Curio Cabinet | September 28, 2020
Coles Phillips in the Golden Era of Magazines
In 1907, when Coles Phillips sold his small New York City advertising agency, he had enough money to set himself up for one month as a magazine illustrator. He convinced a landlord to rent him an artist’s studio, promising payment as soon as money from his commissions came through. In truth, Phillips had not yet sold a single drawing, but he worked well under pressure. He studied the market and decided that Life, one of the top general-interest magazines in the country, suited his style and sensibility. For days, he sketched ideas for cartoons, but nothing seemed fresh or inspired. Frustrated, he took his sketch pad to a neighborhood tavern. Across the room, two women—one young and pretty, the other older and handsome—sat at opposite ends of a long wooden table and toasted each other over a shared carafe of wine. It was a simple yet compelling moment that inspired him to draw it.
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