Open Fan Mail: James Montgomery Flagg

This is the second of a series of blog posts consisting of fan letters to Golden Age illustrators. All of these illustrators are now deceased, so these obviously won't be mailed out to anyone, nor will I receive any responses.

The only purpose of these letters is to convey, and hopefully inspire, appreciation for these legendary artists.

The next letter is addressed to James Montgomery Flagg.

Dear Mr. Flagg,

When I discovered your work through G. Montague Ellwood's The Art and Technique of Pen Drawing, what I saw was very interesting to me. With the possible exception of Gibson, I had never seen anyone draw with such crisp detail--and make it look so easy at the same time!

Of course, your technique is very gratifying to look at, but I was also impressed when I later found out about some of the books you've illustrated, and a side effect is that I've become a bit more well read. This warrants some explanation: Back when I was in publishing, I knew I had to reissue Roast Beef, Medium (1913), and Why They Married (1906), and in no small part due to the illustrations. But, as is a publisher's duty, I read them first. The former got me thinking about the world in a very different way, and the latter was just plain fun. But if you hadn't put your drawings in those books, they might never have enriched my life as they have.

Now that I've moved on to art, I still make a concentrated effort to treat your work with the dignity it deserves, and your work makes up a large portion of my catalog. This I'm very proud of, and even if I don't sell any more of it, I'm still very honored that your work has had the influence it has, and that it continues to impact my life in a positive way.

I recently showed one of your Girls You Know movies to my YouTube audience, and while I don't agree with Edison about your acting ability, (I thought you were actually pretty good,) I will say that I'm so glad you didn't make it your primary vocation. Before writing this paragraph, I paused to admire the above image, and I'm thinking, you did the right thing sticking with art. But that's a side note...

Maybe we'll get to meet in another lifetime, but for now, connecting with you as I have here was plenty enough for me. I look forward to discovering more of your work as I continue with mine.


Sebastian Certik

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