From 1922 until her death in 1936, Ellen Pyle created 40 covers for The Saturday Evening Post. She would first paint small studies (about 10 inches by 14 inches) of ideas she had for cover designs and take them by train to Philadelphia to be reviewed by editor George Lorimer. If he approved a study, Ellen would then re-create the painting on a larger scale (usually around 20 inches by 36 inches) and then take the larger painting back to Philadelphia for production. All these paintings—studies and “production” pieces—were done in oil on artist board.
In the early 1920s, her covers featured a portrait of an attractive woman. However, as the style of the Post evolved, Ellen created designs that had their own inherent story, like the cover from March 16, 1935, which depicts three children about to poke a stick into a hornet’s nest. She often used her children or neighbors for models. Please see the models page for more information.
The Saturday Evening Post still owns the copyright to these images. To see them, please visit their artist gallery.
Fun fact: One of Ellen Pyle’s “production” paintings appeared on episode #1603 of the Antiques Roadshow in Tucson, Arizona (Hour 3), in 2007. The painting was the cover design for The Saturday Evening Post for March 28, 1936, and it was her last published piece. Unfortunately, Antiques Roadshow no longer has the video clip of this appraisal available on their archives.
Super fun fact: In August 1927, Ellen Pyle received this hand-written letter from Norman Rockwell: