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Ski Art: Edgar Franklin Wittmark (1895-1956)



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Ski Art: Edgar Franklin Wittmark (1895-1956)

By E. John B. Allen

Edgar Wittmark's bold, color-blast style hit the sweet spot for mass-entertainment pulp magazines.

This American artist grew up during the period when magazines published thrilling entertainment, including fiction and tales of high-action sports, for an increasingly literate population. Many stories, as this cover shows, were geared to youth. In 1910, 72 percent of American kids attended school. By 1930, all 48 states required students to complete elementary school. The newly educated readers bought these magazines with their bold illustrations and content varying from serious literature and reportage to pulp fiction.

Wittmark, born in New York City in 1895, spent three summers working on a farm in Montana, then served in France during World War I. He later studied at New York’s Art Students League and in 1925 returned to France to enroll in the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. This school allowed students to experiment rather than follow the academic rules for painting enforced at the more famous École des Beaux-Arts. It was at the Grande Chaumière that he began to develop what critics later called his “retro-futuristic” style that promised “potential reality.”

When Wittmark returned to New York, his bold and colorful action paintings, usually in oil, became staple covers for the well-known American Boy, Collier’s, Outdoor Life, Saturday Evening Post and Scientific American magazines. He also did covers for pulp magazines like Adventure, Frontier Stories and West, probably echoing his farm life in Montana as a young man.

The 1937 cover illustrated here portrays a youthful, healthy, sporting male America getting out of the Depression, the “potential reality” of what was possible. Those with available wealth had a choice of two of the most physical and exciting sports then captivating a steadily recovering United States. 

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