6.29.2009

Who Was Abner Graboff?

The Sun Looks Down


Abner Graboff is one of those artists who's fallen through the cracks of time. An enigma, if you want to call him that. Not a whole lot written about him, and what little there is, well, there's not much to glean from. I first found out about him through my Flickr group, The Retro Kid. On there, illustrator Eric Sturdevant had posted some fantastic pages from several of Graboff's books. I immediately made a mental note to remember this artist and his brilliant use of shapes and color, as well as overall design. Soon afterwards, I stumbled upon a book written by Miriam Schlein and illustrated by Graboff titled, "The Sun Looks Down". The dust jacket was literally falling apart, but still somewhat intact. Reading the inside back flap, I found a brief bio for the artist:

ABNER GRABOFF is a young artist, well-known in the field of commerical art, who makes his bow to the world of children's books with his pictures for "The Sun Looks Down".

When asked to tell the publisher something about his hobbies, Mr. Graboff said his only hobby was painting. The fact that he enjoys his work shows clearly in the humor and wit and careful attention to detail in these pictures.

Miss Schlein worked closely with Mr. Graboff when his pictures were still in the planning stage and feels that he has caught her mood perfectly.


The copyright for the book is dated 1954. Here are some spreads:

The Sun Looks Down 2
The Sun Looks Down 3
The Sun Looks Down 4
The Sun Looks Down 5
The Sun Looks Down 6
The Sun Looks Down 7
The Sun Looks Down 8

Notice how Graboff utilizes the space in each spread. I'd like to contribute this to his background in design. He was listed as designer and artist for a few notable ads featured in graphic design annuals around the time, but I couldn't find much more on him. There's no way of telling if Abner started in graphic design and then moved onto children's books, or did the books as an aside, or how long he illustrated children's books, etc. The inside dust jacket of "Sun Looks Down" didn't really tell me anything, save for the fact that he was known for his commercial work and that this was his first book.

Well, now we can know. Even though Abner passed away in 1986, I was able to contact his son, Jon, and ask him a few questions about his father's life and work. Jon Graboff is an established musician and producer, having played with Ryan Adam's band, The Cardinals, among a wide variety of artists. Jon took time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions, most of which probably bordered on fan boy obsession. I'm forever indebted to Jon for doing this for me, as well as for the multitude of current Abner Graboff fans who've longed for more information about this intriguing artist who's touched so many lives with his lively body of work.

Throughout this week I'll feature the interview as well as showcase some books that Abner had illustrated throughout his career. Stay tuned!

Next:
The Art & Life of Abner Graboff: Part 1 of my interview with Jon Graboff. Jon shares some fascinating stories, along with family photos.
The Art & Life of Abner Graboff Part 2

More on Abner can be found here:
My Abner Graboff Flickr set
Abner Graboff in The Retro Kid
Abner Graboff on Biotope (Japanese site)

7 comments:

  1. Ward, Thank you for sharing these illustrators with us. I love finding "new" artists from times past. I look forward to seeing the interview.

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  2. He also illustrated this house ad for Modern Plastics magazine --
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/scrubbles/112956951/

    Cuuute.

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  3. Thanks for posting that, Matt! I remember seeing that at one point on Mid-Century Illustration. Very cool ad.

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  4. Ward, this is a well-timed godsend-- I grew up with Abner Graboff but never knew his name. We had his book of "I Know an Old Lady..." which I remember vividly. I just taught that song to my kids a few weeks ago and they loved it. Now I know which version of the book to look for.

    Thanks!

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  5. Great stuff! Who published "The Sun Looks Down"?

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  6. Just arrived via time travel...I have confused his work with Stig L. several times in the past. LOVE his work, and your blog.

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