Thursday, 19 November 2015

James R Bingham, Illustrator for Advertising

This is a follow-up to a post dated 19 September 2015. Alongside the work he supplied to Saturday Evening Post, Bingham had a successful career illustrating for a wide range of advertisers. The noir-style imagery that so effectively accompanied crime fiction in the Post was never going to meet the needs of advertisers but Bingham had no problems working across genres and could offer an accessible style for almost any occasion. In World War 2 he supplied his clients with imagery that reflected the visual drama of armed conflict – the rampaging Cadillac tank crushing all before it and the fire-fight in the jungle achieve a sense of enhanced realism that photographers struggled to equal. Transport-related subjects engaged his interest – in the ad for US Airlines he conveys the visual poetry of a snowbound nocturnal landscape with the reassuring aerial presence of the latest turbo-prop airliner in the starry sky. For Southern Comfort he created a romanticised image of a vintage riverboat cruising upriver on the moonlit Mississippi, the rays of the setting sun appearing to ignite the smoke rising from the chimney stacks. All of which evoke the timelessness and the easy-on-the-palate quality of the product. There’s more romance in the advert for Nash cars, an ad that rests on a much-used theme found at the end of the war – an effort to re-engage the post-war public with the business of consumption. The happy couple behind the wheel have an affinity with Bingham’s editorial illustration. As does the period illustration for Western Electric with theatrical caricatures of a type frequently seen in the Post. The image of Western Electric girls toiling on an assembly line is one of Bingham’s finest – a beautifully controlled repetition of forms tells all we need to know about the anonymising tedium of the workplace. Two dramatic skies complete this far from definitive selection. The first, again for Western Electric adds much-needed interest to a mundane desert landscape while the second, for Barrett Chemicals is even more dominant, graced by a fortuitous rainbow that illuminates a passing vehicle.

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