This is part six of a seven-part blog series exploring the long-forgotten Los Angeles arts & culture magazine, The Graphic. The Los Angeles Public Library owns what is likely the most complete collection of this magazine anywhere and our participation in California Revealed means that we can share this rare and unique resource with the world. As part of reintroducing this long-forgotten Los Angeles arts & culture magazine to contemporary audiences, the next few entries in this series will focus on the history of the publication and the Angelenos who kept it operating for twenty-six years.
Part VI: The Art of The Graphic, 1917-1918
The Rand and Lapworth covers were a dramatic shift from everything that had come before and it seemed to indicate the aspirations the pair had for their publication. It seems safe to assume that, given his financial clout, Rand financed the purchase of the magazine and was the impetus for the magazine's makeover. On June 23, 1917, Rand's name appeared with Lapworth's on the masthead for the first time and four issues later, the first cover with original artwork was distributed. The sudden change in appearance was never addressed in The Graphic nor did any of the local papers attempt to report on why this change took place but it was noticed and met with approval. The Herald reported that The Graphic was now available in a "new form" with an "attractive cover design" and "profuse illustrations." The paper stated that Elbridge and Rand should be "congratulated on the new departure which has greatly added to the attractiveness of the magazine." For well over one year, the cover of The Graphic displayed some of the most exquisite original commercial artwork to grace the cover of any arts & culture, or lifestyle publication. Rarely seen for over a century, The Graphic's cover art from this era is nothing short of extraordinary and the talented artists responsible for these works deserve special attention. While it wasn't always possible to identify everyone who contributed art, every effort was made to shine a spotlight on the gifted men and women who contributed to making The Graphic into a society journal.
Aime Baxter Titus (1883-1941)
It seems only logical that in profiling artists who created artwork for The Graphic's cover, we should start with the first cover. Unfortunately, that proved more difficult than I anticipated. Unlike later editions of the magazine, the first illustrated cover issue does not credit the artist in the table of contents. The only identifiable signature is camouflaged within the artwork itself and is incredibly difficult to discern. After some creative searching and a handful of second opinions, I was able to deduce that the artist responsible for the first Rand and Lapworth cover was Amie Baxter Titus. Titus was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on April 5, 1883, but his family relocated to San Diego just four years later. Titus' father was a banker, which seems to have afforded Amie the ability to pursue his interests within the arts. Titus attended UC Berkeley, studied at the Mark Hopkins Art Institute in San Francisco, and was Vice-President of the Art Students League in New York. After New York, he gained prominence as an artist in and around Southern California and the Southwest and became involved with a number of high-profile projects, most notably the Panama-California International Exposition in 1915 and the Arizona Art Exhibition in 1929. In 1914 he was inducted into the California Art Club where he served as Recording Secretary. In 1916, the Times announced that the University of Southern California College of Fine Arts had hired Titus as an instructor of landscape drawing and commercial art. It is likely that he was commissioned to create a cover for The Graphic during this tenure, but he only created one cover for the magazine and nothing more. Titus would maintain one foot in the art world but, towards the end, he was heavily involved with real estate in San Diego County, a profession he entered into with his father. He does not appear to have married or had any children; the 1940 Census indicates that his sister was living with him at the time he passed.
The most famous artist to contribute artwork to The Graphic was, without question, Norman Bel-Geddes. Bel-Geddes studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago before finding work as an advertising draftsman in 1913. By the end of the 1910s, he made a name for himself largely with set design for films and theater but achieved demigod status in Industrial design. Around 1916 he was summoned to Los Angeles by Aline Barnsdall to design sets for her Little Los Angeles Theater, and this is likely when he connected with Charles Lapworth. It's not clear how friendly the two were, but there was enough camaraderie that they often attended local events together, and Bel-Geddes provided sketches for Lapworth's cynical "Becky Sharp" articles. Bel Geddes' autobiography, Miracle in the Evening, barely mentions Lapworth save for The Graphic's glowing review of his stage work with Barnsdall. Bel-Geddes' "chronology" indicates that he had designed the motion picture Lief the Lucky (1919) for Lapworth who, at that point, was working for Charlie Chaplin. There are no further mentions of Lapworth (or Rand for that matter) and the only reference to his work for The Graphic was a passing mention that he was commissioned in 1916 to create ten covers that he completed in a week. In reality, Bel-Geddes was responsible for sixteen covers and multiple sketches within the magazine, usually as a means to compliment an article but, on occasion, a pastiche of his sketches related to a particular topic would serve as the "article." Bel-Geddes' work for The Graphic represents a very early period in his career and stands in stark contrast to what ultimately brought him notoriety; his work, however, is nothing short of remarkable, not only in technique but in the range of subjects he conveyed.
