An illustrator we don’t get much exposure to anymore: John Osborn. He was not just an illuminator of other people’s texts, but mainly, most importantly, a social critic of penetrating qualities given the social context, mainly Cold War era, he was living in. Osborn was first an artist, and secondly a satirist. If ever a society needed satirists after WWII, who are also artists, his did, and like every good satirist, Osborn bit the hand that needed him. He fit the type of the serious man with an unresting sense of the ridiculous. A pleasant and enthusiastic person who could put his pencil on the commonly unpleasant truths about American society.
Osborn had that talent for transmuting a general observation into a specific truth.He studies painting in Rome, then taught at the Hotchkiss School, then back to Paris to study with Despiau and Othon Friesz. During the war, he created a character named Dilbert , a pilot who made every mistake in the sky and who became as famous in naval air circles as Admiral Nimitz. His first book after discharge, War is No Damn Good! , established him as one of the most furious satirists of his time, striking out at human waste and indignity and at all kinds of simpering self-satisfaction.
…..( see link at end): Years ago, I had a conversation with cartoonist Eddie Fitzgerald and he theorized (quite eloquently, I might add) that the content of Osborn’s work was overshadowed by the sublime beauty of his line. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but the point is well taken—Osborn’s line is that of a master draftsman’s; we’d be more accustomed to seeing such elegant work hanging in an art museum than reprinted in instructional booklets for aviators. Osborn, said art historian Russell Lynes, “has never been one to observe too closely the distinction between cartooning and pure painting.”…
…The real thrill, however, is seeing how Osborn applies that line to the art of cartooning. He doesn’t hesitate to twist and distort forms, caricature expressions, anthropomorphize airplanes, and gag up an idea. And he does it all using a naturally funny and inventive drawing style which evolved to even greater heights in the years following his Navy cartoons. Read More:http://www.cartoonbrew.com/tag/dilbert
Ultimately, Osborn was an artist who cared passionately about the private individual: dignity, sense of adventure, capacity for heroism and fear. Osborn saw American society, this pulse of empire, crushing, emasculating, and seducing the individual with false blandishments of wealth and security, an express train of destruction roaring down the tracks of progress to crush those fighting the good fight.
from his obituary:In 1938, while tutoring students in Austria, he was taken to a Hitler rally, an experience that was burned into his memory. He said, “I was sickened and convinced that before us was a demon,” and he decided to go to war “if that was the only way to rid the world of his evil.” At the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted in the Navy with the hope of becoming an aviator. He was assigned to an information unit under the command of the photographer Edward Steichen and learned the art of speed drawing for training manuals. As a Navy officer, he created a cartoon character named Dilbert, a blunderer who violatedes of military safety. During the war he made 40,000 drawings for Navy training manuals.
In 1946, he achieved his first public recognition for “War Is No Damn Good!”; it was said to be the first antiwar book of the nuclear age. He went on to draw for Harper’s, Fortune, Life and Look, and became a regular contributor to The New Republic. Read More:http://www.nytimes.com/1994/12/22/obituaries/robert-osborn-is-dead-at-90-caricaturist-and-satirist.html?pagewanted=2&src=pm