The Old Oaken Bucket – Original Calendar Art by Gene Pressler
This beautifully well-preserved pastel painting is by American artist and illustrator Gene Pressler. With a rich color palette and Pressler’s signature glow, this pastel features a rosy-cheeked country girl stopping at a well to quench her thirst from a bucket of water. Her bound school books rest on the edge of the well and her loyal pet dog is at her side. A bucolic background completes this nostalgic piece with a well-maintained cottage and the sun just peeking through the trees in the background.
This illustration was used several times throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s for calendar advertising publication. The support material included in the sale show it being used to advertise Star Brand Shoes and a local Ohio body shop.
This pastel is framed in a tasteful gold painted wood frame that enhances the dreamy glow of Pressler’s work.
It is signed by the artist in the lower left corner of the image.
This painting comes from the collection of esteemed illustration art collector Norman Platnick.
About the artist: Gene Pressler
Little is known about Pressler’s life; much of what we know about his family is information kindly provided by Eugene and Gayle Diou (Gayle is a grand niece of Gene Pressler). He was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1893 or 1894, and apparently lived in New Jersey throughout most of his career; his mother’s name was Phillapine Mader (or Meder) Pressler. His only known sibling was Laura Pressler, who also lived in New Jersey; she married Ferdinand Alfonse Bongarts (also spelled as Bongartz), and the couple lived in Havana in the 1920’s (she and her children returned to New Jersey after Ferdinand passed away). Gene’s wife was named Virginia and they had two children, Gene Jr. and Sissy. Gene Jr. became a fragrance scientist in New York City; he moved to Dominica in the 1960’s, along with his wife Marian and his sister Sissy, where he grew exotic plants for their extracts. Gene Sr. apparently passed away sometime before 1949.
Pressler studied under F. Louis Mora and Edward Dufner at the Art Student’s League, but made an early start in his career as a commercial artist. The earliest known magazine cover by Pressler appeared on the July, 1913 issue of McCall’s, when he was only about twenty years old. Like several of his other early covers, it featured children (see also his early work for Holland’s and the Modern Priscilla).
Pressler soon found his first forte, however — producing images of lovely ladies that found a ready market with magazine art editors. Over the next five years, he produced at least 74 magazine cover images, averaging more than one cover a month over that period! Much of this magazine work is superb, but has remained largely unknown because it was done for magazines that are seldom seen today (such as the pulp magazines Romance, Saucy Stories, and Snappy Stories). We have no doubt that additional Pressler covers remain to be discovered.
Pressler also did advertising work for several companies, most notably Pompeian Beauty Products, for which he produced a long series of magazine ad images, as well as five of the annual, “yardlong” Pompeian Beauty Panels. Pressler images can also be found on a wide variety of other items, including sheet music, trade cards, book frontispieces and covers, blotters, playing cards, candy boxes, jigsaw puzzles, painting kits, catalogs, and fans. It was the calendar market, however, that occupied most of Pressler’s attention after about 1920. Pastels on canvas were his preferred medium, allowing him to achieve the golden lighting effects that often characterize his work and make it instantly recognizable. These images found a perfect outlet in the emerging market for advertising calendars, and remain his most sought-after legacy today.
Biography courtesy of: The Golden Glow: A Collector’s Guide to Gene Pressler by Norman I. Platnick and Judy & Dean Patzer
The Legacy of Norman Platnick
In his New York Times obituary, Norman Platnick’s son Will said that his father had three passions in life, his wife Nancy, spiders, and collecting.
Few individuals have the chance to leave a mark like Norm’s in even one field, let alone two. But Norm managed to be both a celebrated scientist, and one of the most influential lay historians of illustration art.
Under his imprint Enchantment Ink, Norm researched, wrote, and published collectors guides to artists like Rolf Armstrong and Earl Christy. We at Grapefruit Moon Gallery rely on these books in our work, and they are now all freely available as PDFs through the Enchantment Ink website.
Norm’s expertise was a gift, his friendship was a treasure, and his legacy is immeasurable. He is missed.