A 30’s-40’s Era Stylist: Mario Cooper

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President of the American Watercolor Society from 1959 through 1986, Mario Ruben Cooper (1905 – 1995) authored multiple how-to books on the challenging medium, and often worked in watercolor for his commercial illustration assignments, unlike so many contemporaries working in oils or gouache. Born in Mexico City, Cooper grew up In Los Angeles, later studying on the east coast at Columbia University and the Grand Central School of Art.

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His commercial career flourished through the 1930’s and early 1940’s with covers and interior story illustrations for Collier’s, Esquire and other glossies, which included multiple Agatha Christie mysteries and hard-boiled crime fiction thrillers. After WWII he taught at the Pratt Institute, then was assigned to document the history of American aviation for the military, many of his pieces from that era still in the Pentagon’s collection. Cooper is a Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame inductee.

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Love, Libel And Murder

Invasion Of Privacy

“He was head over heel – in love and libel and murder…”

Illustration by Joe Bowler for Harry Kurnitz’ “Invasion Of Privacy” from Collier’s magazine, 1955.

1955 joe bowler

The Missing Witness

perry peterson the missing witness 1954 copy

Perry Peterson (1908-1958) enjoyed a successful career doing illustrations for the more prestigious ‘glossies’ like the Saturday Evening Post, Liberty and Ladies Home Journal, so you won’t find his work on tawdry crime pulps, or even very many paperback covers for that matter. Romantic or comical (or both combined) couples were Peterson’s stock in trade, and he did it well. Still, you sense that the artist might have longed for the occasional mystery subject, and clearly had a nice touch with painting a sense of fear, impending threat and danger, as in his 1954 illustration for “The Missing Witness” by John and Ward Hawkins shown above (the full two-page spread below), plus several other examples shown here.

perry peterson the missing witness 1954

Sadly, Peterson passed away at only 50, his career cut short when magazine illustration assignments and PBO covers were still in demand, so we’ll never know what he might have done with less ‘lighthearted’ subjects. Stunning work from one of the lesser known mid-twentieth century masters, though, aren’t they?

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