Thursday, December 15, 2011

Flora talk & rare art show Dec 17 in NYC

untitled tempera, early 1940s
Flora biographer/archivist me (Irwin Chusid) will present an informal talk about the artist's life, accompanied by digital projection of over 100 spectacular works from the Flora collection on Saturday, December 17, at Dorian Grey Gallery, New York. The wine begins pouring into cheap plastic cups at 4:00 pm, with the presentation starting at 5:00 pm sharp. Admission is free, but seating is limited, so arrive early. The event concludes around 7:00 pm.

The Dorian Grey Gallery, located at 437 East 9th Street (between 1st and A), is hosting The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora, the first posthumous New York exhibit and sale of Jim Flora original art and prints. The exhibit opened on Nov. 19 and runs thru Jan. 8.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"visual pop in an off-kilter story"

Pamela Paul in the New York Times reviews Enchanted Lion Books' new reprint of Flora's Kangaroo for Christmas:
Kangaroo for Christmas offered joy of an entirely different sort to the Sallys and Bobbys of the Mad Men era. First published in 1962, the story of little Kathryn’s astonishing gift from her Uncle Dingo showcases the marvelous period illustration of James Flora, a giant among midcentury commercial artists. Working in riotous bursts of carnation pink and deep teal, Flora adds visual pop to an off-kilter story that hardly needs it, but is gloriously zanier for it all the same.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Flora exhibit opens in New York, November 19

The Dorian Grey Gallery will host The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora, the first posthumous New York exhibit and sale of Jim Flora original art and prints. The exhibit opens with a reception on Nov. 19, and runs thru Jan. 8.

The gallery, located at 437 East 9th Street (between 1st and A), will showcase significant works from the Flora family collection, covering the 1940s to the late 1990s. Offerings include temperas on paper; woodcut prints (vintage and new); medium and large acrylics on canvas; pen & ink drawings on paper; fine art and screen prints, and branded Flora paper merchandise. Many exhibited works have not been previously published in our three Fantagraphics anthologies. 

The above exhibit promo art (by Laura Lindgren, our Flora book designer) will be issued as a limited edition of 25 numbered fine art prints through Dorian Grey.

The exhibit is curated by yours truly, in conjunction with gallery owner Luis Accorsi and director Christopher Pusey. The Nov. 19 reception will include a live music set by the Cracked Latin trio, featuring vocalist Accorsi along with guitarist/vocalist Lane Steinberg and percussionist Charlie Zeleny.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Jim Flora 2012 Calendars

Those perennial favorite Jim Flora calendars are in stock for 2012. You've got your bug-eyed saxophonist, an Aren't-We-Having-Fun? moon, and a manic drummer to guide you through the coming Leap Year. These are hand-printed mini-calendars measuring 10" x 4-1/2".  If you prefer something of greater magnitude in a maritime motif, our Sheffield Island poster-sized calendar should suit your tastes:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Queztlcoatl Returns (again)

Friend (and WFMU colleague) Therese Mahler joined us for an archiving visit to (what we call) the "Floratorium" (Norwalk CT storage space) in September 2008. Therese poses with a 1997 acrylic on canvas entitled Queztlcoatl Returns, rendered the year before Flora's passing. The work was first featured on this blog in January 2008 and reproduced in our third anthology, The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora, the only Flora compendium still in print.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Well-Fed at Last

These two tempera with pencil illustrations, differently titled yet seemingly related, were discovered in a mid-1960s Flora sketchpad pages apart. Both have a completed look, yet no discernible (or documented) purpose. Well-Fed At Last is signed, which indicates the artist considered the work finished and fit to behold. The alligator has a vicious or peeved demeanor. He has no love.

Local Government or the Commuter is unsigned, but has the added element of a homo sapien entree (moments before the dessert menu). Absent a context, the title appears to make no sense. Oddly, the alligator, who appears more satisfied than his above cousin, has one mismatched foot. His satisfaction no doubt derives from his happy meal.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

puzzle pony

Untitled, undated, unsigned woodcut print from Flora's Little Man Press days (1939-1942). The original block cannot be located, and we have no idea of the image's original context. It does not appear in any LMP publications.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

electromechanical design

Spot illustration, promotional brochure for trade journal Electromechanical Design: Components and Systems, 1957. Flora illustrated a number of covers for the monthly from 1957 to 1960.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

political patrons

Commercial spot illustration, ca. 1960, magazine and article unknown. The theme is obvious: agriculture, broadcasting, and oil moguls attempt to steer public policy by channeling self-interest through a politician's bully pulpit. Pen & ink with black tempera on vellum with printer's markings.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Little Man Press, Summer 1939

