jacques kapralik

January 1, 2009

Most illustrators crave a wide audience and feel that the larger the number of people who see- and appreciate- their work, the better. Usage fees often depend on the number of eyeballs (to use a web term) that land on their reproduced artwork. More eyeballs equals more money.

The idea that your illustrative light should be placed under a self-imposed bushel is an anathema to most illustrators. Lenny Bruce was, I think, right: all artists are saying “Look at me, Ma!”

Spare a thought then for Jacques Kapralik. Although this quirky caricaturist (born- like Steinberg and François- in Romania) worked from the 30s to the 50s for film studios like Paramount, 20th Century Fox and MGM when they were at the height of their powers, most of his work was only seen within the trade, not on the public hoardings that advertised the films these studios made. Inside the movie world he was regarded as a genius; outside it was a different story.

His work is carefully crafted (with the emphasis on craft) and simply, but sharply observed. He used collages made of wool, plastic, fabrics, various kinds of printed papers and sundry found items to generate his clean, precise caricatures. The artwork is always in colour, even if the films being promoted aren’t.

I presume he was well paid, but I wonder if the person who photographed his work was paid more or less than he was…One of the reasons Roger Law and Peter Fluck gave up doing illustrative three dimensional caricatures and started their television puppet show Spitting Image was that the person who photographed their plasticine creations for reproduction (the talented John Lawrence Jones) was paid more than they were for creating the monsters…Perhaps Hollywood was different….?

Oooh, look. Is that a pig flying by the window?

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Honky Tonk, MGM, 1941 (Clark Gable and Lana Turner)

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Babes on Broadway, MGM, 1941 (Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. The latter is not to be confused with Macaroni, a kind of pasta dish)

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Johnny Eager, MGM, 1942 (Robert Taylor and Lana Turner)

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Rio Rita, MGM, 1942 (Bud Abbott and Lou Costello)

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Random Harvest, MGM, 1942 (Ronald Colman and Greer Garson)

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I Married An Angel, MGM, 1942 (Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald)

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Woman of the Year, MGM, 1942 (Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy)

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Keep Your Powder Dry, MGM, 1945 (Susan Peters, Laraine Day, Lana Turner)

As ever, with this new ‘improved’ WordPress format, you have to click on the images below to see a bigger version of the illustration!


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5 Responses to “jacques kapralik”

  1. Jay Lesiger Says:

    I just found your Kapralik blog. I have been a serious collector of his posters and reproductions for many years, and it is a shame that no one has collected his work (who owns it at this point?) and published it in book form. Any thoughts on this?

    • sharrock Says:

      Hi Jay,

      Glad to find someone else who likes Kapralik! You are right about his comparative neglect; it is a pity as his work is so distinctive. The images I posted come from ‘The Lost Artwork of Hollywood’ book by Fred E. Basten. Presumably the title of the book is an indication of where the originals are(n’t)… As Kapralik was employed throughout his career by the big Hollywood studios (Paramount, Twentieth-Century Fox, MGM) I would imagine the contract gave them ownership of the artwork and that it is in their archives, somewhere. The images in Basten’s book are clean and sharp, so I don’t know if they came from the actual artwork (which must have been delicate and have aged somewhat over the years). You can see more Kapralik here:

  2. Monte Kniffen Says:

    There is a sizeable collection of his original work at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming. I worked with the collection when I was employed there as an archivist in the late 1990s.

    Go to “http://www.oclc.org/worldcat/default.htm” and search “745900654” to see the catalog entry.

    As I recall, there were many originals in the collection. They were in shadowbox-style enclosures and still in pretty good shape. The collection also included many covers he did for Pictorial Review and other pubs. Interestingly, there were many artifact boxes filled with his props (miniature teacups, lamps, clocks, candlesticks, etc…) that he used in his creations.

  3. ralph l. seifer Says:

    I worked as a copyboy for the Los Angeles Examiner from 1951 to 1955, and had occasion to convey one or two of Mr. Kapralik’s very elegant artworks from Editorial to the Mechanical Department, where they were photographed for reproduction purposes.

    I frequently saw his work in the Sunday edition of the Examiner, but I recall the original works NEVER lingered long in the office.

    The works appeared on the cover of whatever the Sunday section was, but I cannot recall the name of that particular part of the paper.

    I don’t know where they ended up eventually, though I suspect they may have landed somewhere in the Hearst family.

    The one or two items I carried were incredibly interesting and delicate, and they jiggled mightily and flexed and danced as the artwork was being carried.

    I had longed hoped that they might appear on the public market, but I’ve never seen a single one since they originally published.

    I regret I never had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman..


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