Jon Whitcomb

1973 Hall of Fame Inductee: Jon Whitcomb

Jon Whitcomb has made his name synonymous with pictures of young love and glamorous, beautiful young women. During World War II, a series of illustrations for advertisements he created on the theme, “Back Home for Keeps,” became a pin-up fad for women deprived of their husbands or sweethearts.

Jon was born in Weatherford, Oklahoma, and reared in Manitowic, Wisconsin. He attended Ohio Wesleyan University and was graduated from Ohio State where he did pictures for the school publications and worked during the summer painting posters for a theater in Cleveland. This was excellent training ground for Whitcomb. Although he had majored in English with an ambition to write, Jon switched to art classes. After graduation he was able to obtain work in a series of studios doing travel and theater posters, as well as general advertising illustrations.

In 1934, he moved to New York City and joined with Al Cooper to found the Cooper Studio. Whitcomb was a pioneer in the switch from oil to gouache for illustrations. The different qualities of gouache compared to oil led to changes in the design of Whitcomb's illustrations. He zoomed in on people, usually pretty, young city women, and reduced the background to simple design elements. His new style of illustrations soon appeared in Collier's Weekly, Good Housekeeping and other magazines. and then the others in succession as Whitcomb’s pretty girls began to attract enthusiastic readership.

His career was interrupted by World War II when he was commissioned a Lieutenant, j.g. in the Navy. His assignments varied from mine-sweeping duty off the East Coast, to the Public Relations Department in Washington, to the Pacific as a combat artist with the invasions of Tinian, Saipan, and Peleliu. After hospitalization for tropical infections, he was discharged in 1945 and resumed his art career.

After the war Whitcomb produced a series of articles and sketches about Hollywood stars for Cosmopolitan, called “On Location with Jon Whitcomb.” He continued to produce story illustrations and covers for magazines, including McCall’s and Playboy. He wrote some short stories, two children's books, Coco, and Pom Pom’s Christmas, and a book on glamour, All About Girls. He was also one of the founding faculty of the Famous Artists School.