Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Campbell Grant Redux #1

Way back in this 2008 post, I mentioned Campbell Grant, who had illustrated a number of humor books by Richard Armor. These were favorites of mine in trolling the humor section of my High School library as a kid. As I mentioned before, the books were patterned after a late 1940's humor sensation THE DECLINE AND FALL OF PRACTICALLY EVERYBODY, which was written by a satirist named Will Cuppy, who died before his book was published. That book was copiously illustrated by William Steig, in a style somewhere between his rather pedestrian early work and his later vivid, expressionistic style. Though it was the precursor to the Armor/Grant series, I only just stumbled across it around ten years ago.

I guess in the aftermath of Cuppy's sudden decline and fall someone had to take over the historical parody biznizz and Armor took on the mantel with great success.  Armor's humor has a lighter touch, but it's clearly in the same vein, with punchlines turning up frequently in the copious footnotes. And the artwork of Steig and Grant is clearly influenced by Ronald Searle. Campbell Grant had been a Disney story artist in the 1940's and in his case that influence is also evident.  Maybe because Armor lived on the West Coast they decided to pair him up with a West Coast illustrator too. I think by this time Mr. Grant was out of Disney's employ and devoted to researching indigenous cave painting of the Southwest, a genuine passion apparently. That's about the extent of my biographical knowledge of him. Joe Grant (no relation) didn't have much to add when I asked about him...

These are selections from AMERICAN LIT RE-LIT, spoofing classic literature of North America. Although many of the subjects are caricatures of authors whose likeness could be researched, even better, I think, are the invented "generic" characters, which are beautifully designed.

 This caricature of E.A. Poe had a big impact on me, for some reason.


Mike said...

I love these! And yes, I do see the mutual influence of Disney and Searle.

Michael Sporn said...

The caricature of Poe isn't too far off. At a certain point in his life, he used to write with his pet cat draped around his shoulders. They would sit that way for hours. It was a Black Cat, and he wrote that story with the cat perched behind his