Another rare (and previously unseen) print acquired from a recent estate sale in Cincinnati. As with all prints from Flora's productive post-Art Academy period, the original block cannot be located (possibly having been destroyed or discarded by Flora's LMP partner Robert Lowry). The above water-damaged print is unsigned, untitled, and unnumbered. No documentation exists regarding the work's purpose (e.g., publicity, ad, edition print, chapbook page). The faded vertical center section (and lack of signature) implies this print could have been an early strike, when the block had not been thoroughly inked.

Friday, September 30, 2011

rush hour

Commercial spot illustration, 1961, magazine and subject unknown. Pen & ink, watercolor and Liquid Paper on artist board with printer's markings. Time-traveler Buster Keaton found himself in a similar predicament in the legendary Twilight Zone episode "Once Upon a Time," which aired the same year.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

sitting man

Woodcut print, ca. 1938-1940, rendered when Flora lived in Cincinnati and was working with Robert Lowry producing Little Man Press publications. Title, edition run, and location of original block unknown. The print was discovered in the estate of a Cincinnati collector who passed away at age 93 several months ago. The collection included about a dozen vintage Flora prints, most previously unseen by us. We'll publish others soon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

road rage (1958)

The miserable family road trip. Commercial spot illustration, 1958, magazine and subject unknown. Pen & ink and watercolor on artist board. Three additional thematically unrelated spot illos were arrayed on the board.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Inside Sauter-Finegan (print)

Jim Flora Art has launched a new limited edition fine art print: INSIDE SAUTER-FINEGAN, a 1954 RCA Victor LP that features one of Flora's best-known cover illustrations. Eddie Sauter and Bill Finegan were famous for their orchestral mayhem. While Flora's mischievous cover figures didn't physically resemble Eddie or Bill, his caricatures reflected their inventive approach to redefining big band jazz in the 1950s.

The print image is larger (15-1/2" square) than the 12" square LP. This archival-quality edition is limited to 25 hand-numbered prints. As with all our limited edition prints, prices will increase as the edition sells down. Nine have already been sold to Floraphiles (some of whom might be closet Sauter-Fineganians).

Friday, May 6, 2011


Baltimore, tempera on heavy stock, early 1960s

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Self-Portrait with Cigar

Pen & ink on heavy stock, 1990s, from the archives.
Previously unpublished and uncirculated work.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Salt Pond - Block Island

Salt Pond - Block Island, tempera and pencil on paper, 1963. This previously uncirculated work was first published in our 2009 anthology, The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora (the only one of our three Flora compendiums currently in print). The work reflects Flora's love of rustic maritime locales and things that float.

Block Island, Rhode Island is located off the southern coast of the state. Wiki contains the following about the saline pond:
Great Salt Pond Archeological District is a historic spot in New Shoreham, Rhode Island. The district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. The Great Salt Pond is a round and almost entirely enclosed body of water separating the north and south regions of Block Island. The pond has a small channel on its northwest shore connecting it with Block Island Sound. The opening is artificial and was dug out in 1895 to make a harbor in the south part of the pond.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mambo for Cake

Someone who co-admins this blog recently had a birthday and his girlfriend concocted the above cake (based, of course, on this.) The (edible) elements were commissioned from a designer on Etsy and meticulously assembled by wondergal Beth Sorrentino on a chocolate cake she baked. The cake was presented to the surprised Flora archivist at Café Frida in New York. After dozens of cameras (including that of Otis Fodder, above) documented the delicacy, it was summarily disassembled with knives and forks.

Beth confides: although the original RCA Victor album was a 12" LP, the cake replicates the rare (in fact, never seen) 10" version.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rowayton Creature Tableau (new print)

Our latest Jim Flora limited edition fine art print launches today. We've dubbed the untitled, undated black and white work Rowayton Creature Tableau because of the strange figures populating the streets of this seaside Connecticut village (the artist's adopted hometown). The previously uncirculated and unpublished pen & ink with watercolor drawing was discovered in the artist's collection. We've analyzed the technique and determined that it reflects the 1970s style of caricature commonly found in Flora's children's books of that decade.

