As the Great Depression came to a close, before World War II truly became the world’s war, American pop culture was rife with harmonious images. Looking at pictures from the Norman Rockwell era you’d think life had never been better in the States. From magazines to newspapers, everyone was in on the joke of this era of realism. More likely reflective of the hopes and dreams of the American people than the lives they were truly living, the beauty in this style was that it was able to accurately capture moments in time, a smile between a parent and child or the tender touch of a doctor adding a band-aid to the young patient’s dog to match his own. There are thousands of these moments that go unrecognized in the span of a lifetime but, for this generation of artists, it was their life’s work to capture them.
Fans of this era in art know the name Hy Hintermeister is synonymous with the style and feel of this cultural shift. Hy is a sudname for two men, John Henry Hintermeister, and his son Henry. The elder Hintermeister was born in Winterthur, Switzerland in 1869. After completing his education at the University of Zurich, where he studied in the Zurich Museum of Art School, he immigrated to the United States. In New York he found work as a courtroom artist for the local paper.
As he became known for his illustrations his workload expanded to include magazine covers as well as calendar art for a multitude of companies. As his life and family grew, his son Henry followed in his footsteps. Henry was born in 1897 and studied at the Art Students League of New York.
Father taught son and together they teamed up under a signal pseudonym. Both artists signed their work Hy Hintermeister and most art professionals find it difficult to tell their marks apart. The duo worked together until John’s passing in 1945. Henry continued to create calendar paintings under the name Hy into the 1960s. As an artist, Henry went on to be known for both his historical and animal-inspired paintings before his own death in 1972.
Together the father/son team created more than 1,000 illustrations under the name Hy Hintermeister. Because the duo preferred the medium of children much of their work reflected their subjects, often being described as funny and unexpected. Many of their works have been made into jigsaw puzzles and several pieces have been reproduced as prints. Included in their collection are a variety of wonderful baseball illustrations that were created between 1938-1943 for a variety of calendar companies.
Today their original works auction in the range of $2,000-$4,000 with their prints and reproductions averaging $30. Both are easily found online in a variety of art auction houses. Their work is considered highly collectible because of the humor in the pieces.
In the introduction to the book Participatory Sportswriting, Zachary Michael Jack said, “Hintermeister exquisitely captures the ebb and flow of a sporting life.” Named one of the most influential and important illustrators of American art in the 20th century Hy Hintermeister was, by all accounts, a well-respected art team.
One of their baseball pieces, The Sandlot Oil, is currently up for auction. The 30x22 canvas is expected to sell in the range of $2,000-$4,000. To see the full collection of their baseball-inspired pieces, visit our Pinterest board.