James Montgomery Flagg Biography

Flagg was born in Pelham Manor, New York in 1877. A child prodigy, Flagg sold his first illustration to St. Nicholas Magazine at the age of twelve. At fifteen, he was a staff artist for both Judge and Life magazines, two of the nation’s most successful periodicals.

While studying in England, Flagg saw works by John Singer Sargent and went through a period of wanting to be a portrait artist. He soon realized he wanted more choice in subject matter and returned to illustrations.  

Early in his career Flagg's "girls" (ever hear of Gibson girls? Flagg was strongly influenced by Sargent & Gibson, apparently) were popular-- as personifications of the US, France and Britain.

However, his "men" in uniform were even more effective: encouraging Americans to enlist in the military. When the US entered the war in April 1917, he worked with the government's Division of Pictorial Publicity. When the war was over, he turned his attention to Hollywood--- primarily comedies. In Perfectly Fiendish Flanagan, he poked fun at the predictability of silent cowboy filmstar, William S. Hart.

He did sketches of Gary Cooper, Marlene Dietrich and became great friends with John Barrymore (yep kids, Drew's grandad) but became baffled by it all, and the appeal of modern art as well. He hated Picasso and had a straight-forward opinion of the artistic process:

First you have a hell of a lot of talent, then... experience [...knowlege and taste] then you have understanding, intuition, imagination, craftsmanship, red blood, philosophy, a fine canvas, the best paints and some one or something that demands your entire concentration. --(from Roses and Buckshot, Flagg's autobiography).