John E. "Jack" Sheridan advertisement illustration for Pierce-Arrow Automobiles (1911): a beautifully framed antique


Advertisement: The Pierce Arrow 
    "Pierce-Arrow at the Aviation Meet"
    By John Sheridan 
    For The Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company, Buffalo, New York

    Image Size: H 11.050” x W 9.50”
    Matted & Framed:  H 17.50” x W 15.50”
    Framed Price: $265.00  
    Packaging and shipping approximately $25.00
JES reportedly paid for the classes he took at Georgetown University in the late-1890s by creating sports posters for the schools teams. Confirming this ingenious introduction to illustration, the earliest pieces of his work are posters for sports teams (all of these posters are for Ivy League teams). In its obituary for the artists, the New York Times credited JES with originating "the idea of using posters to advertise college sports."

After working for a few years, possibly in 1909, JES went to France where he studied at the Académie Colarossi. In its biographical sketch of the artist, The Saturday Evening Post  reports that “upon his return from Europe, Sheridan opened a studio in Manhattan at 27 West 67th Street.” The ad agency that handled Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company’s account, Calkins & Holden, was in the city so it is likely that JES was there when he received the commission to produce this advertisement. Since Calkins & Holden hired only “the most prominent illustrators of the time” to produce Pierce-Arrow ads, by 1911, JES had established himself and was in the exclusive company of admen like J. C. Leyendecker, Louis Fancher, Myron Perley, Adolph Treidler and N. C. Wyeth, all of whom produced Pierce-Arrow ads during the 1910s.

JES was first and foremost a “line man.” He used his skill in this Pierce-Arrow illustration to highlight the pristine elegance of the automobile. He was careful to embellish it, however, by placing it in a social context that would remind the ad’s viewers that Pierce-Arrow automobiles were for discriminating consumers. Having staged the ad at an aviation meet, the artist completed his psychological message by placing a fashionably attired young lady with binoculars in the passenger seat of her luxurious chariot.

The poster-design craze that made Edward Penfield famous in the 1890s was over by the time JES produced this illustration, but poster imagery was still au courant. Figures formed by lines and flat fields of color, all staged in neat, simple designs, conveyed powerful impressions. Artist admen like Jack Sheridan used them shape public opinion in favor of their sponsor’s messages. This four-color halftone image was also inexpensive and easy to reproduce. 

While JES had evidently become a sought-after artist adman by 1911, it is hard to find examples of his work between 1911 and 1917 when he began applying his special talents illustrating men’s clothing for Hart Schaffner & Marx.

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