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The art of history

Aug 01, 2011


The 1930s introduced a new direction for Kiwanis magazine covers with color illustrations

By: Jack Brockley

Rescued from an attic, a short stack of 1930s Kiwanis magazines was packed up and shipped to the Kiwanis International Office in Indianapolis. Though the office archives retain a complete set of Kiwanis’ official publication, the arrival of these well-preserved copies caused a bit of a stir, affecting a moment of reflection ... on the history of our nearly 100-year-old organization and of the artistic craftmanship that created these wonderful images.

With occasional exceptions, the covers of The Kiwanis Magazine were basically tables of contents until the late 1920s when illustrations began to appear. By the mid-1930s, full-page illustrations were the rule.

An artist of choice during this period was R.B. Crippen. His signature appears on three of the covers shown above. Crippen knew his craft well and understood the printing process well enough to push the boundaries of that era’s technology. Generally limited to just two inks, he and his pressmen co-horts were masters of mixing colors and adjusting shades and tones to create mood.

For the cover of the December 1934 magazine, for example, Crippen communicates a sense the peace and solitude, as well as the chill in the air, as Santa Claus skis through the shadows of a snow-covered forest. For the October 1934 cover, he recreated the bucolic beauty of autumn’s departing days, with a farmer—his harvest complete—heading home bearing a pair of pumpkins for his family.

Despite Google searches and talks with Kiwanis historians, little is know about this Kiwanis artist. If you are familiar with the artwork of R.B. Crippen or have an opinion about his illustrations, let us know.

What’s in your attic?
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