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One of My Biggest Art Influencers: The Art of Jon Whitcomb

Judy Ragagli


Jon Whitcomb, 1949.


One of My Biggest Art Influencers:  The Art of Jon Whitcomb

As a teenager, I started to collect vintage women’s magazines from the 1940's to the 1960's.  I treasured these magazines and loved looking through them.  I particularly loved the glamorous fashion spreads and beauty advertisements.  What also captured my attention was the short stories accompanied with vibrant illustrations. This is where I discovered the art of Jon Whitcomb.  He was a famous in-demand illustrator during the 1940's through the 1960's and is one of the most recognizable Mid-Century illustrators to this day.  His artwork appeared regularly in all the top women's magazines such as McCall’s, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and Ladies’ Home Journal as well as advertising campaigns. I was captivated by his eye-catching, glamorous and stunning artwork.



Jon Whitcomb, 1950.

Jon Whitcomb influenced me as an artist. When I started taking oil painting classes, Whitcomb's art was always in the fore-front.  Beauty came alive in his art and I wanted to achieve the same feeling with my Barbie oils.  He also could capture other subjects as well as his faces.  Whitcomb’s artistic skill, painting technique, and brushwork are amazing and he truly was a skilled artist.  Check out a sampling of some of my favorite Jon Whitcomb illustrations.



Jon Whitcomb, "I think I love you."  1949

Whitcomb was the creator of the “Whitcomb Girl” and specialized in the “big head” or “love clinch” style of romance illustration. He has been called a "master propagandist in the art of love" and his highly romanticized visions of both women and men and their idealized lives and desires of Post-War America.  



Jon Whitcomb, A Kiss Goodbye, 1940's.

He mainly concentrated on glamorous city women and his backgrounds were condensed to simple designs, so the eye would immediately go to the beautiful women and expressions on their faces.  His illustrations had drama, glitz, and glamour and his portrayal of women was utterly feminine with touches of exaggerated glamour. When he painted a housewife, she was done-up in a fancy dress, high-heels, enhanced with jewelry, and full make-up. His artwork reinforced the house-wife and ideal feminine image of 1950s' women and he also perfected the glamorous girl-next-door. 


Jon Whitcomb, Palmolive Vintage Ad Illustration, 1942


Many of his illustrations accompanied stories of love, relationships, intrigue, wartime adventure, mystery and solving crimes. Often his illustrations would have captions to the story to entice the reader. For example, Whitcomb’s illustration for “The Gallant Second-Story Man” by Martha Gellhorn features the tag line, “He said he loved me and had never loved anyone before.”

Jon Whitcomb, "The Gallant Second-Storey Man," 1948.


Jon Whitcomb, Community Silverware, 1950's


Jon Whitcomb, Hello Darling, 1951.




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