Archive, commercial art, Frank Whitmore, paper, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1920-1967
This small archival collection documents a period when illustration was the main source of pictorial information in the press. It documents a period when illustration served the function in magazines that photography went on to served after WWII. The Whitmore archive includes primarily illustrations by Frank Whitmore, but in looking carefully through the publications included in the collection, one finds illustrations by other leading illustrators of the day, including Nell Wilson. Prior to World War 2, Frank Whitmore was one of Sydney's leading commercial artists and illustrators, but Nell Wilson was also much sought after as a leading female illustrator of the day. It is interesting to compare the different styles of these two early Australian illustrators.
The Whitmore collection is a forerunner to the Museum's later graphic design archives holdings which date from the 1930s onwards when the profession of commercial artist/illustrator broadened out to include work with industry (eg exhibitions and trade catalogues), department stores (eg advertising, packaging and labels), general design (eg for textiles, interiors, murals), posters and photography.
Frank and his brother Arthur Whitmore were active as commercial artists during the period 1920 to 1950 and a small archive like this Whitmore archive documents their work in the context of broader material culture of the period covering subject matter from retail promotions for Actil bedlinen, Pyrex homewares and Rinso detergent, through to NSW Government Railways advertisements.
Whitmore's confident handling of a vast range of subjects from sporting events to trains, crowds to portraits, set him apart as one of Sydney's leading pre World War II commercial illustrators. The Art Gallery of New Sotuh Wales (AGNSW) holds a Frank Whitmore drawing of 1923 titled 'Workshop' and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) holds a large commercial art archive and three oil on canvas paintings.
Much of Whitmore's best work was produced as cover art for 'The Sydney Mail'. This journal, printed and published by The Sydney Morning Herald from 1870 through to 1938 (illustrated from 1878), provided readers with news summaries, parliamentary reports, agricultural, musical and theatrical notes, poetry and short stories. In 1938, when 'The Sydney Mail' ceased publication, the editor wrote a note of thanks to Frank Whitmore with the attached note: 'P.S. You set the standard for our art - no doubt about that.'
Anne-Marie Van de Ven, Curator. March 2008
Frank Whitmore (b. Lismore 1905 - d. Sydney 1967). Sydney-based freelance commercial artist.
Brother of Arthur (Bob) Whitmore, co-designer with Douglas Annand of the 1932 Sydney Harbour Bridge poster.
Cleveland Street Boys High School.
J S Watkins art school, early 1920s.
Originally intended to be a painter. Exhibited Royal Art Society annual exhibitions.
Discovered he was colour blind and became a commercial artist.
By 1930s doing regular covers for 'The Sydney Mail'.
Worked for the Griffin Shave advertising agency until it ceased operation during the depression.
Shared rooms/studio with his brother, Arthur (Bob) Whitmore (co-designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge poster with Douglas Annand in 1932), Brian Weakes, Dick Kentwall and Jimmy Dale working as freelance commercial artists.
Member of Black and White Artist's Association.
Won numerous Australian Commercial and Industrial Artist's Association (ACIAA) awards.
(Certificates in MCA archive).
Participated in organizing the Black and White Artists Balls.
1936: Married Valdar Shailer.
1941: Designed his own home and studio at 1 Commodore Street, Waverton and from then on worked from home.
1947: Daughter Lee Whitmore born.
1950: Son Kent Whitmore born.
1950s: Advertising work included work for Nestles. Produced covers and illustrations for 'The Home' and 'Woman's Day'.
Frank Whitmore's brother, Arthur (Bob) Whitmore, was art director at Hansen Rubensohn advertising agency (later taken over by McCann Erickson), for whom Frank Whitmore also produced work. Arthur (Bob) Whitmore had three children, Sonya, Karla and Tanya.
Artwork commissioned by various clients for commercial purposes. Frank Whitmore had a vast picture reference collection which filled four large filing cabinets in the corner of his studio.
Like his contemporaries, Frank Whitmore often used photographs and members of his family as models. Frank Whitmore's brother Arthur (Bob) Whitmore's daughter Karla was the child model (seated on clown's lap) for 'Home' magazine cover design of 7 May 1949. Frank Whitmore's daughter Lee (in pyjamas with book) and her younger brother Kent Whitmore (in pyjamas with teddy bear) model for Frank Whitmore's advertising illustration for the Actil sheets advertisement of the mid-1950s.
Limited documentation exists about this commercial artist apart from that provided by the family and a short biography in McCulloch's Encyclopedia of Australian Art.