This original 1920s oil on board painting by Henry Soulen is a commissioned interior illustration for The Saturday Evening Post. The image shows two figures engaged in what appears to be a traditional “ghost money” ceremony, a Taoist tradition of burning joss paper as an offering to spirits of one’s ancestors. The colorful, boldly painted, Orientalist scene is unsigned but is guaranteed to be by the American artist Henry Soulen. The verso bears a Curtis Publishing Company label identifying this as appearing in The Saturday Evening Post. Framed in a simple, original-to-the-painting wood frame.
HENRY JAMES SOULEN (courtesy of Gratz):
(Phoenixville, Pennsylvania 1888 – 1965)
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 12, 1888, Henry James Soulen was a noted illustrator. He attended the Art Students League in Milwaukee, the Art Institute of Chicago, and later studied under the celebrated teacher, Howard Pyle, the founder of the Brandywine School. He also studied with N.C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, and Jessie Wilcox Smith.
An illustrator for the “Saturday Evening Post,” Henry Soulen began his career in May, 1912. He also worked for other publications including “Country Gentleman” and “Ladies Home Journal” and earned a Peabody Award for his magazine cover designs. He was known for his use of intense, brilliant color at a time when many illustrations were in black and white.
He was a thorough researcher and eventually collected a large and varied collection of costumes, weapons, and other objects that he used in his drawings. At age 62, he became a college professor at the University of Maryland and taught the first illustration that art department offered. During World War II, he gave free art lessons at the Valley Forge Military Hospital, a rehabilitation center for veterans.
The artist made his home between Phoenixville, Pennsylvania and Oceanville, Maine, until he died in 1965.