A website devoted to the rediscovery of the works of early 20th century illustrator Henry E. Vallely (1881-1950). Perhaps best known for his chiaroscuro technique employed in Big Little Books, he also produced a large volume of work including fashion illustrations for women's magazines, spot illustrations for food periodicals, magazine covers and children's books. His art is distinctive and timeless and deserves the recognition that has until this time eluded it. Comments and contributions towards the preservation of the H. E. Vallely legacy are most welcome. All images are believed to be in the public domain unless otherwise noted.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Wanna Buy a Duck?

In 1934, arguably at the height of his popularity, radio star Joe Penner was featured in his own book for Goldsmith Publishing's Radio Star Series. Similar to Big Little Books, the 64 page publication alternated pages of text by Harold Sherman with illustrations by Henry Vallely in a 5" x 5 1/8" x 1/2" format. Penner's catchphrase was "Wanna buy a duck?", hence the book's title Joe Penner's Duck Farm. This particular page (39) was acquired through eBay for just over $40 in March of 2006 - a steal!

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Early Years

Presented here is the cover of What-To-Eat, Book Thirteen, No. Two from August of 1902 and it's the earliest work of Henry Vallely I've been able to track down. A mere 21 at the time he was apparently already capable of producing a large volume of work on a regular basis, as evidenced by the additional 21 spot illustration within the magazine. His style was still being developed, for though he favored a heavy use of black ink, his line work is looser and sketchier than it would become once he started working for Whitman.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Secret Origins of Batman Part 2

Today we return to 1938s Gang Busters In Action (BLB 1451) and two panels (pages 57 and 49) which it's safe to say were somewhat influential to the Batman mythos. The bottom panel is again from Detective Comics #33 (November, 1939) which was the first appearance of Batman's origin. For years Bob Kane was given sole credit for the art, but in the recently released Batman Chronicles Volume One he finally shares credit with Sheldon Moldoff on inks. Careful observers will note that the same pose of the killer (Joe Chill) made an earlier appearance in Detective Comics #27 (May, 1939) on the second page, bottom, middle panel. For that issue Bob Kane maintains sole art credit. To this day Henry E. Vallely receives none.
Bruce Wayne, Thomas Wayne, Martha Wayne and Joe Chill are all © DC Comics

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Oomph Girl

Ann Sheridan was known for being cast as either the girl next door or the tough broad, and in this opening illustration for Ann Sheridan and the Sign of the Sphinx (Whitman Authorized Edition 2390, 1943), Henry Vallely chose to portray the former trait. As John Pansmith pointed out in his article for the Big Little Times, "He also had an uncommon knack for drawing easily recognizable movie stars and celebrities and fitting them in amid fictional characters". Vallely was able to demonstrate this in the fourteen Whitman Authorized Editions produced between 1942 and 1947 featuring celebrities of the day such as Shirley Temple, Jane Withers and Gregory Peck.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Always Front Laced

The notion of beauty has certainly evolved over the years, and in the first two decades of the 20th century the corset was still used to define it. Vallely produced at least 12 illustrations for the Modart Corset Company between 1918 and 1926, and the one above (from Pictorial Review of October 1920) is perhaps the most unusual. Rather than a portrait of a sophisticated socialite, this ad portrays more of an ethereal fantasy; a Romanesque goddess gently caressing a globe as a torch blazes behind her.
For years I was only aware of Valley's drawings for Big Little Books and Authorized Editions and had no clue as to his experience in advertising illustration, but in May of 2002 John Pansmith published an article in the Big Little Times which revealed the up to that point unknown history of Henry Valley. Through detective work that would make Batman proud, Pansmith had uncovered Vallely’s full name (Henry McKee Eustice Vallely), his year of birth and death (1881-1950) and compiled a list of all his known illustrations. Through the Big little Times’ founder and editor, Larry Lowery, I got in touch with Mr. Pansmith and began a correspondence. Together we’ve discovered several lost Vallely treasures and he’s been an indispensable aid in my quest for all things Vallely, this advertisement for Modart being one of them.
Thanks John!

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