Flora lived in Rowayton from the mid-1940s to his death in 1998. Over the years he rendered scenes from the town dozens of times (see our recently released Bell Island at Night print) in a variety of media. The creature tableau is one of his more playful portraits of the town.

Rowayton Creature Tableau has been issued in a numbered, limited edition of 25 prints at a price of $150 (+s/h) each. Prices will increase as the edition sells down.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Leonardo, Lorenzo and Verrocchio

Pen & ink, 1992, discovered in sketchpad. Like most Flora works of the 1990s, this cityscape has never been published or publicly viewed.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Meeting of the Clan (part 1)

Detail of large-scale illustration for "A Meeting of the Clan at a State Park," article in New York Times, October 14, 1956. This detail, reproduced (with the full illustration) in our second anthology, The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora, is from a rejected version of the assignment found in the Flora family archives. The published version has similar elements, but repositioned.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Duke and Harry Carney

Previously uncirculated pen and ink from sketchbook, 1995.

From the 1920s to his death in 1974, Duke Ellington saw musicians come and go. Saxophonist/clarinetist Harry Carney (b. Boston, 1910) devoted 46 years to performing and recording with the maestro. The trusty sideman occasionally conducted the orchestra in Duke's absence.

After Ellington's death, Carney was quoted as saying, "This is the worst day of my life. Without Duke I have nothing to live for." Four months later, Carney passed away.

Flora was an admitted "jazz hound." He sketched, drew, painted and illustrated jazz musicians and scenes sporadically throughout his career, often as commercial assignments. However, in the final decade of his life, the retired artist devoted a considerable amount of creative energy drawing and painting portraits of musicians he admired from the 1920s through the 1960s. Scores—perhaps hundreds—of such works are in the Flora archives; most have never been publicly viewed.

We're in the preliminary stages of a Flora jazz exhibition for 2012. Details as plans develop.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Charlie's Egg

Tempera on heavy stock (actually, painted on the reverse of an oversized 1943 Columbia Records convention program; clean paper was rationed and scarce during World War II). The previously uncirculated and largely unseen work was first published in our third anthology, The Sweetly Diabolic Art of Jim Flora. We issued a limited edition fine art print of the work in 2009.

The identity of Charlie remains unknown.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Brain Map and Abstract Tangle (new fine art prints) recently issued two new—and low-cost—Jim Flora limited edition fine art prints. The above, based on a 1964 untitled and previously uncirculated work discovered in the Flora collection, has been casually tagged Brain Map to differentiate it from countless other works left unnamed by the artist. The work was first published in our 2007 Fantagraphics anthology, The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora.

The print can be purchased in several different sizes at various price tiers, from $25 (14" x13", edition of 200) to $1,000 (40"x38", edition of 20). These works were licensed exclusively to, and are only available thru their website.

Brain Map is partnered in the catalog with a second untitled 1960s Flora work, provisionally christened Abstract Tangle #2:

This work has never been published and is previously uncirculated, having been discovered—page intact—in an artist's sketchpad from the mid-1960s.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Charlie Yup's cast of characters

Hand-drawn two-page spread of figure studies for Flora's third book for young readers, Charlie Yup and His Snip-Snap Boys (1959). The pages, which do not appear in the published edition, were scanned from the Dr. Irvin C. Kerlan children's literature collection at the U of Minnesota.

On the mock title page at right, the author refers to the book as "An Old Fashioned Scissor and Paper Adventure." Although the characters above were drawn in pencil and painted in tempera, a few draft pages (later donated by Flora to Dr. Kerlan), including an early version of the title page, feature hand-cut figures glued to the paper.

The explanatory note atop the left page was intended for Margaret McElderry, the legendary children's book editor who in the mid-1950s encouraged Flora to embark on a secondary career that yielded 17 titles (all edited by McElderry) in 27 years. Charlie Yup is the hardest-to-find of the vintage Flora books, rarely turning up at auction or in the listings of antiquarian booksellers.

McElderry passed away in February at the age of 98.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bell Island at Night (new print) has released a new fine art print. The panoramic Bell Island at Night was adapted from a 1968 tempera in which Flora provided a surreal nocturnal impression of his neighbors and neighborhood. Bell Island is part of Rowayton CT, and the Flora family lived on the island at 7 St. James from the late 1940s to Flora's death in 1998.

