Certainly there were other talented and noteworthy illustrators for Esquire and Apparel Arts. But those of us who are clothes nuts…sartorial history buffs…devotees of the drapy era of men’s clothing when waist suppression and higher button stances were de rigueur…default to Laurence Fellows’ as the illustrator of note.
But who was he? Here’s an excerpt from Walt Reed’s write up on Fellows…
“…showcased the talents of such major illustrators as Charles Dana Gibson, James Montgomery Flagg, Orson Lowell, T.S. Sullivan, Peter Newell, Art Young, and many others who mirrored the country's foibles in their enthusiastic ridicule.
Joining the group in the early teens was an ultra-sophisticated young artist named Laurence Fellows. A native of Pennsylvania, Fellows had received his training at the Philadelphia Academy of Art, with several follow-up years studying in England and in France at the Academie Julien under J.P. Laurens.
Upon his return to the United States, Fellows' fresh point of view, particularly reflecting a French/Vogue influence, found him a ready audience. His style was distinguished by a thin outline, flat tonality or color, with the emphasis on shapes rather than details. Just as quickly, however, he acquired many imitators. Before John Held, Jr., for instance, had invented his "flapper," he was clearly adapting much from Fellows' mannered drawing style into his own submitted gags. Other new converts were Hal Burroughs, Bertram Hartman, and Ralph Barton, who would each run with it in their own way. Fellows particularly liked to play with off-balanced compositions, even in the more conservative arena of illustration for advertising.
One of his early commercial clients was Kelly-Springfield Tires, which gave him the opportunity to combine his elegant draftsmanship with the clever, humorous copy depreciating the competition, thus often violating the rule against "negative" advertising. But Fellows' drawing and the copy had an edge of good humor that attracted a national following and the successful campaign lasted for many years.
In the thirties, Fellows gradually shifted his emphasis to fashion art, including both men and women, finding clients in Vanity Fair, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, The American Magazine, and McClure's. He also became a regular contributor to Apparel Arts magazine.
With only a limited number of men's fashion artists available, Fellows was most in demand for the male-focused subjects, particularly by the newly launched Esquire magazine in the thirties, where he was regularly featured in full-color spreads for many years…”
So this guy Fellows? What did he look like? Was he as sartorially bulletproof as his subjects? I found totally by accident, a group photo recently that included a twenty-six year old Fellows. Here below is the group shot and caption.
"Unknown photographer: A Group of Young American Artists of the Modern School (from left to right: Jo Davidson, Edward Steichen, Arthur B. Carles, John Marin; back: Marsden Hartley, Laurence Fellows), c. 1911."
And here’s Fellows. I’ve got a trove of Apparel Arts books and other sources containing Fellows’ illustrations. But my goal is to one day own one of Fellows’ original watercolors. Keep your eyes peeled on my behalf.