Ruth Ann Wilbur (1897-1991)
Some of the most striking cover art was created by a young woman named Ruth Ann Wilbur. A graduate of the Corcoran Art School in Washington DC and the School Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, Wilbur was regularly praised in local newspapers not only for her artistic gifts but her charitable work as well. In 1917, Wilbur organized a fundraiser in Central Park (Pershing Square) where Angelenos sold their arts and crafts to raise money for the war effort. Wilbur was also one of the few artists who designed covers for The Graphic that also earned a mention in the pages of the magazine:
"…this talented girl won the Rominger prize, and then achieved the signal honor of carrying off the coveted Wanamaker prize. This last prize-winning picture, bought by the Wanamakers, was entitled "La Midinette"...the originality of the subject, as well as the artistry of its treatment, gained this talented young woman not only the prize, but many praiseworthy comments. A prize was awarded Miss Wilbur for the best poster design for the big Academy hall, an event of annual interest. She also won an honorable mention as a member of Violet Oakley's class for a theatre drop curtain design."
Keep in mind that when Wilbur was organizing these fundraisers and being commissioned to create artwork for magazines, she was still a teenager and living with her parents. She was a remarkable young woman, and her artwork speaks for itself—not only is it sophisticated, but it also remains captivating more than a century later. Her work holds up to anything that would have appeared on the cover of Vogue or Vanity Fair just a few years later. Wilbur was, no doubt, poised to become one of the most celebrated artists in Los Angeles, but in what would become an all too familiar story with The Graphic, WWI patriotism compelled Wilbur to leave Los Angeles. Wilbur left Los Angeles for Michigan to volunteer at Army General Hospital #36 in Detroit. The hospital's history, published in 1919 indicates that Wilbur taught classes in "poster and cartoon work" to wounded soldiers and crafts to the blind; she also served as the sketch artist for the hospital newspaper. It was at this hospital where she met her husband, Harlan Hines. The pair married in Michigan and briefly returned to Los Angeles in 1920 but relocated to Washington in 1921 where Harlan worked as a college professor. Eventually, the couple settled in Montana and had two children. It's not clear if Wilbur resumed her career in art as 1920, 1930, and 1940 Census indicates she did not have a "profession." The only work after her time at the hospital appears to be sketches she created to illustrate an article her husband had written for the September 1926 edition of Scribner's magazine. She signed her artwork as "RAW" but tacked on her married name so her new signature read "RAW Hines." If the sketches for Scribner's proved to be the end of Ruth Ann Wilbur's career as an artist, it was not only a great loss, it was a tragedy.
Tom Randolph Wood (1887-1940)
A native of Hampton, Virginia, Tom Wood arrived in Los Angeles around 1910 and quickly found work as an illustrator for the Los Angeles Herald. It was likely through his work with the Herald that Rand and Lapworth became familiar with Wood's work and approached him to create cover artwork for The Graphic. Throughout his life, Wood supplemented his income by contributing illustrations to publications like Good Housekeeping. In 1932 he left the Herald when Walt Disney hired him as a cartoonist. In 1940, while crossing the street in North Hollywood, Wood was struck by a car and eventually died from the injuries he sustained. He was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale but has no marker.
