Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What If Norman Rockwell Had Been Italian?

I ran across a wonderful site that has catalogued the cover art of Italian illustrators who contributed to La Domenica del Corriere (The Sunday Courier), the Sunday insert for Corriere della Sera, which was published from 1899 to 1989. The insert featured a weekly full-page illustration dramatically depicting events in the news.

I browsed through the cover illustrations, particularly those of Walter Molino and Achille Beltrame. They are up there with the best illustrators of that era, and it's fascinating to see the skill and imagination with which to dramatize even the most mundane news items... and when the subject is an exciting one, they really let themselves go after it.

I think the awesome work of these illustrators shows that even though photography has virtually replaced illustration, there are some things that only a skilled illustrator can do. Illustration is making something of a comeback, but publishers seem to lack the vision of what great illustrations can do for a publication. Browsing through these cover illustrations show what we're all missing today. Besides that, they're just incredibly fun to look at.

You can look through the collection of cover illustrations here. It's in Italian, so you can look for the box that says Per Autore (search by author/artist), or use Google to translate the page.

An artist's work is often defined by the era in which he lives... and what the illustration market is willing to pay for. I had to wonder what Norman Rockwell's covers would have been like if he had been born in Italy! Or what kind of work Michaelangelo or Leonardo would be doing if they lived in the modern age. (Actually, Leonardo is still virtually working in this age. NASA's new anthrobots are intrinsically based on his robot schematics.) And what would it have been like for me to have worked during the Golden Age of illustration?

It's our job to keep the industry alive, to try new things, make sure illustrators' rights are recognized, and to keep having fun while we do it. The past has a lot to contribute to the future as well, through artists like Molino and Beltrame. I'm certain I've absorbed a little Italian tabloid-illustrationism into my system this week, and that it'll find its way into my illustrations here and there.

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