Alfred Charles Parker was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1906 and studied at Washington University’s School of Fine Arts from 1923 to 1928. After opening a fledgling advertising agency with fellow students and beginning to work for national magazines, Parker moved to New York City in 1935. A cover illustration for House Beautiful won a national competition and garnered Parker jobs producing illustrations and covers for Chatelaine, Collier’s, Women’s Home Companion, and Ladies’ Home Journal.
In December of 1938, Parker began a thirteen-year stint of illustrating a series of fifty hugely popular “Mother and Daughter” covers for the Ladies Home Journal: dressed alike and paired in an evocatively designed action scene, the first cover created an overnight fashion sensation. Successive covers enjoyed unrivaled appeal, chronicling the evolution of an idealized American family as it prepared for war, homecoming, and rebirth (i.e., the baby boom). Parker was soon illustrating for countless magazines including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, McCall’s, The Saturday Evening Post, Sports Illustrated, Pictorial Review, Town and County, and Vogue, constantly reinventing his endlessly snappy style and thematic approach, while experimenting with new media in order to keep his throngs of imitators stymied. In cooperation with the art director, he secretly illustrated an entire issue of Cosmopolitan employing different pseudonyms, styles, and media for each story.
Parker is one of the select few illustrators whose personal touch immediately jumps out at the viewer, through crisp rendering and compositions not only bold, but positively idiosyncratic. Known as the Dean of Illustrators, Parker was one of the founding faculty members for the Famous Artists School and was elected to the Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame in 1965.
For additional information see The Illustrator in America 1860-2000, by Walt Reed, New York: The Society of Illustrators, 2001.
Users of the collections who wish to use items from this collection, in whole or in part, in any form of publication (as defined in the form) must sign and submit to the Washington University Department of Special Collections a hard copy of the Notification of intent to publish Modern Graphic History Library materials form.
All publication not covered by fair use restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder.
The collection was donated to the University Archives by Kit Parker, Al Parker's son, in 2003. It was later transferred to the Modern Graphic History Library.
Scope and Contents: The collection includes material relating to Al Parker's personal and professional development, photographs of artist models, original artwork, and artwork reproduced from magazines.