Mystery Monday: Jack Potter’s Drawing and Thinking

I thought someone might mention the names Vuillard and Toulouse-Lautrec this week!

Potter, Jack. Mimi Monette, interior with brown background. Conté and watercolor, 45 x 61 cm. Accession number 2009.143 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Potter, Jack. Mimi Monette, interior with brown background. Conté and watercolor, 45 x 61 cm. Accession number 2009.143 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Jack Potter (1927 – 2002), best known for his fashion illustrations in the 1950s, found inspiration in the work of Toulouse-Lautrec and Vuillard. Though his style is reminiscent of these famous artists, Potter’s bold use of black and restrained use of bright colors like orange, red, and fuchsia were a great departure from contemporary fashion illustrations. In 1950, his expressive style quickly became a prominent feature in the most respected fashion publications and his signature style soon became the medium companies like North East Airlines, United States Ship Lines, Ponds and Coca-Cola used to promote their brands.

Potter, Jack. Mimi Monette wearing a pink scarf. Conté and watercolor, 56.5 x 38 cm. Accession number 2009.140 at tje Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Potter, Jack. Mimi Monette wearing a pink scarf. Conté and watercolor, 56.5 x 38 cm. Accession number 2009.140 at tje Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Potter’s skilled fashion illustrations depict stylish women in everyday settings, and it is these minimalistic domestic scenes that create the ideal backdrop for a bright silk scarf, a luxurious cape, or a dramatic bow at the waist. With Potter’s bold color choices and quick, expressive lines, a woman at a desk or a woman standing by a window becomes transformed; she is suddenly beyond time, beyond place – she is always Fashion!

Potter, Jack. Mimi Monette, interior with orange background. Conté and watercolor, 52 x 45.5 cm. Accession number 2009.141 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Potter, Jack. Mimi Monette, interior with orange background, 1950s. Conté and watercolor, 52 x 45.5 cm. Accession number 2009.141 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

By 1957, Potter’s  illustrations had appeared in Ladies’ Home Journal, Jardin de Modes, The New York Times Magazine and Cosmopolitan for almost seven years, but Potter still found his commercial success lacking. Suddenly leaving his established career, Potter began teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where he remained for the next 45 years. For those many years, Potter found satisfaction in teaching students to view the world with a fresh perspective in a course titled ”Drawing and Thinking”.  Yes, this innovator much preferred teaching to drawing.

Why? Potter once told a friend that clients ”want me to do the same thing every time.”

Potter, Jack. Woman in strapless gown with red shawl, late 1950s. Conté and watercolor, 78 x 56 cm. Accession number 2009.8 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Potter, Jack. Woman in strapless gown with red shawl, late 1950s. Conté and watercolor, 78 x 56 cm. Accession number 2009.8 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Potter, Jack. Woman contemplating lipstick, 1950s. Conté on paper, 60.5 x 46 cm. Accession number 2009.145 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Potter, Jack. Woman contemplating lipstick, 1950s. Conté on paper, 60.5 x 46 cm. Accession number 2009.145 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

For more images of Jack Potter’s illustrations, please visit the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Source: Heller, Steven, “Jack Potter, 74, Illustrator Who Turned to Teaching, Dies.” The New York Times, September 23, 2002. Found online: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/23/arts/jack-potter-74-illustrator-who-turned-to-teaching-dies.html
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