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Edgar Franklin Wittmack

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Contributed by Al Buerger

 

 Edgar Franklin Wittmack  (1894 - 1956)

         Edgar Franklin Wittmack was an illustrator and cover artist for many of the most popular magazines of the 1920s and 1930s.  His covers, just as the artwork of his contemporary, Norman Rockwell, were usually created as oil paintings.

        Both cover artists specialized in fiction-oriented magazines.  Rockwell, drawing on the viewer's imagination, created humorous or unique situations of small town life, mainly thru his covers for the "Saturday Evening Post".   Wittmack, known for creating numerous covers for such "slick" magazines as the "Saturday Evening Post", "American Boy", "Outdoor Life"', "Liberty" etc., generally displayed a "poster style" cover of men of all ages at their work or sport.  Wittmack is also well known for his "Popular Science" artwork where, during the height of the great depression, he painted more than 100+ covers, expressing thru his "retro-futuristic" depictions, the conversion of many of the ideas of inventive Americans into visual reality.

        When one analyzes the entire output of Wittmack's work, one discovers that pulp magazines were a mainstay for his creativity, in that the medium allowed him to express his ability to tell a story thru his art.  His pulp creations were painted for his entire career, with over 250+ verified covers known.  When one analyzes all of Wittmack's known pulp covers, one discovers that there were mainly four publishers that used his art frequently, as listed below:

        Ridgeway Co.:  Wittmack's first pulp cover was for "Adventure" magazine in 1919, and he continued with them often thru the end of the depression.  Other minor specialty covers painted for Ridgeway by Wittmack included "Romance" and "Everybody's Magazine".

       Frank A. Munsey Co.:  Wittmack created a group of covers for "Argosy All-Story Weekly" during the last half of the 1920's.

       Doubleday Page thru Short Story Inc.:  Wittmack painted most of his pulp covers for "Short Story" magazine, a long lasting title which spanned his entire career.  His first "Short Story" pulp was published in 1921 and, after more than 150+ covers, his involvement with the magazine finally came to an end with his last issue being in 1951.  This time period is often considered one of the signaling points in the demise of the popularity of pulps, mainly due to the appearance of paperbacks and, of course, television.  Other minor specialty pulps for the current publisher at that time painted by Wittmack included "West", "Frontier Stories", and "Star" magazines.

       Street and Smith Corp.:  They began in the pulp business in reaction to the success of "Argosy" magazine, considered to be the first pulp published.  Therefore, in the early 1900s, they created "sister" pulp magazines under the titles of "Popular" and "People's".  To separate themselves from the popularity of "Argosy" magazine, they were the first to advertise their difference in having full art covers, where "Argosy" had a large masthead with small artwork.  Of all the four publishers mentioned, Street and Smith used Wittmack most often during the 20s and 30s because of his strong ability to create an action-type cover to draw the viewer's imagination into an exciting story in progress.

       "People's" changed their name often, attempting to create a greater reader circulation, and thus, from December of 1921 thru November of 1922, they became known as the "People's Story Magazine".  They chose Wittmack to do all 24 of the covers, knowing his talent was in the creation of drawing the viewer into the most exciting part of the featured story for that particular issue. Other Street and Smith pulps in which he created many covers during the 20s and 30s included  "Popular", "Complete Story", "Sea Stories", "Western Story", "High Spot" and "Top Notch".

Here's an excellent link with more information.

Artist's Summary Page

 

Links for Magazine Art- www.magazineart.org