The archival-quality fine art print has been released in an edition of 30 at a launch price of $160. As with all our Flora fine art prints, prices increase as the edition sells down. The image area is 10-1/2" high x 17-1/2" wide and centered on an untrimmed 13" x 19" sheet.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Arts and the Man (part 1)

Detail from panoramic illustration for article "Arts and the Man," Park East magazine, May 1953. Flora served as the publication's art director in 1952, but moved on to full-time freelancing in January 1953. His successor in the Park East AD chair was his longtime colleague Robert M. Jones, who had also succeeded Flora as AD at Columbia Records in 1945. Jones jobbed out several Park East illustration assignments to Flora. The following year, Jones was named AD at RCA Victor Records, for whom he commissioned Flora to create some of the label's most iconic LP covers of the mid-decade.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Patented Gate & the Mean Hamburger

Spot illustration for "The Patented Gate and the Mean Hamburger," a short story by Robert Penn Warren which appeared in the January 1947 issue of Mademoiselle magazine. At the time Flora was employed at Columbia Records, but having been promoted out of the art department and focusing largely on bureaucratic tasks (much to his displeasure), he was seeking outside freelance work. His first assignment for Mademoiselle, for Robert Lowry's "Little Baseball World," had appeared in the September 1946 issue. All illustrative elements from "The Patented Gate" (and "Little Baseball World") were reproduced in our second anthology, The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What Is Automation? (part 1)

Partial illustration, "What is Automation," Collier's magazine, March 16, 1956. Pull quote from the layout:
Automation has been heralded by some as the threshold to a new Utopia, in which robots do all the work while human drones recline in pneumatic bliss.
The complete two-tiered illustration—half-utopian (above), half-apocalyptic—was reproduced in our second anthology, The Curiously Sinister Art of Jim Flora.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

music amid the ruins

Spot illustration, April 1946 Columbia Records Disc Digest, a monthly "commentary on the new Columbia Masterworks and popular records plus interesting features on the artists who make them." DD was the successor to Flora's popular monthly Coda, which he created for the label in 1943. Coda was seemingly "retired" when Flora was promoted from Art Director to Advertising Manager in 1945. He illustrated all issues of Coda, but very few DDs. Here's Flora's cover for the April '46 issue:

Many (but not all) of Flora's covers and spot illustrations for Coda and DD showcase a more sober side of the artist. These publications focused primarily on classical ("serious") music. Besides his well-known penchant for hot jazz—as evidenced in his wild album artwork for Columbia—Flora was a devotee of classical music and many of his Coda illustrations reflect the dignity of the genre.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A New Turn in Taxes

The above tempera on illustration board by Flora was recently purchased by a fabulous financial blogger. The Rube Goldberg-like catalytic pipeline originally appeared in the December 1964 issue of Fortune magazine accompanying an article entitled "A New Turn in Taxes."

Most of Flora's work-for-hire illustrations from the 1940s and 1950s cannot be located, having been kept (or disposed of) by client art directors. Judging by what's in the Flora family collection, starting in the late 1950s the artist began retrieving his creations after publication. Hundreds of commercial illustrations—some elaborate like "Taxes," others simple black and white spot illos—remain in storage. There's no way of knowing how many commercial illustrations Flora provided during his career—surely thousands, because that's primarily how he earned his livelihood. Despite his considerable legacy of fine art, it was topical deadline assignments that paid the mortgage and supported the family.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bell Island at Night

We return from a fine art print hiatus with our first new work of 2011: Bell Island at Night, a 1968 tempera in which Flora provides a surreal nocturnal impression of his neighbors. Bell Island is part of Rowayton (which in turn is part of Norwalk, CT), and the Flora family lived on the island at 7 St. James from the late 1940s to Flora's death in 1998. Our newest fine art print will be launched in an edition of 30 in the next week or two. We'll re-post this info upon launch. The print is currently in the final proofing stages.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Keystone Crowd

Keystone Crowd, a 1968 tempera on thick stock that hasn't yet made it into one of our Flora anthologies. Unpublished, uncirculated, previously unseen work currently sitting in storage. Pennsylvania is the Keystone State, but the artist's title reference remains a mystery.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

artist at rest

Today in 1914, James Royer Flora was born in Bellefontaine, Ohio. Above our guy is pictured relaxing at home in the late 1980s. Interesting juxtaposition of bold patterns, with hunting jacket, slacks and chair vying for focal primacy. Cameo in the upper right by the Fab Four, depicted in 1964, tho it appears to be a hand-rendered (probably not by Flora) replica of a famous photo.

