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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Joseph Morgan Henninger

Spanish Scenes, 1986, Joseph Morgan Henninger
The line between artists and illustrators today is so thin as to be virtually non-existent. The differentiation comes from the fact that, while all illustrators are undeniably artists, not all artists are illustrators. The "fine arts" world would have you believe that, despite this distinction, fine artists are somehow better than illustrators. Even during the so-called "golden age" of illustrators dating from the final decade or two of the 19th-century up through the devastating impact of television on the print media in the 1960s and 70s, whatever differences there may have been in the two professions were mostly of little consequence and mostly in the minds of art critics, gallery owners, and museum curators having to do with style. In terms of art, what difference does it make who pays an artist, an advertiser or a collector (except for the fact the advertiser may pay more and do so more consistently). Illustrators work under contracts while "fine artists" usually work on speculation ("If you build it, they will come.") Today, even the "finest" fine artists are much like illustrators in that they earn most of their income not from originals, but from print reproduction.
Joseph Morgan Henninger, one of many artists producing "beach girls" during the 1950s
Joseph Morgan Henninger, 1990s
Joseph Morgan Henninger was undeniably an illustrator, born in 1909, he died in 1999, just short of his 90th birthday. An an artist/illustration Henninger was fortunate enough to have lived and worked through much of the "golden age" of illustration mentioned above. For an Indiana boy, armed with a four-year scholarship, and graduating from Paris' prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts, Henninger was in the enviable position of having the background, education, and option to go in either direction. He chose illustration, though not without having also sampled the hand to mouth existence of the portrait painter (in Indianapolis) and muralist (in Phoenix). The real money, however was further west, L.A. and its motion picture industry, where he worked for Hollywood icons such as Disney, Selznick, Vincent Korda, and the big studios, MGM, Columbia, and United Artists. At the same time, he taught classes at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Its hard to say whether producing art or teaching it was his primary profession.

Segovia, 1986, Joseph Morgan Henninger,
detail from Spanish Scenes, (top), fourth row down, fourth scene from left.
During WW II, Henningar worked for Lockheed Aircraft producing flying illustrations of their planes. (Hey, there's more than one way to serve your country during wartime.) In later years, enjoying semi-retirement, Henninger produced what is probably his most unusual work--a single canvas titled Spanish Scenes (top), featuring thirty-three watercolor images from all over Spain based upon his "working vacations" in that country. Most of the images were approximately 8 inches by 11 inches. His watercolor view of Segovia, Spain, is seen above. The scenes appear to have been painted on traditional watercolor paper first then repainted on the large canvas with subtle variations. Illustrators do that sometimes.

Then I said to her,  1980s, Joseph Morgan Henninger,
not one of the images included in his Spanish Scenes (top)

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