Will Bradley’s Art of Art Direction
Typographer, illustrator, printer, poster designer, magazine art director, writer, architect, filmmaker, small business owner and entrepreneur: Will Bradley (1868-1962) exemplifies the breadth and range of design in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth century, when he first came to notice for the covers and advertisements he made for the Chicago magazines, The Inland Printer and The Chap-Book. It is this work in the graphic arts for which he is best known, but Bradley arguably made as profound an impact on American design in his role as art director for the magazines that William Randolph Hearst acquired as he expanded his publishing empire. Commissioning art, revamping layouts, and so on, Bradley shaped the look of the popular magazine at a key moment in its history, when an influx of advertising revenue and advances in printing technologies made magazines an attractive artistic outlet. I explore how Bradley’s graphic design sensibility informed these activities and later migrated to the medium of silent film when he began overseeing Hearst’s motion picture serials and founded his own production company. My goal is not only to piece together these understudied aspects of Bradley’s output and to hopefully offer a fuller picture of his significance to the history of design. I also want to use his work to think through the mechanics of intermedial translation with respect to early-twentieth-century commercial practice, testing out ideas that are central to my current book project, The Commercial Imagination: American Illustration and the Materialities of the Market, 1890-1930.
Respondent: Neil Harris, University of Chicago
The Chicago: City of Commerce and Design, 1890-1990 Seminar is part of Art Design Chicago, an exploration of Chicago’s art and design legacy, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art with presenting partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.