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Friday, August 4, 2017

Hy Hintermeister

A rare case when father and son broke ranks. During WW II Henry (the son) Hintermeister produced a series of paintings celebrating American history and patriotism. This supposedly "state of the art" agriculturally themed work was probably from the 1940s.
I've written a few times before as to how easy it is to get artists mixed up when they have similar names. Sometimes such artists lived many years apart...or many decades apart...while others are contemporaries. Art historians and other experts have been known to struggle mightily in differentiating the art of whole families sometimes spread over two or three generations, especially if there are few differences in their work. Artists who happen to be fathers and sons with the same given names are the worst offenders, forcing art experts to refer them as "the elder" or "the younger." But what's an art historian to do if one of these father-son duos working together deliberately choose to work as if they were one?
Art by Henry Hintermeister intended to raise wartime morale.
John Henry Hintermeister was born in Switzerland and lived from 1869 to 1972 (yes, over a hundred years). His son, Henry, was born in 1897. However, he died the same year as his father, in 1972, further adding to the confusion. Together, they produced illustrations that were used for prints, calendars, ads, posters, magazine covers, and even jigsaw puzzles (below). To make matters worse, for the most part, they worked under a single pseudonym signature, Hy Hintermeister. As a result, art experts have all but given up any attempt to decided who painted what--their technique, brushwork, and style are totally identical. One more thing, as I discovered in researching this piece, there are no self-portraits, not even a single photo of either man to be found on the Internet.
It's interesting to note the manner in which the publisher
cropped the artwork to make it fit the die-cut format of his puzzle.
Although Hy Hintermeister painted dozens of hunting and fishing scenes similar to that of the jigsaw puzzle, as well as high-calorically sweet school children as they grew up during the fifty years from the 1890s through the 1940s (the "golden age of illustration") leaving behind one-thousand painted works of art, they are best remembered for "Granny." The "little old lady" either conformed to an existing geriatric stereotype, or had a major role in forming it. Despite her frail, grandmotherly appearance, this "granny" would have been one "cool chick"--strong, loving, funny, adventurous, and mostly unafraid to try anything at least once.
Granny At the Game, Hy Hintermeister. Granny loved kids,
loved fun, loved baseball, liked to knit, and wasn't afraid to
break a few rules (and behavioral stereotypes) to prove it.
Granny may have grown old, but she never grew up. She was still a child at heart, and perhaps something of a tomboy from her younger days as well. Granny had her counterpart, though the two never met. He was something of a bumbling, crotchety old cuss, perhaps deliberately cast as the diametric opposite of Granny (below). She was funny, in her strength and daring. He was simply sad, a crusty old sea captain, and often the butt of the Hintermeister sense of humor, though mostly quite humorless himself.
I could find no title for this, but if you want to
have some fun, simply make up your own.
This pair of painters, became notorious during this country's Golden Years (1950s, mainly) illustrating the day-to-day lives of Americans with a good life. Many bucolic scenes, lots of city life, happy people pursuing happiness. When you look into the faces of the kids, mostly boys, if you haven't already, you soon think of Norman Rockwell. Mr. Saturday Evening Post was no doubt inspiration to these two artists, since they were contemporaries, yet despite some similarities, Hy Hintermeister (neither of them) were of the same rank as Rockwell. The Hintermeisters painted the cute. Rockwell's work had an edge of cool reality without sacrificing a loving warmth, and very seldom becoming sugary sweet.

Granny could be both fun and funny at the same time.
Math Problems (top)
Water Boy and Dog (middle)
A Kiss for Ice Cream (bottom)


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