Australian-born artist Henry Clive (Henry Clive O’Hara) started out as a vaudevillian magician, became a silent film performer, and gained fame as an artist. His career as an illustrator began nearly by accident, when impresario Flo Ziegfeld discovered one of his sketches. Ziegfeld himself used Clive to illustrate risqué showgirl covers for his Ziegfeld Follies and Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic programs and passed his name and work around to art directors in New York and Los Angeles.
As his popularity increased during the 1920s, the caliber of titles which displayed his glamorous and captivating beauties also increased and by the 1930s Clive was famous as the cover artist for William Randolph Hearst’s The American Weekly (Clive’s first cover for this publication appears to be from 1919, but his best known date to the 30s and 40s). This Sunday newspaper supplement had a circulation of over 50,000,000 in its heyday and scintillated readers with tales of intrigue and chorus girl gossip. Though the somewhat lurid interior featured to-the-minute gossip and scandals that today seem like the stuff of legend, the art direction of The American Weekly holds up to the test of time and the artists employed to cover and illustrate the publication include some of the greats of the Golden Age of Illustration.
The partnership between the two men of letters lasted for over three decades, a fruitful artistic and personal pairing. Clive knew both Hearst and his partner Marion Davies, and spent time at their home Heart Castle. A wonderful portrait of Davies graced the cover of the March 14, 1948 issue of The American Weekly, and she was the model for many of the force of nature images in his Vision of an Artist series.
Clive is known for his cover series, stretched over months to link the weekly issues visually. They were posed for by enchanting screen stars, often evoking a familiar historical figure or sentiment. Some of his more well-known (and extant) series include Visions of an Artist, Pin-Up Girls of History (Gene Tierney as Lola Montez, Dorothy Lamour as Cleopatra, Veronica Lake as Salome), Global Glamour, Heroines of the Opera (Acquanetta as Lakme, Linda Darnell as Carmen, Eleanor Parker as Lucia), A Girl in Every Port, Enchanters of Famous Men (Maria Montez as Marie Mancini), and Enchantresses of the Ages (Marion Davies as the Duchess of Devonshire, Beryl Wallace as Delilah, Joyce Reynolds as Bianca Capello). These covers were often backed by a short paragraph on the cover interior describing the lovely lady.
As always, original illustration art is rare, and in this case the printed material is as well. The American Weekly was published on newsprint, which has led to a scarcity of the original issues. Truly a loss, as Henry Clive’s enchanting covers are the apex and epitome of an era of beautiful illustration.
American Art Archive, Wikipedia