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An early card illustration, Angels & Deer. gardeners may find the deer less angelic.

An early card illustration, Angels and Deer.

At this early stage, Charlotte tried inventive subjects—they were, after all, traditional Renaissance themes.  Her excellent imagination began to flourish.  This quality was one of her most wonderful characteristics.  Many artists can “render,” or show objects accurately.  Far fewer have the ability, and sheer nerve, to reassemble reality to their liking. What she had always loved also began to appear in her paintings: the rural life, old-fashioned Americana and Connecticut scenes.  She graduated from Yale in 1942 with a BFA, and the Ethel Childe Walker prize for “most improvement.”

Charlotte spent a short time teaching junior high school, but decided that she wanted to do something else. The war at last came to an end: people danced in the streets and went downtown to applaud and cheer. She talked to her father, who thought she should go to New York City and look for illustration work.  Together, they got on the train in Meriden and headed to the city.

An early Leyendecker illustration.

An early Leyendecker illustration.

She didn’t have painting “samples” that showed traditional commercial themes, such as people posing with products. She showed art directors the detailed, original, distinctive paintings that she’d been doing on her own. Happily, she got work from an advertising agency the very first day. It was the J. Walter Thompson agency, then in the Graybar building near Grand Central Station, and the art director was the inimitable Arthur Blomquist. This was the so-called “Golden Age of American illustration.” She would work for some other people in the city, but J.Walter Thompson was her primary source of work at the time.

A favorite teapot.

A favorite teapot.

window_with_tea_and_lampost

Here’s that teapot again!

Mr. Blomquist had struggled terribly as a young artist in the city, and he was well-known for giving young artists a break. He did so in Charlotte’s case. When he was young and desperate, he had posed for other artists, and he is thus immortalized as Leyendecker’s “Arrow Shirt Collar man” of the twenties. He took Charlotte under his wing, showed her the ropes, and was always willing to give helpful advice. As a busy executive, he told her, “Sit on my doorstep, or I’ll forget you’re there.”…but he never did. Charlotte lost her father around this time, and ever after missed him terribly. She found Blomquist to be a most sympathetic friend in her life.  Remarkably, he gave her a great deal of leeway; she often executed her own ideas, not always dependent on the “think tank.” Over time, she would do ads for many major accounts, in the era of postwar peace and prosperity. Esso Oil, (later Exxon), Lederle pharmaceuticals, and Textron fabrics and fashions were some of her clients. She did covers for magazines, such as Collier’s and Coronet. When working for Collier’s, she traveled to Michigan to paint the Holland, Michigan tulip festival, and to Syracuse, New York, to paint the New York State Fair.