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  • Vintage illustrations clipped from magazines, Part 3
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    Artist who drew Time magazine’s 1957 MLK cover

    The face of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. loomed large on the cover of the Feb, 18, 1957, issue of Time magazine. It was a young strong face of the man who’d need all the strength he could muster for the immense task still awaiting him.

    The magazine was one of two copies of the weekly Time tucked under several other disparate publications in a lot at auction recently. The other was a 1961 magazine with a cover drawing of Jacqueline Kennedy in her trademark white pearls, looking more businesswoman than First Lady.

    King was mentioned in a four-page article titled “The South: Attack on the Conscience” in the aftermath of the Montgomery bus boycott that had ended successfully in 1956. The story was a profile of the “scholarly 28-year-old Negro Baptist minister … who in little more than a year has risen from nowhere to become one of the nation’s most remarkable leaders of men.” King, pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL, had spearheaded the campaign to desegregate the city buses.

    Dr. Martin Luther King Time mag cover

    Time magazine 1957 cover of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Boris Chaliapin from auction.

    The story about Kennedy, simply titled “Jackie,” told of her becoming the “First Lady of the Land,” published on the eve of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. Her profile covered eight pages, including photos of the wives of the president’s cabinet members.

    As I stood looking over the King cover, I noticed smaller drawings like props in the background. At the bottom left were men and women – both black and white – stepping onto a transit bus. In the upper right was a preacher in a pulpit. On the other cover, the White House towered behind Kennedy, and a baby carriage was almost hidden on the balcony (John F. Kennedy Jr. had been born two months earlier).

    The artist had put them in context, showing their stature in the history that they both had made. King was no doubt the main figure in the boycott. The White House was presumably much more influential than the First Lady.

    Time magazine covers by Boris Chaliapin

    Time magazine 1961 cover of Jacqueline Kennedy by Boris Chaliapin that I bought at auction.

    I was curious about the artist who had put so much meaning into both of those drawings, and I saw his name written vertically on the left side of each of them. I could barely make out his last name, but by Googling found out that he was Boris Chaliapin.

    Chaliapin was one of Time’s most productive artists, turning out more than 400 magaazine covers from 1942 to 1970. He was painting them at a time when portraits and drawings rather than photos served as the illustrative images for magazines and other publications. He was one of the go-to artists for Time, and was said to be the quickest to turn around a drawing. His colleagues called him “Mr. Time.”

    As with the King and Kennedy portraits, he drew – along with their faces – the work or circumstances that defined the subjects: The face of Julia Child in 1966 was framed by copper cooking pots and a large fish. Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) in 1963 shared the cover with boxing gloves holding a book of poetry. Marilyn Monroe in 1956 shone in front of a bright yellow background with white stars, and a short strip of 16mm film. Althea Gibson in 1957 was superimposed on a tennis court and tennis racket, along with a tennis ball. Jazz pianist Thelonius Monk, who Chaliapin said fell asleep several times during the sitting, was in a halo of red in a 1964 cover.

    The Monk cover was initially scheduled to run on Nov. 29, 1963, but was pulled after the assassination of Kennedy a week earlier. The magazine instead ran a portrait of Lyndon B. Johnson on that day.

     

    Time magazine covers by Boris Chaliapin

    Time magazine covers of Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay, 1963) and Julia Child (1966) by Boris Chaliapin. Photos from content.time.com.

    The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington has 300 or so of Chaliapin’s original works, and held an exhibit of 26 of them that ended this past January. I would have loved to have seen it.

    Chaliapin was born in Moscow in 1904 into an artistic family. His father was a famous Russian opera singer named Feodor Chaliapin who appeared regularly at the Bolshoi Theater from 1899 to 1914, and his mother was an Italian ballerina. His brother Feodor Jr. would become a Hollywood actor who appeared in the movie “Moonstruck,” among others.

    Chaliapin drew his first subject – a horse – when he was 3 years old. He wanted to be a singer like his father, but the father urged him to become an artist. He studied sculpting in Moscow and painting in Paris. In the 1920s, the family moved to Paris to escape the Russian Revolution. Chaliapin journeyed to the United States with his father on tour in 1935, where he stayed and later became a U.S. citizen. He got the contract job at Time through a connection of his father’s.

    He painted his first Time cover in 1942, a portrait of India’s Jawaharlal Nehru for the Aug. 24 issue. Most of his portraits were based on photos or directions from Time editors. The King cover portrait was copied from a photo by Time photographer Walter Bennett, who seemed to have shot it the month before.

    Time mag covers by Boris Chaliapin

    Time magazine covers of Marilyn Monroe (1956) and Thelonius Monk (1964) by Boris Chaliapin. Monroe cover from content.time.com; Monk from aphelis.net.

    Chaliapin was one of several contract artists who painted Time covers. The editors would sometimes have more than one artist to paint the same portrait, and then choose the best one. Not all of his works were used: In 2009, about 138 unused ones were found in the attic of the home of his second wife Helcia, who died in 2007.

    And not all of his works were portraits. He drew his depiction of the 1964 New York World’s Fair in a colorful abstract style that was far different from his norm. He was said to be especially good at painting women – and they presumably liked sitting for him – as in this one of dancer Katherine Dunham, one of several he did of dancers (which were not mag covers). On another occasion, he drew women from different cultures for a story on the population explosion around the world.

    For that Jan. 11, 1960, cover, African women were shown naked and their breasts exposed while all of the other women were clothed.

    In addition to the Time covers, Chaliapin also illustrated ads for Remington typewriters and U.S. Savings Bonds. His last portrait was  of Richard Nixon for the Oct. 5, 1970, issue. He retired soon thereafter and died in 1979.

     

     

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