Motor Illustrator: Louis Rhead
July 1910 cover. In this image, the artist depicts a sunny summer's day when a race car, with driver and mechanic, is flying down a steep road, leaving dust in its wake. The hill is situated just above the ocean, on which appear a motor boat and sail boat, as a bi-plane soars overhead.
Louis John Rhead (November 6, 1857 — July 29, 1926), artist, illustrator, and author, was born in Staffordshire, England to a family that ran Staffordshire Potteries. Louis and his siblings grew up learning drawing from their dad and working in the pottery. Among all his siblings, however, Louis was a real artistic standout. When he was only 13 years old, his father sent him off on his own — to Paris, where he studied with French artist Gustave Boulanger, a figure painter specializing in classical and Oriental scenes. After three years in training, he returned to the pottery to continue work as a ceramic artist. At age twenty, he won a scholarship to London's National Art Training School, from which he graduated two years later. From there, he went directly to work for Wedgwood pottery, as well as for British publisher Cassell & Co.
In 1883, famed New York publishing house D. Appleton offered him a job as Art Director, and Rhead came to the U.S. to begin work. Less than ten years later, influenced by his friend, Franco-Swiss artist Eugene Grasset, an early proponent of Art Nouveau, he became a well-known poster artist, extending his career as an illustrator at Harper's, The Century, Scribner's, Ladies Home Journal, and other magazines and newspapers. He also drew posters for commercial concerns — Louis Prang (printing,) Lundborg perfumes, Packer's soap, etc. Fanned by the flames of the poster craze in the U.S., many of these poster images used Japanese-like techniques of flat, bold colors surrounded by black contour lines.
Nearing the turn of the century, the popularity of poster art waned, so Rhead began concentrating more on book illustrating, especially for children's books like Grimm's Fairy Tales, Robin Hood, and Heidi. His brother, George Wooliscroft Rhead, and he also collaborated on illustrations for The Pilgrim's Progress and Idylls of the King. Rhead held memberships in the Architectural League and the New York Watercolor Society.
When Rhead wasn't busy with children's books, he developed other interests, designing patterns for ceramic painting or needlework. But one particular interest overtook all others — his love of fly fishing. He wrote several thorough books on the subject, tied and sold a line of artificial lures, and went wading into rivers, particularly the Catskill, as often as he could. Quite possibly, however, his continuing avid interest during his later, retirement years, led to his demise. A New York Times (July 30, 1926) account of his death noted that two weeks earlier Rhead had hooked and fought to land a 30-pound turtle that had been eating the trout at his retirement place in Amityville, New York. Shortly thereafter he experienced two successive heart attacks.
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