The Versatile (and Unknown) Lou Peters
Matt, of Scrubbles fame reminded me recently of an artist that I had planned on writing about several years ago but completely forgot, thanks to the many gaps in my aging brain. Back when I was just starting to collect vintage cookbooks and booklets for all the fun and whimsical artwork that filled their pages, I noticed that I'd find some of the same books over and over again. And the Good Housekeeping Cookbook series was a big repeat offender. Like Ray Conniff albums at a thrift store, you'd see them everywhere. I began to wonder about these cookbooks: were they incredibly popular or complete duds? Surpisingly, they possessed some of the more engaging illustrations you could find within this sub-culture of art. They must've offered some mighty good money back then to the artists because each volume (there's over 20) is covered from front to back in wonderful two-color illustrations, all completely different, and -- here's the kicker for me -- all with artist credit! Unbelievable.
As I began to collect this particular series, I noticed that a few had similar styles and, upon further investigating, found out that three were illustrated by the same guy: Lou Peters. These three GHK volumes have always been high on my list of favorites in this series, mainly for the sophistication that Lou put into each cookbook. And what's even more interesting for me is that each were done in a style wildly different from the other. There were some similarities as to how he posed the characters, the way that he would draw the female figure (in your typical glamorous atomic housewife way), that were unmistakable to my eye. But for the most part, the overall feel and style of each of these cookbooks were unique and original unto themselves.
So who was this Lou Peters? I wish I could tell you. No one knows. Doing a Google search on the man will bring up nada. Was he a member of any illustrator society or organization? If so, there's a good chance that there'll be a bio on him. But finding this out requires time and energy -- both of which is in short supply for me. If anyone out there could help me out here, that'd be great. I'd love to know more about the guy.
In the meantime, enjoy Lou's artwork for the Good Housekeeping Cookbook series in my Lou Peters Illustrations Flickr set.
Here's a glance at the three Good Housekeeping cookbooks he illustrated:
Click on each image to view larger.
The Summertime Cook Book was the more fun of the three. The characters are more cartoony and stylized, but still infused with Lou's sophistication:
Quick 'N' Easy was the more outlandish one, with bold black used against bold colors. The lines were bigger and more harsh, in an attempt to have a more "modern" feel to the cookbook. If you notice, there's a definite attitude being expressed in the look of the women. In fact, that's Lou's stronghold -- the way he depicts the female figure in all these illustrations. There's a possible chance that he did some fashion illustration at one point?
Last, but not least, is the Appetizer Book, with Lou taking a more elegant and polished approach here. His brush strokes are simple, yet refined. The colors are not as harsh in this cookbook, softened by being sponged on and set against a light gray. And every single woman looks as if they stepped out of a swank fashion magazine. The guys can't compare to the glitzy housewives in this cookbook!
There's more that I scanned, so check out the entire set.
Check out Matt's Flickr set of The New England Cookbook that Lou illustrated. Here's a great example of how Lou expertly utilized the entire page -- great composition and excellent use of the two-color press.
Also, be sure to check out fellow mid-century illustration lover Carol's Flickr -- there's more from Lou's GHK cookbooks in her Illustration/Advertising set.
And please, if anyone has more information about Lou Peters, let me know. You would make me a very happy man.
UPDATE: Nothing on the guy, yet. But my own mother has done some detective work, even going so far as to calling Good Housekeeping in New York. (They said that anyone who worked at GHK during the 50's and 60's wouldn't be here anymore. Umm, duh.) She also contacted the Society of Illustrators, and they don't have anything on the guy. (Thanks for the sleuth work, Mama!)
There are a few more venues to try out. Does anyone have a copy of Walt Reed's Illustrator in America? If so, let me know if Lou Peters is listed. (Probably not, at this rate.) Another option: does anyone have a copy of the latest Who's Who of American Art? See if he's in that volume as well. (Again, probably not, but worth a shot.) Thanks!