M(ichael) Leone Bracker was the artist who painted the cover illustration for the first issue of Adventure magazine, for the serial novel “Yellow Men and Gold” by the author Gouverneur Morris. He was a prominent magazine and advertising illustrator who was well known for his war poster designs.
|Ilustrator M. Leone Bracker c. 1912|
He was born on October 28, 1885 in Cleveland, Ohio. As a child, he was interested in art and at fifteen, he was director of a little neighborhood art school Boys and girls were invited to his home where he taught them, and once a week prizes were given for honor work.
The Cleveland School of Art awarded him a scholarship at the age of fifteen. He graduated quickly and went to New York to attend the Art Student’s League. He was shortly made the youngest member on the board of control; a significant honor for a young artist.
After graduation, he joined an advertising agency. After seven months he was discharged as he “didn’t seem to fit in”. After a period of introspection, he decided to create a portfolio of samples and made the round of magazine art directors. He broke through to the slicks with an appearance in Collier’s Magazine in 1907, illustrating F. Marion Crawford’s “The Screaming Skull”, a horror story.
|M. Leone Bracker's illustration for the story The Screaming Skull by F. Marion Crawford|
In 1910, he did the cover for the first issue of Adventure magazine, illustrating the story “Yellow Men and Gold”, by Governeur Morris. The original painting has survived and was recently restored – a story that you can read here.
|M. Leone Bracker cover painting for Adventure magazine, November 1910|
After a few years, Bracker was approached by an advertising agent, a man who wanted him to do a series of illustrations for a campaign. After that, Bracker did illustrations for many campaigns - Velvet Tobacco, General Motors, Hoover Vacuums, Cream of Wheat, Prudential Insurance, Pillsbury’s Flour, Brunswick Billiards and Life Savers were some of the clients.
|M. Leone Bracker's illustration for Cream of Wheat advertisement - "His first adventure"|
Before and during World War 1, he did posters for the War – raising funds for Near East Relief, War Bonds and Liberty Bonds. “Keep ‘Em Smiling” was his most famous poster, done for the War Camp Community Service, an organization dedicated to improving morale of soldiers by providing them entertainment avenues.
He used a model for every character he depicted and didn’t depend on studio models, instead going out and “digging up” his own models. In most instances, the models had never posed earlier. If he needed to draw a longshoreman, he persuaded a real longshoreman to pose in the studio.
He generally worked with pencil or crayon or charcoal on paper. His studio on the top floor of 644 West Riverside Drive, New York was well stocked with many historical costumes and collecting of rare and valuable antiques. They were often used in connection with stories, or advertising illustrations.
On August 26, 1937, while on a picnic with his wife and daughter he slipped, hit his head on a stone and drowned in about 4 feet of water, in Rye, New Hampshire.