Saturday, September 15, 2012

Esquire Cartoon Album, pages 236-240

Here's more from 1957's Esquire Cartoon Album.

Howard Baer
Barbara Shermund
E. Simms Campbell. Let's see what Maurice Horn's World Encyclopedia of Cartoons from 1980 has to say about him.

ELMER SIMMS CAMPBELL (1906-1971) American cartoonist born in St. Louis, Missouri on January 2, 1906. The son of an assistant high school principal, Elmer Campbell was known as Elmer to his friends and E. Simms Campbell professionally. He began showing an interest in art at age four, and was undoubtedly encouraged by his mother, who herself painted watercolors. When Campbell was 14, his family moved to Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from Englewood High School there and attended the University of Chicago briefly. He knew art would be his career and switched to the Chicago Institute of Fine Art, from which he graduated.

In 1932 and 1933 he lived with his aunt on Edgecombe Avenue in the Harlem section of New York City. He studied at the Art Students League under George Grosz during the day and drew for
College Comics, a humor magazine, at night. Although extremely talented, Campbell was a black man and as such was no stranger to discrimination in early efforts to sell his work. In a 1966 interview in Ebony, he said, “Oh I could always draw, but I was a failure as an artist 'til I became a successful dining car waiter.”

Campbell was 27 years old when his big break came in the Spring of 1933. He got his chance through a combination of talent, luck, and the recommendation of famed cartoonist Russell Patterson. A new magazine named
Esquire was starting up. Arnold Gingrich, one of the founders of Esquire, had hoped to use art by Patterson, whose drawings of beautiful women were almost as famous as the Ziegfield Girls. At the time Gingrich could only offer $100 per featured cartoon, and Patterson declined his offer. However, as Gingrich remembered in his memoir of Esquire's early days, “He did have a suggestion, that is—if I didn't 'draw the color line'. I said I didn't.”

Gingrich needed color cartoons for
Esquire's debut issue. E. Simms Campbell solved his problem. After visiting Campbell at his aunt's apartment, Arnold Gingrich had an armload of finished color cartoons and rough idea sketches. The debut issue of October 1933 contained 13 color cartoons, a good portion of which were by E. Simms Campbell or were worked up by artists such as John Groth and George Petty from Campbell idea sketches. Esquire was an instant success, and Gingrich credits the color cartoons with a significant contribution to that success.

Although dated January 1934, the second issue of
Esquire appeared on December 5, 1933, the day Prohibition was repealed. It also marked the debut of Esky on the cover of Esquire. This popeyed, white-moustached, large-nosed admirer of female beauty was created by E. Simms Campbell. His cartoons also appeared in the old Life, Judge, Colliers, the Saturday Evening Post, the New Yorker, Playboy, Cosmopolitan,and Redbook. King Features Syndicate distributed the daily panel Cuties from about 1943 until his death. The panel featured beautiful women and a gag.

“Early in his career a friend told him if he specialized in beautiful women, he'd always have work. It was advice he took to heart. Beautiful women were his favorite subjects. One of his most famous creations was a continuing series in
Esquire, and later Playboy: Sultan and Harem Cartoons. The sultan, a short, rotund, jovial sort more in love with food and toys than sex, was always surrounded by his harem. The series was published as a full-page color cartoon rich in both the intensity of the bright orange tones Campbell favored and in lush odialesques.

E. Simms Campbell changed from pen and ink to pencils and watercolor with ease. His drawing had spontaneity that often made the gag secondary. His color cartoons were painted and not just Line drawings with color trapped in between the borders. Although he did illustrate work by black writer Langston Hughes's
Popo and Fifna, Campbell mostly cartooned the world of high society, nightclubs, expensive wine, women, and song. Ironically, many admirers of his work are often surprised to learn he was black.

His work did not elicit a belly laugh as much as a chuckle and the sincere gratitude of male readers who didn't know much about art but knew what they liked. Throughout Campbell's work, the women portrayed in sensuous watercolors and line drawings were usually white. This prompted
Negro Digest in a 1951 article on Campbell, “Are Black Women Beautiful” Occasionally he did draw dark-skinned women, but they were usually Polynesian and not black.

For the last 14 years of his life until shortly before his death, E. Simms Campbell lived in Neerach, Switzerland. The expatriate life in Switzerland proved ideal, as he told
Ebony in 1966, “out here in this little off-the-wall village we don't have to prove nothin' to nobody...Nobody bothers us unless we invite them in, and nobody gets mad because we're out here living in their community. Man, I can walk into any joint I want to and nobody starts looking as if they're thinking, 'Ugh, there's a [...] in here.'”

E. Simms Campbell left Switzerland after the death of his wife, Vivian, in October 1970. He returned to White Plains, New York where on January 27, 1971, he died after a brief illness.
Howard Baer
E. Simms Campbell
Howard Baer
Gilbert Bundy
E. Simms Campbell
Gilbert Bundy
Howard Baer

Note how the image was flopped. Now you can just push a button in Photoshop instead of having to get a transparency made of the image and reverse it that way. I'm sure they could afford it though.
The next few pages of this book next Saturday.

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