Henry Vallely for Rit Dye
Henry Vallely created this portrait style illustration of a charming flapper in a winter hat as advertising art for Rit Dye. The company was founded in 1918, and was one of the first domestic manufacturers of fabric dye for at home use. According to their website the founder named the product Rit “in honor of a friend, Louis L. Rittenhouse, who helped the new company financially and became its first vice president.”
This oil on canvas, painted in 1919 and published in the January 5, 1920 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, is one of the first wave of advertising commissions for this now-historic company.
This comes from the collection of Norm Platnick.
Henry Vallely, 1881-1950
Henry Vallely was born in 1881 and the earliest known published example of Henry Vallely’s advertising art dates to 1902. In the late 1910s and early 1920s Vallely was a popular illustrator for domestic, glamour, and fashion advertising campaigns. Living and working in Illinois, Vallely focused on glamour girl and sophisticated women images until the early 1930s. At this time his career and style took a turn away from mainstream illustration and towards comic art. Throughout the 1930s, he was a frequent artist for Big Little Books and Whitman Authorized Editions.
His distinctive and robust line style has remained popular to this day, and Big Little Books illustrated by Vallely are particularly coveted. His work in fact was one of the many sources Bob Kane relied on without attribution for early Batman comics.
Henry Vallely died in 1950.
About Big Little Books
The 1932 debut of Big Little Books was an important harbinger of the direction marketing to children would take in the future. The first inexpensive books available for children, Big Little Books were a precursor to the comics and such series as the Golden Books. The books were sold in dimestores such as Kresge and Woolworth where children could purchase them with their own spending money.
The Whitman Company, a subsidiary of the Western Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin, published the books. The first of the Big Little Books was The Adventures of Dick Tracy Detective, which was published in 1932. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Orphan Annie, Popeye, Buck Rogers, Don Winslow, and Tarzan were among the many additional heroes. The popularity of the books had other publishers, such as Saalfield Publishing, Engel Van Wiseman, and Lynn Publishing, soon producing their own similar series. Approximately 508 Big Little Books were published between 1932 and 1949, but in the late 1930s the name changed to Better Little Books.
In pre-television days, Big Little Books provided the popular “action hero” and “girl” stories for school age children. Eventually the line was expanded to include retellings of classical literature such as Little Women and The Three Musketeers, cartoon characters from the popular funny papers, and even heroes and heroines taken from radio and movies, such as two books about Mickey Rooney. The books continued to be published into the 1970s, but, once comic books and other children’s book series had come onto the market, were never as popular as they had been in the 1930s and 1940s.
By Robin Lent.
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.