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John Held Jr.

John Held, Jr. was born in Utah in 1889. He chronicled the spirit of the 1920s, the “Jazz Age,” with his cartoons of the flapper Betty Co-ed, and her friend, Joe College. Held died in New Jersey in 1958.

At fourteen, Held was a cartoonist for The Salt Lake Tribune. In 1910, he went to New York intending to be a sculptor, but his skill as an engraver and commercial artist and his need to make a living took precedence. He was soon at work designing posters for Collier's Street Railway Advertising Company and later for Wanamaker's Department Store.

Held's work appeared in many humorous magazines? Judge, Life, and Collier's, as well as in The New Yorker. He also wrote a syndicated cartoon strip, Merely Marjy, for the Hearst newspapers. His highly stylized drawings captured the spirit of the 1920s;Dancin' in the Jazz Age, a gouache, is an example.

Biography adapted from Springville Museum of Art.

John Held, Jr. was born in 1889, the same year his father, John Held, Sr. formed the fifty-member “Held Band“ that became a Saturday-night fixture on the Liberty Park Bandstand. His mother, Annie Evans Held, was an actress on the stage of the old Salt Lake Theatre, so young “Johnny“ came by his artistic inclinations honestly.

It was reported in Vanity Fair that Held, Jr., as a youngster, had “spent his time drawing in a studio above his father's shop or making sketches and paintings in the theater where his mother was performing.“

John Held, Jr. attended the University of Utah from 1907 to 1909, and while there illustrated the Utonian, the university yearbook. He was also sports' cartoonist for The Salt Lake Tribune. In 1910, with $4 in his pocket, John went to New York to make his fortune in commercial art.

Living first in New York with his friend Mahonri Young, Held found jobs easy to come by at the outset of his career. He initially designed streetcar posters, but quickly advanced to art work for Wanamaker's. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War I. Then after the war, the artist continued his college studies at Princeton, where he was voted “Favorite Artist.“ His best known cartoon character, The Flapper, began to evolve in drawings during those days.

By the end of 1920, a rather pudgy, single-eyed “cutie“ had appeared in the pages of Judge. She went through several stages as she appeared in such publications as Judge, Life, and Collier's, and in a syndicated newspaper strip called Margie. Held continued to work at more personal “easel art,“ (Ma Lives, c. 1924, S.M.A.). However, much of this work did not really surface until after his death.

For John Held, Jr., the crash of 1929 signaled not only the demise of The Flapper, but the destruction of his personal fortune. When Ivar Kreuger's various businesses finally began to fall apart in 1930-31, Held and countless other American investors went down with them.

With his money gone and his most lucrative cartoon character all washed-up, Held simply turned to other, previously untapped talents. Held went to Hollywood in the mid-thirties, and hung out a shingle that read: “Open for screen-writing after 4 years of experience in Hollywood.“ In that same year, he also spent time in Utah giving talks on personal aesthetics at the Art Barn and the Hotel Newhouse. While Held was in the state, a friend and fellow artist, Roscoe Grover, asked the New Yorker what his favorite color was. “Plaid,“ he answered.

Held died on March 2, 1958, in New Jersey.

Biography courtesy Springville Museum of Art.

Books

Armitage, Shelly. John Held Jr. Illustrator of the Jazz Age. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1987.

Chwast, Seymour. S. Heller. The Art of New York. New York, NY: H.N. Abrams, 1983.

Davenport, Ray. Davenport's Art Reference. Ventura, CA: Davenport's Art Reference, 2001.

Dawdy, Doris. Artists of the American West: A Biographical Dictionary. Chicago: Sage Books, 1990.

Doumato, Lamia. American Drawing: a Guide to Information Sources. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Co, 1979.

Dunbier, Lonnie Pierson. ed. The Artists Bluebook: 29,000 North American Artists. Scottsdale, AZ: AskART.com, 2003.

Falk, Peter Hastings. The Annual Exhibition Record of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1989.

Falk, Peter Hastings. Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975: 400 Years of Artists in America. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1999.

Falk, Peter Hastings. Who Was Who in American Art: Compiled from the Original Thirty-four Volumes of American Art Annual--Who's Who in Art, Biographies of American Artists Active from 1898-1947. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1985.

Fielding, Mantle, and Glenn B. Opitz. eds. Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers. 2nd ed. Poughkeepsie, NY: Apollo, 1986.

Gerdts, William H. Art Across America: Two Centuries of Regional Painting, 1710-1920. New York, NY: Abbeville Press, 1990.

Gidley, Mick. A Catalogue of American Paintings in British Public Collections. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter, American Arts Documentation Centre, 1974.

Gilbert, Anne. The Official Identification and Price Guide to American Illustrator Art. New York, NY: House of Collectibles, 1991.

Goodstone, Tony. The Pulps: Fifty Years of American Pop Culture. New York, NY: Chelsea House, 1970.

Goulart, Ron. Encyclopedia of American Comics. New York, NY: Facts on File, 1990.

Held, John. The Watercolors of John Held, Jr. (1889-1958): Cityscapes, Landscapes and Flowers, 1919-1936: [exhibition] December 9, 1981-January 30, 1982. New York, NY: Graham, 1981.

Johnson, Fridolf. Treasury of American Pen-and-Ink Illustration, 1881 to 1938: 236 Drawings by 103 Artists. New York, NY: Dover Publications, 1982.

Lorenz, Lee. The Art of the New Yorker, 1925-1995. New York, NY: A. Knopf: Distributed by Random House, 1995.

Marlor, Clark S. The Society of Independent Artists: the Exhibition Record 1917-1944. Park Ridge, NJ: Noyes Press, 1984.

Meyer, Susan E. America 's Great Illustrators. New York, NY: H. N. Abrams, 1978.

Newark Museum. American Art in the Newark Museum: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture. Newark, NJ: The Museum, 1981.

Olpin, Robert S., William C. Seifrit, and Vern G. Swanson. Artists of Utah. Salt Lake City, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1999.

Pearson, Ralph M. Experiencing American Pictures. New York, NY: London, Harper & Brothers, 1943.

Reed, Walt. The illustrator in America , 1860-2000. New York, NY: The Society of Illustrators: Distributed by Watson-Guptill, 2001.

Robinson, Frank, and L. Davidson. Pulp Culture: the Art of Fiction Magazines. Portland, OR: Collectors Press, 1998.

Stebbins, Theodore E. American Master Drawings and Watercolors: a History of Works on Paper from Colonial Times to the Present. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1976.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Art. Layton, UT: Peregrine Smith Books, 1992.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, and William C. Seifrit. Utah Painting and Sculpture. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1991.

Swanson, Vern G., Robert S. Olpin, Donna Poulton, and Janie Rogers. 150 Years Survey Utah Art, Utah Artists. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 2001.

Todd, Ellen Wiley. The "New Woman" Revised: Painting and Gender Politics on Fourteenth Street. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993.

Tyler, Ron. The Image of America in Caricature & Cartoon. 2nd ed. Fort Worth, TX: Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, 1976.

Periodicals

Illustration. "Exhibitions and Events." Illustration, March 2003.

Illustration. "Exhibitions and Events." Illustration, August 2002.

Noel Carmack. "Before the Flapper: The Utah Beginnings of John Held Jr." Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 66 (Fall 1998): 292-319.

 Last Modified 9/3/14