Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pete Hawley: Cute, Commercial, Cool

It was 1972, and I was in Second Grade. I held in my hands what was possibly the best Valentine I had ever received. It was big. It was colorful. Its artwork was head and shoulders above any other card I had ever seen. A regal lion, full of character and personality, dressed royally, looked sleepily, almost smugly, out at me. I didn't know it, but I held in my hand a sample of the work of Pete Hawley, who at the time was nearing the end of his life and work.

Pete Hawley (1916-1975) has been called the "King of Cute." This wonderful commercial artist and illustrator in his time produced movie posters, album covers, magazine illustrations, advertising campaigns, and greeting cards, including the Valentine I so admired. Most of his work during the Fifties and early Sixties was characterized by what can be termed "an innocent, wholesome sexuality," most amply showcased for his work for Jantzen, a clothing company. It was during the late Sixties and Seventies that he turned more and more to the endearing, cartoonish images that I and my generation came to know as we were growing up.

Pete Hawley does not have his own page or site dedicated to him, not even a Wikipedia entry. Most of what I could find out about him was spread out over several posts at http://todaysinspiration.blogspot.com/ .
This is a shame, as I think his artwork exemplifies a certain aspect of childhood and youth in the Sixties, even going so far as to maybe have shaped it to a some degree. He is, to me, an icon of nostalgia in its best sense.


Babel said...

It is a pity he is not more recognized and collected-I'd love to check out more of his stuff-particularly the 'funny animal' stuff- congrats on tracing down this wonderful artist!

Mandy Hawley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Germ? said...

I'm so glad you took the time to write this up! When I as younger I got my first Hawley print (1993ish) I could not find any information on who painted it (Very Pre-Internet) Honestly I didnt even learn his name until 2005 but I continued to collect more of his work over the years. His art has influenced my own painting style so much. I only wish I could say thank you to Him. Some years ago I had found a print he did of a Kitten putting on make-up for a date. I enjoyed that print so much I have it Tattooed on my ribs 12inches tall. Good thing I did because I have since misplaced the print and The Picture is one of his harder pieces to find. but every day I get to look at this perfect recreation of his work and feel happy when I see it. His work always seemed to come alive, like you could hear them baing happy. Its a joy every time I look at his work! thanks again for doing this.

Mandy Hawley said...

I love finding these sites with wonderful words. I am married to Pete's grandson, Ty Hawley. Susan Hawley, Pete's daughter is my mother in law and we have all enjoyed the recent sales of these pieces as we see what joy it has brought to many! Thank you!