Hart Merriam Schultz / Lone Wolf
One of The Graphic’s more notable art contributors was Hart Merriam Schultz. Schultz was a half-white, half-Blackfoot artist more commonly known by the name Lone Wolf. Schultz's father, James Williard Schultz had gained notoriety for ethnographic profiles of Native American tribes, and it was during this time that James met and married Hart's mother, Natahki "Fine Shield Woman." Hart was born in 1882 and raised on the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana. He displayed talent at an early age and was schooled in native folk art from his family. In 1910, he arrived in Los Angeles where he trained at the Art Students League before attending the Chicago Art Institute. His ability to utilize draw upon techniques cultivated in both worlds gave his art a unique perspective that was embraced particularly in Los Angeles where he had his first show around 1916. Harry Carr of the Los Angeles Times was particularly enamored with Lone Wolf's work, describing Schultz as "a master of his medium" and summarizing his art as "extraordinary" and stating that "he has done more to visualize his people for the world than any other painter." In October 1917, Schultz was profiled for The Graphic where he explained to writer Walter Vodges that it was important that he relay authenticity in his paintings and paint subjects that were important to native peoples:
"I want to paint the west, the west, and the Indians and the Indian Horses. Very few men have done that well…They seem to think that they can simply come out here, sit down and paint Indians and Indian horses. But they can't. They have to live with them to know them. There is so much to learn that can't be explained. It can’t be learned in a hurry…”
One of the more fascinating revelations from this profile is that Schultz claimed that the name he signed on his paintings, Lone Wolf, was not his Blackfoot name. He indicated that his Blackfoot name was Black Eagle and Lone Wolf was a name given to him by a Navajo elder, "I have spent a great deal of time on the Navajo reservation…the Navajos are wonderful people. I used to go hunting there with an Indian boy. One night when we had come in from hunting, his father called me over and said, "You come from the north country, and you're far away from your people. You're just like a wolf that leaves the pack and hunts alone. So I'm going to call you Lone Wolf." The discrepancy over Schultz's native name is curious, and it appears to be the only time this discrepancy has been addressed; it certainly deserves closer examination. Lone Wolf's sole cover for The Graphic appeared in the December 1, 1917, issue. It's not entirely obvious how Lone Wolf became involved with The Graphic but his growing notoriety around Los Angeles likely compelled Elbridge Rand to seek out Schultz's services.
Louis J. Treviso (1888-1928)
Louis Treviso was a first-generation Mexican American artist born in a covered wagon near Phoenix, Arizona. Various biographies state that Treviso spent much of his youth among Native Americans, but it's not clear if this statement had any basis in fact. In 1902 Treviso moved to Los Angeles where he worked as a delivery boy at a drugstore while studying art. The idea that Treviso grew up among Native Americans contributed to some sort of perceived authenticity to the work he created during his most successful period when he designed advertisements for the Santa Fe Railway. The Santa Fe campaign brought Treviso national attention, and he eventually relocated to San Francisco where he was hired as art director for the Honig-Cooper Advertising Company. He died of Hodgkin's Disease on Sept. 11, 1928, at the age of 40. There's no obvious link between The Graphic and Treviso but his work for the Santa Fe railroad was ubiquitous making it impossible not to take notice of the man who created it. It's likely that his residency in Los Angeles and his work for Santa Fe served as the basis of his commission for his covers for The Graphic. What is most interesting is that most of the covers he worked on were created in conjunction with another artist, Ray Winters.
Raymond Winters (1892-1939)
A native of Denver, Winters arrived in Los Angeles in 1915 and quickly found work as a commercial artist often illustrating material that was vital to Progressive Era boosterism. Winters worked with Louis Treviso on several covers of The Graphic, as indicated by the "Treviso/Winters" signatures, but he also created a few on his own. Much of the work that Winters would become known for took place after his work on The Graphic. On his own, Winters created countless covers for Touring Topics (Westways) and illustrated stories like "How I Found Gold at Sutter's Mill" within its pages. Winters seemed to have his hand on the pulse of California boosterism and was responsible for some of the more remarkable artwork appearing on Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce promotional material. He also went on to provide illustrations for California-centric books like California Through Four Centuries and California Under Twelve Flags. Winters died of a heart attack in 1939.
Benjamin Goodwin Seielstad (1886-1960)
One of the most successful commercial artists in America, Seielstad was the offspring of Norwegian immigrants who had settled in Minnesota. Trained in New York at the Arts Student League and a member of the Illustrator's Club of New York, Goodwin relocated to California where he landed a job as a sketch artist with the Los Angeles Times. Seielstad reported that his first assignment was to cover the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Much of his work with the Times was tantamount to summarizing theatrical acts or plays that included sketches of the more memorable moments within each work. By 1910 Seielstad had settled in Los Angeles and provided artwork for a number of newspapers including the Los Angeles Evening Examiner. In 1911, Seielstad married Nathalie Pomeroy, and the couple had a daughter who was born in 1914. By 1925, Seielstad had relocated to New York and was working as an illustrator for Popular Science magazine. Seielstad was responsible for some of Popular Science's most innovative and memorable covers, while his cross-sections of mechanical equipment and illustrations of prospective inventions helping the magazine to achieve its status as one of the most well-regarded publications of all time. By the 1940s, Seielstad landed at Life Magazine where he was briefly profiled within their "Life's Pictures" section. By 1950 Seielstad seems to have retired and was living with his wife in Inglewood. He passed away in 1960. Seielstad's work for The Graphic seems to have come right before he began his most prolific period as a commercial artist and his covers are fairly unusual when compared to the rest of his oeuvre (largely social cartoons, industrial designs, portraits, etc.), but it illustrates his versatility as an artist and his skill in adapting to the needs of any publication. It highlights why he was so successful. Seielstad's covers for The Graphic are sophisticated and elegant, they exude a metropolitan quality making it clear why Rand and Lapworth would commission his services.
