The paintings of Pruett Carter (1891-1955) rarely concentrated
on the mechanics of a particular moment of action. Rather,
his compositions were concerned with intellect and emotion
which in turn were the focus for the clients for whom
Carter did his best work. His illustrations for Ladies'
Home Journal, Woman's Home Companion, McCall's
and American Magazine were less concerned with
plot than with character.
From Carter's start as an illustrator in 1918 until his
death, he was one of the few established illustrators
who was capable of smooth transitions in the tumultuous
women's magazine market. Carter possessed an advantage
over his competitors because of his intimate knowledge
of the magazine business. In his years as art director
with Good Housekeeping and the Atlanta Journal,
he absorbed the requirements of illustrating from the
publisher's vantage point, and he had taught illustration
at Grand Central School of Art in New York as well as
the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. Continually
exposing himself to upcoming talent and explaining the
finer points of his own technique, he remained quick on
his feet, able to change his style and to recognize, even
foresee, changes in his markets.
His early illustration work was similar in style to Walter
Biggs' impressionistic palette. By the 1950s, however,
most clients wanted a less painterly style, and were concerned
more with page design and decoration than fine easel painting.
Sensitive to this shift. Carter's style and thinking constantly
evolved. In 1948, Carter wrote: "The illustrator's first
function is a problem of composition, of pattern, of design
- including the rich contrast of the illustration itself
with the type matter and headlines of the story."
"Actually," he continued, "the illustrator may be likened
to the director of a motion picture...He must live the
part of each actor. He must do the scenery, design the
costumes, and handle the lighting effects." These words
not only reflect his studio's Los Angeles location; they
indicate an artist with a real grasp of the contemporary.
By the Fifties, Carter, an old hand in the business, convincingly
remained a very modern illustrator. - Frederic B. Taraba