Dean Cornwell (1892 - 1960) was a very prolific painter who dominated the illustration industry throughout his career. His oil paintings were featured in notable publications like Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Redbook, and Good Housekeeping, and he painted murals for the Los Angeles Public Library, the Warwick New York Hotel, the U.S. Post Office in Chapel Hill, among others.
He was greatly influenced by his teacher Harvey Dunn and the British muralist Frank Brangwyn, and went on to teach at the Art Students League in New York.
He was the president of the Society of Illustrators from 1922-1926, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1959.
Below is his piece titled “Romance at One”, illustration for the story by Thyra Samter Winslow. The caption reads: “‘I hope they don’t like me,’Molly said. ‘Whatever would he think- my coming to a place like this.’” For Pictorial Review, October 1938. This piece is an oil on illustration board mounted on masonite.
And below is the work in print (notice the additional couple):
The background of this illustration shows a mural by Cornwell from The Raleigh Room, commissioned by William Randolph Hearst for the restaurant inside his Warwick New York hotel. The mural was completed in 1938 and “depicts Sir Walter Raleigh receiving his charter from Queen Elizabeth I in 1584 and Raleigh landing at Roanoke Island” (taken from Murals on 54).
Past president and Co-Chair of the Permanent Collection, Richard Berenson, notes “At the time of Cornwell’s death in 1960, many of his illustrations were destroyed, reportedly by his grief-stricken widow (who also was peeved at his frequent philandering). The story about this particular piece is that she broke it into pieces small enough to fit into the coal-fired furnace but stopped before it went up in flames. When the Society, where Cornwell had been president in the mid-1920s, acquired the art in 1980, it was still in pieces; restoring it was a monumental task. It currently is installed in the Executive Director’s office but will eventially be fitted out with museum glass so that it can hang in public spaces at the Museum.”