Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pulp Artists: Al Savitt (and a Wonderful Discovery)

A few months ago I ran a Pulp Artists post on Sam Savitt, the famous equine artists who also did some interior work for various pulp magazines.

A few weeks ago I received a very nice email from Helen Ross-Long. Helen writes:

"I came across your blog today and found it very interesting. My uncle was Sam Savitt, a great equestrian illustrator. My other uncle, Al Savitt, was also a noted artist and illustrator. Though his fame was not as great as Sam, he nevertheless created beautiful artwork."

Here is a photo of Helen and Al, taken from her web site:

As it turns out, Al did a great many more interior illustrations than Sam (at least according to Fiction Mags Index). Al's artwork appeared in FIGHTING WESTERN, THRILLING WESTERN, EXCITING WESTERN, SPEED WESTERN, THE RIO KID WESTERN, and POPULAR WESTERN, among others.

On a hunch, I pulled out the copies of the pulps I have that have Paul Powers' stories from the post-WILD WEST WEEKLY era. What do you know: From my collection, two of Al's illustrations accompany Paul Powers stories!

One is in this THRILLING WESTERN issue from July 1948, accompanying the story "A Pard for Navajo Jack" (which, by the way, is included in the new Paul Powers collection RIDING THE PULP TRAIL):

The other accompany a story "Kid Marshall" in the July 1947 issue of THRILLING WESTERN:

Helen has a wonderful web site dedicated to Al at http://www.oroca.com/savitt/ and she very generously allowed me to copy the biography she has on a website dedicated to her uncle. Here is the biography:

"Alfred Savitt was born to Rose and Hyman Savitz on August 10th, 1922 in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. This was a very close and loving family. Al was the third of four children, Sally, the eldest, Sam, Alfred and Evelyn, the youngest. Alfred and his brother, Sam changed their last name to 'Savitt'.

Al was a quiet child who loved to draw. His artistic ability became apparent at a very young age. He received lots of encouragement, and was influenced greatly by his brother Sam, an exceptionally talented artist. During high school Al was also greatly influenced by an art teacher who helped direct him towards a career in the art field.

In the summer, Al would find jobs in order to pay for his art supplies. A neighbor had a business in which he delivered fresh vegetables to the local community by means of a horse drawn cart. Al worked for this man caring for the horse, cleaning and grooming him. This is probably where his love of the animal began.

Tragedy struck the Savitz family when Evelyn came down with a serious illness and passed away at the age of 13. Al was devastated and suffered a breakdown requiring his hospitalization.

After graduating high school in 1940 Al stayed and worked in Wilkes Barre. He would often travel with his family to Old Forge, Pennsylvania to visit relatives. There he would walk to the local farms and watch the horses, how they cared for their young, how they related to each other and their owner. Al's love of horses grew during these visits, always admiring their beauty and grace.

During the 1940s Al met a man who owned a ranch in Idaho. They became friends and Al was invited to Idaho to work on the ranch. Still mourning the loss of his young sister Evelyn with whom he was very close, he decided to move to Idaho feeling the change would be beneficial. He lived and worked on the ranch for several years, tending to cattle, repairing fences, caring for horses and other ranching jobs.

After he returned to the east, he attended and graduated from Pratt Institute in New York. Al worked and lived with his sister Sally, her husband Leon and their two children Robert and Helen for several years until the late 1950's when his sister moved to a house in upstate New York. He decided to move into Manhattan where he found a small apartment on the east side of the city.

He remained there for many years, meeting people and making connections in the art world. He was able to maintain a comfortable living through his illustrating and painting, always trying to stay within his specialty and, of course, his favorite subject horses.

It was there that he met a woman named Illiana, a known and respected art dealer. Illiana became a mentor to Al, helping him find jobs and promoting his work. Over the years Illiana and Al became very close.

During the span of time Al lived in New York, he illustrated books such as the Jed McLane series, Heroic Horses, What goes on in Horses Heads and many others. He also illustrated a series of western comics through Western Publishing Company. From 1938 to 1962, Western's comics were published with the Dell Comics imprint.

In the mid 1960's Illiana contracted Alzheimers disease. Alfred devoted himself to taking care of her, neglecting his work. As her disease worsened, Al spent more time with her, taking classes on Alzheimers care and attending support groups. He remained by her side, taking on the total responsibility of her nursing care and did so until her death.

Al spent a lot of time visiting his brother Sam, who lived in North Salem, New York and owned a small horse farm. Alfred would travel back and forth from the city, spending more and more time with his brother, helping with the horses but doing very little artwork. After Sam’s death in 2000, Alfred's health deteriorated.

Now approaching the age of 80 and no longer able to properly take care of himself, Al went to live with his nephew Robert, his wife Laura and their son Kyle, where he remained for several years until his condition required close supervision and hospitalization.

In 2001, Alfred was diagnosed with Alzheimers. He passed away in March, 2009. We will always remember a kind, thoughtful and caring person, and a wonderful uncle whose passion was to draw and paint what he loved so much, horses."

I encourage you to go over the the Al Savitt web site and check out his art work. In addition, Helen has compiled a beautiful book of Al's work in a book called HORSES - A LIFE'S WORK, and it's available for sale through the web site.

Thank you, Helen, for contacting me. Another wonderful connection made through the pulp world and the Internet!

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6 comments:

Barry Traylor said...

Very nice post Laurie. Interesting how things connect at times isn't it?

Deka Black said...

The world is a blanket!

Charles Gramlich said...

That's cool. A nice discovery. The illos are cool.

Ron Scheer said...

Wonderful story of a life and of human connections along the way. Thanks.

Cap'n Bob said...

Great connection. I'll check out that site.

Brenda Shirley said...

It really is interesting how things happen- My Father was a great reader of Western Magazines in the 50's and I can remember them lying next to his chair. My elderly neighbor, who is a picker/collector knows that I am always looking for old horse/western art for my tack room. This Christmas he gave me a beautiful Mare-baby print by Al Savitt that he found at an estate auction. As neither one of us had ever heard of Mr. Savitt, this got us both very curious about the artist and led me to a Bing search where I found both your site and the one dedicated to Mr Savitt. There is now a very nice A. Savitt print in Pilot Mountain, NC