Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Art in ad land

The cover of Esquire featuring Muhammad Ali as St. Sebastian was created 40 years ago by legendary American ad guy George Lois. At the time Ali was waiting for his appeal to be heard by the Supreme Court having refused military service in Vietnam as a conscientious objector. (He was sentenced to five years of jail for draft evasion).

Lois had been roped in to create covers to raise the readership of the magazine which had flagged since a flying start during the great depression as a classic raunchy man’s mag. Lois was also responsible for other great Esquire art covers including one for an article on the death of the avant-garde in 1969. Warhol and the soup can were shot separately and merged in what we would now call a Photoshop situation. Lois’s covers helped raise Esquire’s circulation from half a million to ten million over ten years. He was with Esquire from 1962 to 1972.

Images: Left illustration for the cover story The Passion of Muhammad Ali. Left top, Andy Warhol features on the May 1960 cover story The final decline and total collapse of the American avant-garde, bottom right, August 1963 Lois cover featuring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s romance on the set of Cleopatra.