Theodore Roosevelt: Study for the Cover of "Saturday Evening Post"

Object Number: 
Gouache, watercolor, black ink, and graphite on heavy illustration board
Overall: 11 5/8 × 11 15/16 in. (29.5 × 30.3 cm) Image: 8 7/8 × 9 1/2 in. (22.5 × 24.1 cm)
Published March 4, 1905, Roosevelt's inauguration day for his second term, following his first election as President. In his first term he had been elected Vice-President and assumed the presidency after McKinley's assassination.
Gallery Label: 
An innovative commericial poster designer, illustrator, and painter, Edward Penfield produced some of America's finest posters at the turn of the twentieth century, during the short-lived Golden Age of American poster art. He studied intermittently with George De Forest Brush, a leading force in American Impressionism, at the Art Students League in New York City. At the age of twenty-four, during a pivotal time in American graphic design, Penfield became art editor of Harper's Magazine, and shortly later of Harper's Weekly and Harper's Bazaar. Over the next decade, he continued to work both as an artist and an art editor for the Harper publications, seeking out and encouraging the best talent in the country. He resigned his post in 1901 to devote more time to his own art. In the ensuing years Penfield painted several murals - such as those in the breakfast room of Harvard University's Randolph Hall, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Rochester Country Club in Rochester, New York - but devoted most of his attention to poster designs that were influenced by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Aubrey Beardsley, Theophile Steinlen, and Japanese "Ukiyo-e" or "floating world" prints. He became, along with Will Bradley, one of the most important exponents of American poster art. Penfield also designed magazine covers for Collier's Weekly and Harper's Monthly, as well as commerical advertisements and numerous calendars. In addition he wrote articles for Scribner's Magazine and Outing and executed design work for the Beck Engraving Company of Philadelphia (1908-25). A product of the Arts and Crafts idealism, Penfield advocated hand production and studio design over machine-made art. A cat fancier, Penfield was also known for his portrayals of felines, as in a cover and poster for the May 1896 issue of Harper's. In addition, he served on the art committee ofthe Salmagundi Club, was enlisted to produce posters for the government's Division of Pictorial Publicity during World War I, illustrated many books and magazines, and designed covers for the Saturday Evening Post, Scribner's Magazine, and The Ladies' Home Journal. The artist exhibited his work at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair and in serveral of the yearly exhibitions of the American Watercolor Society. In his post as art director for Harper's magazines, and through his teaching at the Art Students League, Penfield exerted a profound influence on American illustration. In 1915-16 he taught two courses indicative of the incresing demand for commericial art training in the country: Commericial Draughtsmanship and Posters and Lettering. Having served as president of the Society of Illustrators in 1921-23, he was posthumously elected to the Illustrators' Hall of Fame in 1998. This profile portrait of Theodore Roosevelt was the study for the cover of the "Roosevelt Number" of The Saturday Evening Post. That periodical was one of the most important weekly magazines for news and culture in America at the turn of the twentieth century, and 1905 was the year after Roosevelt had successfully run for election, after assuming the presidency following the assassanition of William McKinley Jr. Roosevelt is portrayed in a very different manner from the dignified pose in Penfield's study for The Saturday Evening Post; he grins from behind his moustache and spectacles, wears a red bandanna and belted khaki shirt, and totes a red book titled "Africa" and a rifle. The handle of this 1909 pitcher takes the form of an elephant's head and trunk.
Credit Line: 
Gift of Merrill C. Berman
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group