The editors of Liberty magazine, which first appeared on the newstand in 1924, prided themselves on innovation - any innovation that would broaden their readership. One of their most successful and appealing ideas was the "continuity cover", and the artist who took the assignment was LESLIE THRASHER (1889-1936). For six years, Thrasher created a cover a week for $1,000 each, depicting the lives of a middle-class couple and their extended family, from their high school romance to a well-heeled middle age. Entitled "For The Love o' Lil", the series was the prototype for the soap opera and its popularity warranted adaptations to radio and the big screen.

Thrasher was a populist almost in spite of his fine arts training in Philadelphia and Paris; he even used himself as the model for the husband in the "Lil" series. He was certainly one of Howard Pyle's most commercially successful students. He did ads for Chesterfield Cigarettes, Cream of Wheat and DuPont, and by the time he left Liberty, he had produced more cover paintings than Norman Rockwell did in his whole career at the Saturday Evening Post.

His pictures are relatively spare, composed around a compelling action or an object rich with meaning - an engagement ring, for instance. Thrasher and Rockwell, while they were opposite numbers in rival publications, did share a view of America as a nation bound by humor, common sense and altruism.       - J. P.


[Magazine cover: Liberty, September 12, 1931; oil on canvas, 19.75 x 16.75"]