( see link at end) If ever an artist’s work so consummately defined a particular era, it was that of the Roaring Twenties illustrator John Held, Jr., whose creations both set the standard for-and gently ribbed-a generation. More than any other artist of his time, Held expressed in his pictures the bold spirit of the Jazz Age. It was a time of bustling commerce, booming enterprises, and engaging recreation. Society’s elite were dining at Sardi’s, the adventurous were doing the Charleston and the Shimmy in dance marathons, and the flapper was in full vogue, out and about in pursuit of a good time. Chronicling it all, for magazine readers coast-to-coast, was John Held, Jr.Read More:http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/3aa/3aa364.htm
Curiously enough, Held was about fifteen tears older than the types he created. Nor did he himself ever attend college. He was born in Salt Lake City in 1889. At fourteen he started working as a copy boy for a newspaper, and at fifteen sent his first acceptable cartoon to Life. Six years later, determined to be a cartoonist, he left for New York arriving there with four dollars in his pocket. He managed to get a job in the art department of a news paper and continued to draw cartoons in his spare time. “I was looking for success. And I found it,” he wrote later when he was making several thousand dollars a week as the tone-giving cartoonist for Life, Judge, and College Humor. But he had to wait fifteen years, until he was in his middle thirties, before he found what he had been looking for.
During the First World War Held served uneventfully in the Navy, and after he was discharged in 1919 went to work for the old Life. The prewar humorous weekly had grown stuffy, but now Robert Sherwood as editor and Robert Benchley as dramatic critic were to revivify it. At first, more than anything else, the pages reflected the uneasiness of the postwar period. They looked back nostalgically to 1914, welcomed the newly elected Harding as a symbol of “normalcy” , resented the strikes and the High Cost of Living, feared the agitator, the Bolshevist, and the anarchist. Even the humor was uncertain of itself, much of it being a play on anachronisms, applying the situations of the mechanized modern world to the Stone Age or the Middle Ages.
During the transition period between the Armistice and the Coolidge prosperity, John Held Jr. remained one of the obscurer signatures in Life. Pseudo-primitive woodcuts were at first his favored medium, as if he sensed that the moment was not yet his. The small fillers fell to him, such as the sketches at the top of Benchley’s drama page. It was in these tentative drawings that he began to feel his way into his distinctive style.