AL PARKER (1906-1985) was the artist who defined the progressive look of illustration from the 1940s through the '60s. He created an idealized reflection of the "Baby Boom" generation with his series of covers for The Ladies' Home Journal in which Mother and Daughter wear matching outfits and enjoy life together. Millions of readers, mostly women, followed his inventive story illustrations in the major magazines. Parker's innovative point of view always made his work stand out from that of other illustrators, and he constantly varied his style and mediums to best fit the requirements of the assignment. His pictures were full of personal touches using carefully selected props and gestures in a manner that invited a closer look. Readers took pleasure in their discovery. He was also a trend setter; his models were depicted in the latest fashions inspiring his readers to follow.
Other illustrators were quick to respond to his success. By their following his lead, Parker inadvertently created a whole new "school" of illustration. While flattering, this was not an entirely welcome situation. There came to be so many look-alikes that it was difficult for Parker to keep ahead of them. One of the motivations for his ever-evolving style was to keep his identity separate, as his works, once published, often provided "inspiration" for a coterie of followers. He complained that he could only stay one month ahead of the pack, but his far-reaching influence provided self-inspiration; he was at his best while others were nipping at his heels. Parker once laid down the gauntlet by illustrating an entire issue of Cosmopolitan using a different style (and pseudonym) for each story.
Al Parker flourished at the end of the era when illustration had its greatest influence. Parker's work will continue to be remembered for its importance in the history of American illustration, quite apart from the transience of its original publication.