highly involved and evolved in his cover artwork during the bulk of the Art Deco era of the 1920s and 1930s. Some of his first commercial work was produced while he was still in high school and continued as he attended the National Academy of Design. The simple yet eye catching style translated into a lot of contract work for the young artist, and he was known to turn out three to four covers a day at some point, ultimately completing over 2000 of them. Clearly reflecting the hair and clothing styles of the 1920s in his art, many of Leff's covers could be categorized as Urban or Moderne. This point was emphasized when as recently as 2000 some of his covers were featured in a caberet music exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York with Mr. Leff, who at this writing still resides in Florida, in attendance.
One word that describes Leff's style might
be contrast. Whether it be in shading or through starkly different
yet complimentary covers, he was able to bring out the parts of the cover
that were most relevant to the song within. Irving Berlin in particular used
Leff for a large number of publications during his career in part because of
the artist's command of relevance. Leff also conveyed emotion and attitude,
partially through facial expression but also through the use of body
language. His comic covers are whimsical in both content and proportion
without overdoing the caricature aspect.
FREDERICK S. MANNING
Few sheet music cover artists were able to capture the essence of beautiful women quite the way Frederick Manning (b. 1874) was able to. He actually entered the field as a second career of sorts later than most artists, being in his 40s when his covers started appearing. A native of Colorado Springs, much of his early artwork was in the field of comic panels and strips of the late 19th century. As his talents and experience increased, he first moved to Chicago, then New York in search of a more serious and profitable career in advertising artwork. After many years of creating ads, posters and promotional items for many well-known corporate clients, he decided to venture into sheet music art, which was a maturing field by the late 1910s.
While a number of artists simply followed requested ideas or even submitted their own conceptions for final use without question, Manning was always sensitive to his clients in that he wanted them to be satisfied with what he produced. Therefore, working on his experience in advertising, he would submit a watercolor draft of each concept to the publisher for selection or final approval. Then he would create his works, using paid models, in either watercolor or pastels with occasional ink highlights. He reportedly received $150 a cover for the bulk of his work in the 1920s, which although a decent wage back then is now roughly only two to three times what one copy of some of his more collectible covers sell for currently.
While much of Manning's earlier work is
signed with the full signature represented above, he would occasionally use
only his initials (F.S.M.), or in later years only his last name. When the
demand for cover artists faded in the 1930s, he continued serious painting
by public or private commission until shortly before his death in 1960. The
beauty he captured in his subjects of yesteryear lives on today in vivid
hues, which affirm the old saying that beauty is truly ageless.
Ohio native Clare Victor Dwiggins (b.1874) was named for County Clare in Ireland and famed author of Les Miserables, Victor Hugo. Working in his teens as an apprentice in an architecture firm, Dwiggins started his drawing career as a newspaper cartoonist in 1897, a time when strips were in their infancy and most cartoons were still single panel gags. Among his running features in the beginning were J. Filliken Wilberfloss, Them Was the Happy Days (nostalgia even back then) and Leap Year Lizzie. When his works evolved into strips a decade later, Dwig, as he was nicknamed, produced the long-running and popular School Days, Ophelia Bumps and Her Slate, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and Nipper. He truly enjoyed life with a sense of humor and had a retreat at Canada Lake in the Adirondack Mountains, a location that became famous for many wild weekends and summer vacations, as well as a natural outdoor inspiration for his famous newspaper and author friends. Many of them enjoyed visits to his "Dwigwam" in the scenic woods. In the 1940s he moved to California and worked with the Disney studios and illustrating children's books nearly until his death in 1959.
Dwig freelanced now and then producing
postcards among other items, as well as the occasional sheet music cover. As
he often fondly remembered his in small town Wilmington, Ohio, he likely
responded well to requests from Midwest publishers composers for custom
work. Some of his later works, such as an illustrated version of Tom
Sawyer and the exploits of a character simply named Bill sold
very well and are highly collectible today. On the covers shown here note
Dwig's since of whimsy mixed with madcap creativity.
Being the type of person who wants to be pretty good at everything rather than best at any one thing, and also because I like having my hands on every possible aspect of what I do, I slowly became involved in producing cover art for my own music. Initially the artistic production was limited to cassette covers in the 1980s, some done on one of the early models of the Macintosh computer. But as the tools became more sophisticated, I found that I was able to produce interesting cassette/CD covers as well as those for sheet music. Being that computer generated art has become a legitimate form both in movies and in real world graphics, I feel less inhibited about my manual drawing limitations and am able to exercise some freedom in creating relevant covers with a modicum of confidence. I then set out to slowly recapture the art of producing sheet music covers.
Somewhere along the way, likely during the 1930s, photographically produced covers became cheaper to produce than those with colorful cover art. For starters, many more people were able to take photographs than those who possessed the talent to draw or paint relevant artwork. Then there is the factor of celebrity endorsement, which photography best represented. By the 1970s. a larger number of covers were regressing back to text-only format with minimal or no art at all. So when I started producing ragtime covers I did it within the capabilities of the tools I had. The initial covers were plays on the ubiquitous Schirmer yellow books with some minor alterations. The Hanon Rag and Ragtime Nocturne logically fit into this mold. But when the titles became more descriptive, I figured that some kind of artwork was necessary. In the case of Pride of the Prairie, Ragtime Bobolink (by Joseph Lamb) and The Ragtime Pamela, I turned photographs into a mix of watercolor and pastels in an attempt to create something that looked painted or drawn. For The Necromancer, I was fortunate to have an appropriate drawing given to me by noted artist and former Washington Redskin George Nock, which I incorporated with a custom text logo. The Wiener Schnitzel Rag is an attempt at cartoon watercolor, and was done by hand. Ragapples was also rendered by a number of painting and computer generated techniques. As my skills increase in both manual and computer art I am sure that future covers will be more adventurous, and will hopefully recapture to some extent those days when cover art was a prominent feature of sheet music.
Information supplied by: http://www.perfessorbill.com