Pruett Carter

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