Monday, November 16, 2009

The Style Behind the Cover: Abril Lamarque

If a newsstand was a speakeasy and magazines drinks, Film Fun would be the publishing equivalent of soda water. Pop the cork and you're blasted with an attention grabbing spray of bubbles and gas, which just as quickly hisses away into the ether without a hint of aftertaste, leaving you thirsty for another. It was the ultimate publishing ephemera during a time when an issue of Esquire could run over 200 pages and a half million words with works by literary luminaries such as Dos Passos and Hemingway. But Film Fun had some heavyweights in its bullpen. And foremost among them was its first art editor, who went on to become one of the most important magazine designers of the first half of the 20th century. He was also a master caricaturist during the time when that art form was at its zenith.

Abril Lamarque joined Film Fun soon after it was acquired in the mid 1920s by Dellacorte publishing from the financially tipsy Leslie-Judge, a unwise sale because Film Fun was the only solvent periodical out of their lineup. At the ripe young age of 20 one might presume Lamarque a bit too big for his britches to shape the magazine, but you'd have bet wrong. Despite his youth Lamarque had large ambitions and sophisticated ideas about design and he applied them in Film Fun, and later other Dellacorte publications. Aside from his editorial duties, Lamarque also produced spot illustrations, caricatures of film stars and for many years a one page cartoon, some examples of which I've included here. While with Delacorte, Lamarque contributed to a number of other ventures including a short lived prototype of the comic book entitled what else, The Funnies that debuted (and folded) in 1929, and the wildly successful Ballyhoo, which influenced later generations of humor magazines ranging from Mad to National Lampoon. Among his other creative inventions were imaginative variations of crossword puzzles, one which was intended to be read over the airwaves and another based on caricatures of what else, film stars.

Lamarque hired and nurtured staff who themselves would become influential designers such as the late Otto Storch, who credited Lamarque for sticking with him while he was learning the ropes and ruining assignment after assignment. His eye for talent took him to unusual places, including a back shed in New York where he found the folk artist Karol Kozlowski, whom he championed and brought to wide attention in the academic art world. Not surprisingly for a man of such manifold talents, Lamarque eventually moved on and took a step up from Film Fun to where else, The New York Times, where he oversaw a major design of the Sunday magazine that still bears some of his touches.

His career grew over the years to include consulting for many major corporations and design work that graced the covers of leading magazines with his unique skills and vision. Lamarque died in 1999. A noted amateur magician who created many original tricks, his passing was honored by a broken wand ceremony led by the Society of American Magicians.


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

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