A New Year’s themed cover painting by Leslie Thrasher for the January 9, 1932 edition of Liberty Magazine. The painting finds the serialized couple “Sandy and Lil” renewing their wedding vows in the midst of the Great Depression with a cherubic baby New Year with quill pen acting as the notary clerk. Image follows the tradition of January New Years Babies covers painted by Norman Rockwell and J.C.Leyendecker in The Saturday Evening Post.
The Baby New Year is a personification of the start of a new year, commonly seen in various New Year’s customs, especially holiday cards and illustrations for store window displays.
The stereotypical representation of Baby New Year is as a white male baby wearing nothing more than a diaper, a top hat and a sash across his torso that shows the year he is representing. Sometimes he is holding an hourglass or is otherwise associated with one. Often, he is not a complete newborn but is slightly older, because he is frequently shown standing on his own, barely walking, or having a small amount of head hair.
The myth associated with him is that he is a baby at the beginning of his year, but Baby New Year quickly grows up until he is an elderly bearded man like Father Time at the end of his year. At this point, he hands over his duties to the next Baby New Year.
A Bio on Leslie Thrasher:
The editors of Liberty magazine, which first appeared on the newstand in 1924, prided themselves on innovation – any innovation that would broaden their readership. One of their most successful and appealing ideas was the “continuity cover”, and the artist who took the assignment was LESLIE THRASHER (1889-1936). For six years, Thrasher created a cover a week for $1,000 each, depicting the lives of a middle-class couple and their extended family, from their high school romance to a well-heeled middle age. Entitled “For The Love o’ Lil”, the series was the prototype for the soap opera and its popularity warranted adaptations to radio and the big screen.
Thrasher was a populist almost in spite of his fine arts training in Philadelphia and Paris; he even used himself as the model for the husband in the “Lil” series. He was certainly one of Howard Pyle’s most commercially successful students. He did ads for Chesterfield Cigarettes, Cream of Wheat and DuPont, and by the time he left Liberty, he had produced more cover paintings than Norman Rockwell did in his whole career at the Saturday Evening Post.
His pictures are relatively spare, composed around a compelling action or an object rich with meaning – an engagement ring, for instance. Thrasher and Rockwell, while they were opposite numbers in rival publications, did share a view of America as a nation bound by humor, common sense and altruism.