Robert Freeman (1895-1958)
Robert Condit Freeman was originally from Chicago however, his family relocated to Los Angeles around 1900. His father, George opened the Freeman-Liscomb Pharmacy on Main and 16th St, and his brother Earl found work as a commercial artist. Freeman seemed to follow his brother into the profession, and it's unclear where, when or even if he received any formal training as an artist, but he did find work almost immediately after graduating high school. He had an office at 527 W. 7th St. and was commissioned by the Los Angeles Times as a sketch artist. Around 1917, Freeman was tapped to head the California State War Art Department during World War I and designed a number of recruitment posters. Freeman married Violet Clark around 1922 and served as an instructor at the Chouinard Art Institute from 1926 to 1932 (prior to being absorbed by CalArts). In 1927 Freeman was hired as Art Director for a local advertising company, Lord & Thomas & Logan before moving to another advertising company, Foote, Cone & Belding. In 1943, Freeman was promoted to Vice President of Foote Cone & Belding, and by the end of the decade, he had settled in San Marino with his wife and son. He passed away in 1958. Freeman's work for The Graphic was likely the result of his acquaintance with Louis Treviso, who Freeman had befriended in the 1910s as well as what appeared to be a very robust natural talent. For an artist with no discernable training, Freeman's work shows remarkable skill, detail, and imagination.
E.M.A. Steinmetz (1881-1948)
Eva M. A. Steinmetz Ralston, more commonly identified by her maiden name, Steinmetz or by the initials, E.M.A (or some combination of the two) was a fully established illustrator in the prime of her career when she was commissioned to create cover art for The Graphic. Steinmetz was born in Philadelphia in either 1881 or 1883 (she had a tendency to fudge the dates) and was raised in an upper-middle-class multi-generational home. She managed to remain fairly low-key in her personal life except for one particularly traumatic event in 1910 when a man she was dancing with suddenly collapsed and died; the story appeared in several east coast newspapers. There isn't much available regarding her education, but it's safe to assume that, given her social standing, she received top-notch instruction. Upon relocating to New York City, Steinmetz was employed as the in-house Designer and Art Director for the New York fashion house Stein & Blaine. As an illustrator, she contributed countless illustrations for Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, and the Ladies Home Journal; in fact, publisher Conde Nast continues to sell prints of her work more than a century later, and her original illustrations remain sought after by collectors. In 1917, she was hired by Harper's Bazaar who stated that she was "the best" as well as the "best known fashion artist in America" with a "great gift for originality in design." Considering that Steinmetz's home address was on Park Avenue and Harper's Bazaar was lumping her in a group that included Erte and Henri Bendel, it's safe to say that she was doing quite well and didn't need to supplement her income by creating art for a rinky-dink Los Angeles magazine, so why did she? My best guess is that it was a favor for the Rand family. While it's unclear if Steinmetz ever went to Los Angeles, Elbridge Rand and his wife did make the trek to New York on more than one occasion and certainly had the money to purchase her designs from Stein and Blaine.
What is curious is that the signature on both her Graphic covers only have the initials "EMA" drawn in nondescript capital letters. This is unusual because it deviates from her traditional signature which was her EMA initials and last name in a cursive signature. There's no clear reason why she did this but it seems reasonable to conclude that because Harper's Bazaar was touting her designs as exclusive to their magazine, she wanted to keep this bit of moonlighting under the radar but still wanted these illustrations to be recognized as her work. The only credit she was given within The Graphic for her cover art is exactly what appears on her dual covers—E.M.A. Although she only contributed two covers to The Graphic, Steinmetz's participation helped to raise the profile of The Graphic, at least in the mind of Elbridge Rand and, seemingly, legitimized his aspirations for his publication.
The Graphic's cover art during this period made it special and it gave Los Angeles readers something to look forward to each week, but the proverbial end was nigh. The cover art remained spectacular until the end, but the colors that made the cover so captivating slowly started disappearing. The once bright explosion of colors began to whittle down to dull browns, oranges, and black until the final issues were limited to black and white. It was akin to watching a luxury automobile sputtering out and dying.
—Special thank you to librarian extraordinaire Eileen King of the Art Department for her help with this post.