Friday, May 2, 2014

Telephone Exchange: Constantin Alajálov Saturday Evening Post Cover Art

From the estate of illustration collector Charles Martignette comes this original 1962 cover art for the Saturday Evening Post by Constantin Alajálov. Martignette also owned at least one original piece of New Yorker cover art by Alajálov, Visiting the Barn. This Post art is a little less nuanced than the artist's New Yorker covers and is a good illustration of how Alajálov was able to tailor his cover concepts for two distinct periodicals. The illustration shows a working class telephone operator being shocked by the conversation between two well-to-do women that she is listening in on. We are left to imagine the salacious details.

The Saturday Evening Post and the New Yorker had an agreement of sorts not to publish the other magazine's cover artists. Essentially, this arrangement kept artists like Norman Rockwell out of the New Yorker and artists like Arthur Getz out of the Post. I'm not sure there was an upside to this for either publication. Constantin Alajálov was the one artist who, for some reason, was allowed to contribute covers, albeit different types of covers, to both magazines.

Was this arrangement of mutual exclusivity legal? Certainly when I was growing up, there was little overlap between, say, Marvel and DC comic book artists, or between contributors to Mad and Cracked. In my limited understanding, if you have an artist under contract, you may be able to restrict where that artist works. Many magazine cover artists are freelancers, though. To divide the population of otherwise-independent cover artists into those who work only for the Post and those who work only for the New Yorker strikes me as a form of antitrust. In other words, it sounds to my decidedly non-legalistic mind as an example of informal collusion between competing publishers which serves to artificially restrict the market for freelance artists. They're saying you either work for us or you work for them. My guess is that the artists of this era didn't have a say in the matter. The telling thing is, when someone like Alajálov was permitted to contribute to both publications, everyone seems to have benefitted. 

Constantin Alajálov, Original artwork, The Saturday Evening Post, April 7, 1962

Constantin Alajálov's signature

Constantin Alajálov, The Saturday Evening Post, April 7, 1962,

Constantin Alajálov, Original artwork, The Saturday Evening Post, April 7, 1962

Note:  Further musings on the work of Constantin Alajálov may be seen here.

More cover art for the Saturday Evening Post is located here.


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