Original 'Mad Men' Artist Comes To London

Sarah Stewart
By Sarah Stewart Last edited 37 months ago
Original 'Mad Men' Artist Comes To London ★★★★★ 5
Illustration for "Let's Take a Trip Up the Nile" in This Week Magazine, November 5, 1950 • Gouache and graphite on illustration board • © Mac Conner. Courtesy of the artist
Illustration for "Let's Take a Trip Up the Nile" in This Week Magazine, November 5, 1950 • Gouache and graphite on illustration board • © Mac Conner. Courtesy of the artist
Illustration for "Killer in the Club Car" in This Week Magazine, November 14, 1954 • Ink and acetate on illustration board • © Mac Conner. Courtesy of the artist
Illustration for "Killer in the Club Car" in This Week Magazine, November 14, 1954 • Ink and acetate on illustration board • © Mac Conner. Courtesy of the artist
Illustration for "How Do You Love Me" in Woman's Home Companion, August 1950 • Gouache on illustration board • © Mac Conner. Courtesy of the artist
Illustration for "How Do You Love Me" in Woman's Home Companion, August 1950 • Gouache on illustration board • © Mac Conner. Courtesy of the artist
Illustration for "Hold On Tight" in Redbook, March 1958 • Gouache on illustration board • © Mac Conner. Courtesy of the artist
Illustration for "Hold On Tight" in Redbook, March 1958 • Gouache on illustration board • © Mac Conner. Courtesy of the artist
Illustration for "There's Death for Remembrance" in This Week Magazine, November 13, 1953 • Gouache and ink on illustration board • © Mac Conner. Courtesy of the artist
Illustration for "There's Death for Remembrance" in This Week Magazine, November 13, 1953 • Gouache and ink on illustration board • © Mac Conner. Courtesy of the artist
Illustration for "We Won't Be Any Trouble" in Collier's, November 13, 1953 • Gouache on illustration board • © Mac Conner. Courtesy of the artist
Illustration for "We Won't Be Any Trouble" in Collier's, November 13, 1953 • Gouache on illustration board • © Mac Conner. Courtesy of the artist

Londonist Rating: ★★★★★

During the 1950s, New York's Madison Avenue was awash with advertising agencies whose works shaped and inspired the dreams and aspirations of a whole nation. One such visionary artist who shaped this American Dream was McCauley "Mac" Conner, whose works are now on exhibition at the House of Illustration in a vibrant retrospective featuring early paintings, magazine covers and other archival materials.

Conner defined the look of a generation: the paintings exude a classic realism that is both multi-dimensional in its great attention to detail and also graphic, in the composition and use of colour and light. Importantly, Conner's works have a strong sense of drama and emotion. Women in beautiful "New Look" dresses, hats and red lipstick pose dramatically and conspire against romantic rivals. Strong athletic men, clean-cut in suits or otherwise in blue collar uniforms stride confidently or look longingly over their shoulders at poised, elegant women. Mischievous ginger-haired children (one hiding a hamster behind his back) face their stern-looking-pipe-smoking father figure. These are works from which stories spring — indeed, many were used to illustrate pieces published in magazines like Redbook and McCall's.

Mac Conner: A New York Life might be small, but it has depth; it is well worth taking the time to savour the works and explore their carefully-considered and composed details, admiring how Conner's use of perspective and composition heightens the drama inherent in his works.

And while the artist's images may be seen as typical of their time, Conner also explored the less typical. Perhaps one of the most poignant images is that of an African-American man at a funeral for his Jewish landlady and friend, depicting the often-overlooked diversity of American life.

Mac Conner is still going strong at over 101-years-old himself. His work will remain poignant for centuries to come.

Mac Conner: A New York Life continues at House of Illustration until 28 June. Tickets £7/£5/£4. Londonist saw this exhibition on a complimentary admission.

Last Updated 09 April 2015