Monday, June 21, 2010

The Fabulous Firework Family (cartoon)

Flora's first children's book, published in 1955, was adapted for animation by UPA's Terrytoons in 1959. It was directed by Al Kousel and produced by Flora's longtime friend Gene Deitch. Jerry Beck of Cartoon Brew posted it to YouTube and wrote about the project at his blog here. We agree with Jerry's assessment: "Though Flora was involved with adapting the story to the screen, the final result wasn’t entirely successful in translating the charm of the original book." Jerry also explains that it was "the last cartoon Deitch personally produced at the studio." Flora's close friend Gene moved to Prague with his wife in '59 and to this day continues to live and prosper there. Deitch makes periodic contact with us to convey recollections of his departed friend Jim and share rare Flora artifacts. Gene also wrote the Foreword for our first book of Floriana, The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora.

Friday, June 18, 2010

New York in the 1950s

One-half of an undated black and white business card (mock-up) from the 1950s. At the time, though he lived in Rowayton CT, Flora shared an office (and probably an art studio) at 21 East 63rd Street in Manhattan. A classic tempera painting from the period caricatures the neighborhood.

No copies of the printed version of this card exist in the Flora collection. The discoloration in the upper right is an aging artifact.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Red Mike hunts the scissor boy

Detail from title page, Charlie Yup and His Snip-Snap Boys, Flora's third children's book, 1959. That's Charlie, snipping away at right; the villain with the lasso is Red Mike.

In the book, Red Mike is ... red. However, as with many illustrated books of the period, color pages alternated with black and white to make printing more economical. A number of Flora's kiddie books reflect this trend.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Electromechanical Design

Page from 1957 sales brochure for Electromechanical Design magazine. Flora illustrated an unknown number of covers for this (now long-defunct) monthly. In the 1950s and '60s, he was often a go-to artist for science-related journalism, as evidenced by his work for Research & Engineering magazine.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


This three-tiered montage appeared in Fortune magazine in 1947 as part of a 48-state series sponsored by the Container Corporation of America. Flora, an Ohio native, was commissioned to illustrate his birth state. A color version—as it ran in Fortune—was reproduced in The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora. Tearsheets turn up periodically on Ebay.

The above greyscale version—presumably the original, described as "watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paperboard"—is in the Smithsonian collection, according to their online catalog. It's not clear if the original is black and white and colorization was added at the magazine print stage, or if the image was converted to greyscale for the Smithsonian's database. A phone call to the Smith would resolve the matter. It's on our to-do list.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Jolly birthday

Peter Ceragioli Jr. was born this day in 1932. You may not recognize this West Coast jazz pianist, accordionist, and composer by his birth name. Beyond TV and film soundtrack cognoscenti, he's probably obscure even by his stage name—Pete Jolly. The keyboardist was a child prodigy on accordion, as points out:
When he was eight, he made his first broadcast appearance, billed as "The Boy Wonder Accordionist" on CBS Radio's Hobby Lobby. The show's emcee messed up his name, announcing him as "Pete Jolly," but the boy liked the sound of it and used it ever after.
Though his name is little recognized today, Jolly had a long, distinguished recording, composing and performing career. To Floraphiles, however, he is a household name, having been idiosyncratically rendered by the artist twice (in duo and trio releases) on 1955 RCA Victor 7" EP covers. In each case, Flora's caricature in no way resembled a recognizable human being. But then, Flora always insisted he "couldn't do likenesses." Original copies of both covers are extremely rare and highly sought by Flora collectors.

We issued a screen print of the Pete Jolly Duo cover in 2007.

I spoke to Jolly briefly before he passed away in 2004. I was soliciting quotes for our first volume of Floriana, The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora, the anthology that contained most of the artist's album cover illustrations. Having tracked down Jolly thru the L.A. musician's union, I gave him a call. He had no recollection of either EP cover and claimed never to have heard the name Jim Flora. Though Jolly was a gentleman to chat with, I came away from the conversation without a quote.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

fishing in New Orleans

Detail from a series of woodcuts Flora produced as a freelancer for the Union Central Life Insurance Company of Cincinnati around 1940. They were reproduced in UCL's monthly Agency Bulletin to illustrate articles about the history and legacy of the Crescent City. The images proved so popular they were issued as a limited edition folio by the company in 1942.

Flora later admitted that at the time he produced the woodcuts, he had never visited New Orleans; he'd based his images on photos of the city and on literature about the region.

A previous post about this woodcut series depicted Jackson Square.