Gladys Rockmore Davis

(1901-1967) American Illustrator.

Gladys Rockmore Davis enjoyed a successful, diverse career in illustration and popular figurative painting. Born in New York, raised across Canada then in San Francisco, she studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, most notably with George Bellows. 

Her working years included two successful stretches as a commercial illustrator: first in advertising and fashion, during the 20s; then again from the late 40s to the end of her life, especially in advertising. In between these two periods, Gladys painted inward-looking social realist pictures, often of her young children.  

Her first commercial gig was at Grauman Brothers Advertising in Chicago, where she did fashion catalogue work. Gladys stood out as the only woman on an otherwise all-male staff. She caught the eye of Floyd Davis, the leading illustrator at Grauman, with whom she began a relationship on the down-low. When Davis' production plummeted the romance came to light, leading to Gladys' dismissal. 

Undeterred, she built a freelance practice as the couple made plans to marry. Having done so, in 1932 the pair made off for Europe, where they remained a year. Upon returning to New York, Gladys–suddenly off her commercial game–headed for the Art Students League, to study with painter George Grosz, Thus began a decade's worth of gallery painting. 

Among her better-known published projects was one she undertook with husband Floyd for LIFE magazine in 1944 and 45. The two were dispatched to liberated Paris to document the recovering city.

In the late 40s Gladys returned to commercial practice, becoming a featured artist for major companies like Upjohn, Elgin Watches, and Johnson & Johnson. The ad reproduced here, of one child bandaging another, was typical of its highly successful campaign. These paintings (there are many) have a sort of folk-art-meets-Ben-Shahn sensibility, with a dash of cartoon and maybe Brueghel thrown in. They were commissioned in 1948. 

Gladys Rockmore Davis, Cover Illustration. Ladies' Home Journal. November 1947.

Gladys Rockmore Davis, Johnson & Johnson Ad, Ladies Home Journal, circa 1950.