Jon Whitcomb was perhaps the most accomplished “glossy” magazine illustrator working in the mid-century modern style. This fabulous glamour and Western Americana mash-up interior gouache illustration painting for the January, 1951 edition of Cosmopolitan magazine showcases the skillful eye, technical excellence and delightful imaginative sense of narration that set him atop of the field. Commissioned for a story by Shirley Shapiro Pugh titled “The Most Beautiful Girl In Texas”, this is matted with verso publication notations and labels from a previous NYC Christie’s Auction sale. A copy of the published Cosmopolitan magazine is included in the sale.
JON WHITCOMB (1906-1988) has made his name synonymous with pictures of young love and glamorous, beautiful young women. During World War II, a series of illustrations for advertisements he created on the theme, “Back Home for Keeps,” became a pin-up fad for women deprived of their husbands or sweethearts.
Jon was born in Weatherford, Oklahoma, and reared in Manitowic, Wisconsin. He attended Ohio Wessleyan University and was graduated from Ohio State where he did pictures for the school publications and worked during the summer painting posters for a theater in Cleveland.
This was excellent training ground for Whitcomb. Although he had majored in English with an ambition to write, Jon switched to art classes. After graduation he was able to obtain work in a series of studios doing travel and theater posters, as well as general advertising illustrations.
In 1934, he moved to New York to combine studio work with free-lance illustration. His first illustrations were for Collier’s, followed by Good Housekeeping,, and then the others in succession as Whitcomb’s pretty girls began to attract enthusiastic readership.
His career was interrupted by World War II when he was commissioned a Lieutenant, j.g. in the Navy. His assignments varied from mine-sweeping duty to off the East coast, to the Public Relations Department in Washington, to the Pacific as a combat artist with the invasions of Tinian, Saipan, and Peleliu. After hospitalization for tropical infections, he was discharged in 1945 and resumed his art career.
Whitcomb’s writing ability became useful when he began to do a monthly series of sketches and articles about motion picture stars for Cosmopolitan, called “On Location with Jon Whitcomb.” He has also written several short stories, two children’s books about poodles, Coco, and Pom Pom’s Christmas, and a book about feminine glamour, All About Girls.