Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ray Rohn: A Portrait of a Serviceman

The late Marge Schrader would go to thrift stores and yard sales, bringing home books by the hundreds. She would read them and then donate most of them to a worthy cause, but one that she chose to keep was Dere Mable: Love Letters of a Rookie by E. Streeter. This is the author's first book and it was published in 1918. (In 1949, Edward Streeter was to write Father of the Bride.) Recently, Marge Schrader's grandson was looking through the book when a sheet fell out of it with an original World War I era drawing by Ray Rohn. Rohn, you may recall, illustrated a single New Yorker cover, that of March 28, 1925, the magazine's sixth issue. Here's what I had to say about it in 2015:
Everyone knows women and cats sell magazines. Ray Rohn's New Yorker cover has both. It is very theatrical, which seems appropriate for a new magazine that covers so much of the stage. Like the cover of the magazine's third issue, a fashionable young woman carries a cigarette holder and the cigarette smoke is a prominent design element. Ray Rohn never did a second cover.
Ooh, I ended on a real downer there. Today I might add that the rendering of the female figure and the cigarette smoke seem to be influenced by the art nouveau style of Alphonse Mucha. I might also add that the smoking here shows that the fledgling magazine was embracing women's equality. Like men, women had the right to vote, to smoke, and to drink hooch in speakeasies.

Ray Rohn, The New Yorker, March 28, 1925

The sketch found in the book is a portrait of a serviceman named Girard, evidently dating from the first World War. He appears to be a pleasant, good-natured man despite the intrusion of the war. He is shown in a three-quarter, left-facing view with a light source on the left.
Ray Rohn, Girard, c. 1916-1918
Here's the book that has kept the drawing protected:
Edward Streeter, Dere Mable:  Love Letters of a Rookie, New York:  Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1918.
Cover illustration by Bill Breck

Title Page
Dere Mable:  Love Letters of a Rookie, New York:  Frederick A. Stokes Co.,1918

Note:  My 2015 reading of the New Yorker's sixth issue with the cover by Ray Rohn may be found here. Rohn was a major illustrator of his day, yet there are only a few works by him available on the internet today. Write if you have more artwork of his to add.

I know nothing of Girard's military insignia, but I'd love to hear from anyone who does know of such things.

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