Sunday, May 13, 2012

William H. Campbell, Artist, Illustrator --- Autocar Truck Ads of the 1940's

Normally when I write about trucks, it is to highlight the truck. However, this post will be a little different in that it highlights an artist who promotes the truck through his art. During the mid 1940's and into the early 1950's no artist did this better in my humble opinion than William H. Campbell.

A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend of Bill's named Bruce Bentzman. He informed me that he had seen a video collage that I had made of William Campbell's illustrations done for the AUTOCAR TRUCK company. He also stated that Bill was alive and well at 96. But what blew my mind is that he wanted to show Bill the video I had done.

What came about from this showing is that I had made some errors in that first video, by including some illustrations that I had thought were Bill's but that were actually done by some of the colleagues and friends he introduced to AUTOCAR such as Frank Waltrich, Oto Bauman, and Chuck Allen. They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, thus is was with Bill's works that many tried to emulate his style.




One can certainly see the influence that Campbell had on his fellow Autocar artists.

William H. Campbell was born in 1915 in Philadelphia, Pa. and has lived his life there. He received his art education between 1933 and 1937 attending many fine art schools in and near Philadelphia. While he is best known in art circles for his wonderful abstracts, during the 1940's he worked as a freelance artist for Gray & Rogers of Philadelphia, an advertising agency that did work for AUTOCAR. One of Bill's complaints about this arrangement was that AUTOCAR would send him photographs to work with. He often found these photos to be ordinary and inexpressive -- not capturing the essence of the truck. Many times Bill would travel at his own expense to sketch the truck Autocar had in mind. In his illustrations and artwork, Bill made sure the trucks were in context, always telling a story. He would pay attention to small details like bolts, suspensions, and AUTOCAR'S radiator grill to give the truck it's "manhood". And his art sold trucks!!!

From 1943 - 1950 Bill states he produced eighty different illustrations for AUTOCAR ( I have found about 27). His works were the first color illustrations used by AUTOCAR in their ad campaigns and were done by Bill on a tissue layout and then in opaque watercolors -- similar to today's acrylics. Sadly, those pieces of work became the property of AUTOCAR or the ad agency. One of the few mementos Bill has of this period is a photo AUTOCAR sent him of a truck with him in it, that is what he did the picture of himself from. He is standing next to an orange AUTOCAR in a suit and fedora. That picture is shown at the beginning of this piece.

Artist's Statement:
Bill Campbell is both a realistic and abstract painter, experimenting with dimension, texture, and color, evolving to non-objective painting.

Selected Collections:
- National Museum of American Art, Washington DC
- The American College, Bryn Mawr PA
- Bryn Athyn College, Bryn Athyn PA
- University of Delaware, Newark DE
- Harcum College, Bryn Mawr PA
- Duke University Museum of Art, Durham NC
- Ursinus College, Collegeville PA
- Fellowship of The Pennsylvania Academy, Philadelphia
- Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia
- Woodmere Museum of Art, Philadelphia
- The Plastic Club, Philadelphia
- The Philadelphia Sketch Club
- McCann School of Art, Petersburg, PA
- Jefferson University and Hospital, Philadelphia

Selected Solo Exhibitions:
- 60 Years of Abstract Art, Raab Gallery, Philadelphia PA
- The Plastic Club
- The Philadelphia Sketch Club
- Woodmere Art Museum
- Philadelphia Art Alliance
- "Bill Campbell at 90," Hand Impressions Gallery, Philadelphia, 2005

Selected Group Exhibitions:
- Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia PA
- Berman Museum., Ursinus College, Collegeville PA
- American College, Bryn Mawr PA
- National Academy of Design, New York NY
- National Arts Club, New York NY
- Philadelphia Watercolor Annual, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia PA

- The Plastic Club - Gold Medal - Philadelphia PA
- The Philadelphia Sketch Club - Mackenzie Medal - Philadelphia PA
- Acrylic Society, New York, NY - 1984 and 1985
- Charles Frith Award of the Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy, 2008

Professional Activity:
- Pennsylvania Railroad, Philadelphia: Art Director
- Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975
- 400 Years of Artists in America
- Who's Who in American Art
- A founder of the Main Point, Bryn Mawr, PA, 1963-1970
- Curated 9 exhibitions, 1982 to 1997

Selected Teaching Experience:
- The University of the Arts, Philadelphia PA: 1972-90
- Moore College of Art and Design, Philadelphia PA
- Philadelphia College of Art (University of the Arts), Philadelphia PA
- Philadelphia Sketch Club, Philadelphia PA

- La France Art Institute, Philadelphia PA
- Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia PA
- Philadelphia College of Art (University of the Arts), Philadelphia PA
- University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia PA
- Earl Horter's Summer School, Rockport MA

But sadly, his AUTOCAR pieces are harder to find as the old magazines from the 40's become more scarce.

My thanks to Bruce Bentzman and William Campbell for providing the information in this post!!!

And here for your enjoyment -- The AUTOCAR TRUCKS of WILLIAM H. CAMPBELL --

Also want to add these sent to me 6/2/12 by the artist himself --

1943 Color Poster -- RARE -- Tankers Aweigh

Also from 1943 ---