John Held, Jr. and the Jazz Age. (Newsview)

USA TODAY, August 2002 | Go to article overview

John Held, Jr. and the Jazz Age. (Newsview)


If ever an artist's work defined a particular era, it was that of Roaring Twenties illustrator John Held, Jr., whose creations set the standard for--and gently ribbed--a generation. More than any other artist of his time, Held expressed in his pictures the bold spirit of the Jazz Age. It was a time of bustling commerce, booming enterprises, and engaging recreation. Society's elite were dining at Sardi's in New York; the adventurous were doing the Charleston and the shimmy in dance marathons; and the flapper was in full vogue, out and about in pursuit of a good time. Chronicling it all for magazine readers coast-to-coast was Held.

His highly stylized illustrations are the centerpiece of "John Held, Jr. and the Jazz Age," an exhibition that follows Held's career through the heyday of his successes as a leading illustrator for the most-popular magazines of the times. While his drawings were published in such publications as Life and Judge, it was his work for the fledgling magazine The New Yorker that established Held in the eyes of the nation. His depictions of Betty Coed, the prototypical "flapper" (along with her gentleman friend, Joe College), became the quintessential definition of the decade's "flaming youth. …

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