Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Guest Dandy: John E. Sheridan & The American Collegiate Ideal

Several weeks ago we were contacted by Richard Cellini who had discovered our post on the 1916 Hart Schaffner & Marx Style Book, and offered to buy it from us.  Richard has been in the process of curating a collection of work of the illustrator John E. Sheridan to be donated to Georgetown University, of which both gentlemen share as their Alma Mater.  Sheridan's illustrations were featured in our style book.  We proposed a trade: We would provide the desired style book in exchange for a guest post featuring Sheridan's work.

John E. Sheridan (1880-1948) was a well-known American illustrator during the “Golden Age of Illustration” (1900-1950). As an artist and commercial illustrator, Sheridan was romantic and idealistic – a trait he shared with J.C Leyendecker, Edward Penfield, Samuel Nelson Abbott, and other major illustrators of the period. Sheridan spent his entire career painting and drawing idealized images of privileged, graceful and beautiful young men and women wearing costumes and engaging in social and sporting activities typical of the American upper-classes of early 20th century. Even Sheridan’s private sketchbook (from his days as an art student in Paris from 1920-23) demonstrates his nearly all-consuming interest in this subject.

Today, Sheridan is considered one of the originators of an aesthetic known as the “American collegiate ideal” -- an approach that still has resonance in commercial illustration and photography today (including images associated with GQ, Polo Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, and Abercrombie & Fitch).

As a professional illustrator working primarily in New York City, Sheridan created more than 50 full-color cover illustrations for major periodicals of note, including: The Saturday Evening Post; The American Magazine; Collier’s; and The San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Supplement. In addition, he created richly illustrated advertisements for Edison Phonograph; Hart Schaffner & Marx; DuPont Automobiles; Chesterfield Cigarettes; and Bosch Magneto Corporation. In an era before television, color cinema, or the widespread use of color photography, John E. Sheridan helped supply the nation with an enduring image of youthful elegance and grace.

Sheridan was a 1901 graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, DC. While at Georgetown, Sheridan created a number of illustrations for various Georgetown publications, student societies, and events. Among other things, he drew a number of splendid posters for Georgetown athletic events and teams (primarily baseball, football, and track & field). His 1948 obituary in The New York Times credited Sheridan with "the idea of using posters to advertise college sports" (a distinction he must share with Bristow Adams and Edward Penfield). The Times also noted that Sheridan "was active during World War One in the making of patriotic posters, and was a member of the [WWI] artist's committee headed by Charles Dana Gibson."

Sheridan's collegiate posters are very distinctive, and much admired at Georgetown even to this day. Indeed, Sheridan is recognized as having created an ideal of the “Georgetown man” that still has great cultural power and force at the University more than 100 years after his graduation. Georgetown University’s Lauinger Library (Special Collections Division) is today recognized as possessing the largest and deepest collection of the works of John E. Sheridan.

From Sheridan’s private sketchbook:

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Rose said...

This is amazing! I love the ones from his private sketchbook the best.

Brummagem Joe said...

These illustrations are fantastic. I've come across them from time to time and wonder if they are available in a book. If not why not. Perhaps it would be worth collating them and other illustrators from the said golden age into a volume. It sounds like a Rizzoli enterprise to me. said...

Joe, we'd buy that book!

designerman said...

Amazing! Thanks for posting these.

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