Flora's daughter Julia provides some family context:
I love this picture; this is exactly the way I'll always remember him, with that great head of hair and his flair (?) for mixing plaids (we used to tease him about that all the time). I'm fairly sure it was my brother Robert that took it and probably for some kind of promo shot Dad asked him to create.
In the early 1970s, Flora rendered an autobiographical montage, The First Five Years, in acrylic on wood. The work featured six stacked tiers depicting incidents during the artist's childhood. We posted one tier in December 2008. Here's another:

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Provincetown, July 1957

Provincetown 7/57, pencil drawing from sketchbook

Friday, January 21, 2011

At the Cabin

That's the title of the new CD by Seattle's quirky genre-blending jazz ensemble Reptet. It's the group's fourth release to feature a licensed Jim Flora illustration (all usages initiated by the band's drummer, John Ewing). Information about Reptet, their music, and the gatefold letterpress CD package (designed by Tom Parson) can be found at the Artists Recording Collective. The above image is an inverted detail from Flora's masterful 1951 woodcut Railroad Town.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

hybrid vehicle

This steamroller is obviously in violation of some vehicular maximum-occupancy statute. The question is—who gets ordered to court? Most likely young Fletcher (at the controls), the only homo sapien on the scene. He's the most convenient scapegoat (though not the only goat).
All the other animals jumped on top of the steam roller as fast as they could. It was the only safe place to be.

"STOP!," everyone was shouting.

But the steam roller kept right on at full speed.
Page from The Day The Cow Sneezed, Flora's 1957 children's book (his second), reprinted in October 2010 by Enchanted Lion.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Richard Strauss LP cover (1954)

Illustration from the cover of Eugene Ormandy & the Philadelphia Orchestra's 1954 Columbia Masterworks 10" LP, Richard Strauss: Till Eulenspiegels [sic] Lustige Streiche and Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier (AL-46).

Flora illustrated about a dozen covers for Columbia during his 1943-1950 employment at the label (all released after he relinquished the Art Director chair in 1945). Following a 15-month Mexican hiatus, he rekindled his U.S. freelance career in 1951 and provided a number of work-for-hire illustrations for Columbia records and print material thru the mid-1950s.

The original artwork no longer exists except on the somewhat rare (and hence very collectible) cardboard sleeve. The bland, generic typesetting is poorly juxtaposed atop Flora's iconic fine-art imagery. We can only speculate that Flora — who also specialized in mischievous typography — provided the artwork but did not design the package.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

costing you an arm & a leg

Another pencil draft from the 1955 sketchbook we've been featuring the past few weeks. The purpose of this stand-alone drawing is unknown. Other sketches on the same and adjacent pages feature rough panels for a cartoon ad about Proctor toasters; none of those drawings depict a loss of limbs.

Monday, January 10, 2011

fiesta time

Black ink on vellum overlay of illustration from Flora's first children's book, The Fabulous Firework Family (1955). One of numerous such artifacts donated by Flora to the Dr. Irvin C. Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota Libraries. Overlays were used to indicate colors for printing. Flora's books were published over a 27-year span, during which printing processes underwent a number of developments. However, all Flora's books pre-date digital printing techniques.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

miscellaneous sketches

Figures from a mid-1950s sketchbook. The two panels were juxtaposed horizontally, but are stacked here for vertical display. The purpose of the drafts is unknown, and the elements are unrelated to any other sketches in the book.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

pecking order

Our title, not Flora's. Draft from sketchbook ca. 1955, purpose unknown. Adjacent pages feature rough illustrations of management skills, probably intended for a topical magazine assignment.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga, pen & ink and oil pastel on paper, 14" x 16", 1996. Previously unpublished and uncirculated late life work (two years before the artist's death). Wiki entry profiles a dangerous damsel:
She flies around on a giant pestle or broomstick, kidnaps (and presumably eats) small children, and lives in a hut that stands on chicken legs.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Walter Beartree & the Boo-Saying Whale

Flora authored and illustrated 17 children's books under his own name between 1955 (The Fabulous Firework Family) and 1982 (Grandpa's Witched-Up Christmas). A milk crate in the Flora archives contains contracts and correspondence for each one. Most of the letters passed between the author/artist and his legendary editress, Margaret McElderry.

The crate is also stuffed with manila folders for dozens of abandoned or rejected book ideas. Walter Beartree and the Boo-Saying Whale does not have a folder, but these pencil roughs were discovered in a sketchbook from the mid-1950s.