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Jon Whitcomb   

(1906 – 1988) 


Jon Whitcomb was born in Weatherford, Oklahoma and grew up in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. He attended Ohio Wesleyan University and graduated from Ohio State working during the summer painting posters for a theater in Cleveland. In 1934 he moved to New York City and joined 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 his designs. He zoomed in on people and reduced the background to simple design elements.  His new style appeared in Collier’s Weekly, Good Housekeeping and other magazines.

During World War II, Whitcomb was assigned as a combat artist for the invasions of Tinian, Saipan, and Peleliu.   After the war, Whitcomb produced a series of articles and sketches about Hollywood stars for Cosmopolitan called “On Location with Jon Whitcomb. In 1948 he was recruited by Albert Dorne to be on the faculty of the Famous Artists School along with Norman Rockwell and others.

During his career, Whitcomb painted large portraits of such famous actresses as Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich, Natalie Wood, Marilyn Monroe and others along with Jackie Kennedy and Princess Margaret.

Whitcomb was also a writer publishing several books and magazine articles.

From the time he was a boy, Whitcomb said that he, “developed an aversion for antiques. This particular prejudice extends to anything older than five or six minutes. I admire new hats, new actresses, new architecture, new plays and new gadgets.” He also said, “I believe the things that make artists interesting to a buyer are their shortcomings. Flaws plus virtues add up to character,”and referring to cameras and the camera lens – it “does not receive the same messages as a human eye. To this extent, every photograph is a lie, and all cameras are liars.”  

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