Henry Raleigh is considered one of the greatest American artists of his period. For thirty years he was the most prolific commercial artists in America. Henry Raleigh’s name and his unique style of illustration was more recognizable to the American public then such world renown artists as Picasso, Monet, Dali, Miro, Mondrian, or O’Keeffe. In the Early 1900’s the most well-known and highly paid artists were not the inventive French gallery artists, they were the commercial artists whose work appeared in the popular “glossy” periodicals that had a vast home distribution to every city in the nation.
For thirty years, most issues of the Saturday Evening Post featured the drawings of Henry Raleigh. Raleigh, illustrate over five hundred Post stories for such revered authors as Stephen Vincent Benet, William Faulkner, Sinclair Lewis, and Somerset Maugham. As an independent commercial artist Henry’s worked for all the top “glossy” periodicals of the day: Ladies Home Journal, Colliers, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s, Delineator, independent. And, directly below the name of the author appeared the phrase “Illustrated by Henry Raleigh”.
Henry Raleigh’s skillfully drafted illustrations for stories about successful men and beautiful women were in high demand. He was often referred to as the High Society Illustrator of the “Gatsby Era”. He was the favorite artist of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Agatha Christie who repeatedly chose Raleigh to illustrate their stories.
Henry Patrick Raleigh was highly motivated. As an artist and a business man he was driven to succeed.
Highlights of Raleigh’s Career
- At 12 years old, Henry left school to help support his family by selling newspapers.
- His next job was with a coffee-importing firm. The owner of the firm took a liking to the bright child and offered to pay Raleigh’s tuition to attend the renowned San Francisco art school, the Hopkins Academy.
- From the beginning of his art education, he outpaced the other students. And after only two years he was told, by head of the Academy that he had mastered of the skills the school had to offer.
- At 17 he got his first job, as an artist, with the San Francisco Bulletin newspaper as an “on the scene” newspaper artist and reporter. In short time became one of the highest paid newspaper artists in California.
- William Randolph Hearst discovered Henry and asked him to relocate to New York City to work for the Journal newspaper.
- One of Raleigh’s responsibilities was to cover all of the society events to sketch the well-dressed men and beautiful women of New York society.
- By the time he was 25 he was one of the highest paid newspaper artist in America. And, this work only required 3 days of work per week.
- He decided to branch out to illustrate stories for national monthly magazines.
- Early assignments came from Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazar, Collier’s, and Saturday Evening Post.
- In 1914 Raleigh was chosen by Collier’s to provide illustrations for a five-part serialized story by the most popular author of the period, H. G. Wells. The “Bealby” story was immensely important for Collier’s and overnight made Raleigh one of the most sought after illustrators in America.
- In 1917 WWI was in its third year and Raleigh’s “Hunger Poster” was selected by the government for a distribution of over 5 million copies.
- The 1920’s was age of optimism. The magazines of the period grew in readership and profitability and so did the artists. Raleigh worked at a feverish pace.
- During the depression, and for three decades, his average income was well over $100,000 per year. When compared to today’s salaries or buying power, during the Great Depression he was making over a $1,250,000.00 dollars per year. At his peak he was the highest paid illustrator in America and perhaps the world.
- By the time that he was forty three he had published over 20,000 illustrations.
- In a 1925 article renowned Art Critic, Evert Shinn proclaimed him “America’s greatest illustrator”.
- He enjoyed the life of a celebrity and took on the high society attributes that were the subject of his art. He had a wonderful wife and beautiful children; several homes; and yachts. He typically worked only eight months a year as an artist and spent much of free time traveling abroad with his family.
- He was the star of the famous Westport, Connecticut, art colony.
- But this lifestyle came to an abrupt end in when 1939 Saturday Evening Post restyled their magazine to take advantage of their new printing equipment that could print color photographs. The Golden Age of Illustration was over and most of the magazine illustrators were out of work.
- Henry Raleigh’s career quickly spiraled out of control. He was too proud to ask for help and could no longer support his extravagant lifestyle. In 1944 he took his own life by jumping from the window of his Manhattan hotel.