Dean Cornwell Biography

biography of Dean Cornwell

Christian art prints

Dean Cornwell
"Artist Dean Cornwell is a painter who illustrates and an illustrator who paints," says American illustrator James Montgomery Flagg.

During the 1920's and '30's, the very gifted Dean Cornwell (1892-1960) dominated the field of illustration in the United States. He produced over 1,000 splendid illustrations for nearly every major publication in the country. Cornwell chronicled life as it was then; the changing social values of the time, and the ever-emerging American dream.

His luminous paintings are now considered American masterpieces, visualized and conceived after painstaking research, and rendered with genius. Cornwell's paintings have found their way into important museums, galleries, and outstanding collections throughout the United States.

Unlike other American artists Edwin Austin Abbey and John Singer Sargent, Dean Cornwell is the only illustrator ever chosen for exhibition and membership in the Royal Academy of Arts in London. The particular illustration that earned him this distinguished honor appeared in the August 1928 issue of Good Housekeeping. It is titled "Washing the Savior's Feet," and is one of a brilliant series that Cornwell painted for the "Man of Galilee" articles written by Bruce Barton for that publication.

Dean Cornwell's career began March 5, 1892 in Louisville, Kentucky. He was the son of Margaret Wickliffe Dean and Charles L. Cornwell. From the beginning of his life he suffered from excruciating headaches caused by severely impaired eyesight. Cornwell was limited in his ability to study or even attend school because of his disability, but that time was spent with destiny along the Ohio riverbanks. He enjoyed an inherent love of history, the river, and especially riverboats which, in 1905, he crafted masterfully in ink and watercolor. This was the true beginning of his long and rich career as an illustrator.

Properly prescribed glasses restored Cornwell's vision, freeing him to become the dean of American Illustrators. From 1914 to the late 1950's, Dean Cornwell completed over 1,000 illustrations for poems, stories, and novels. His work appeared in magazines and on posters as advertising art for hundreds of products including Palmolive soap, Coca-Cola, The Scripps-Howard newspapers, Goodyear Tires - a list too extensive to be named here.

Cornwell attended the Chicago Art Institute, was chief illustrator for the Chicago Tribune, and while attending the Art Students League he met prominent art educator Harvey Dunn who exercised a profound effect on Cornwell's style and philosophy of painting. Later he was to abandon these teachings for his own particularly bold, light-drenched genre.

By 1929 Cornwell had become the most prominent illustrator in America. Among his many honors were prizes from the Society of Fine Arts, Wilmington, Delaware; the Award of Merit, Chicago Art Institute; and the Isidor Watercolor Prize, Salma Gundi Club, New York City. Dean Cornwell received gold medals for mural painting from the Architectural League of New York, as well as gold medals from the Allied Artists of America - and yet another gold medal from teh Society of Illustrators. He was elected associate, fellow, and served as chief officer of many prestigious professional organizations. Cornwell's works have been exhibited extensively in this country and internationally.

Cornwell's need for immortality drew him into mural painting. UInder the influence of internationally celebrated muralist, Frank Brangwyn, Cornwell developed his hard-edged, literal style. One of Dean Cornwell's major murals was the depiction of California history; four forty by forty foot canvases in the Los Angeles public library which took five years to complete. All in all, Cornwell had four distinctive styles over the decades. One of these emerges powerfully in his illustrations for the famous Captain Blood series, written by Raphael Sabatini. During this time, Cornwell evolved his brilliant, complex mosaic of color and vigorous surfaces.

Eventually his life as an illustrator would be eclipsed by his interest in painting murals, but his work as an illustrator will live on forever in his distinctive paintings. There is now a resurgence of collectors here and abroad to own Dean Cornwell's masterworks. Dean Cornwell died in surgery December 4, 1960 in New York City at 68 having worked to almost the last day of his life.

"Perhaps the most valuable thing that Harvey Dunn taught us was honest dealings with fellow man and constant gratitude to the Maker above for the privilege of seeing the sun cast shadows." --- Dean Cornwell

green line

arrow Back to "Dean Cornwell Prints"

green line
The biography of Dean Cornwell is prohibited from being copied. All applicable copyright © laws apply and are reserved by Christ-Centered Mall, Inc. Web pages copyright © 1998.