Artist Frank Soltesz (1912- 1986) was probably unknown outside the commercial art and publishing world he worked in all his life but his lasting legacy now seems to be these stunning cutaway illustrations he painted between 1947 and 1951 for Armstrong Cork. The only background details available seem to be from his son’s website created in 2008. Here, Ken Soltesz, reveals his dad’s life as an illustrator. During the war years he had a deferment because of essential war work doing technical illustrations of aircraft for various defense manufacturers.
After the war Soltesz went freelance and used an artists agent to generate commissions. One of these was Armstrong Cork who wanted ad illustrations to show how their products were used. I thought it odd that these ads, which ran in the Saturday Evening Post, were for a company that didn’t directly sell anything to the public. To get round this and get the ads looked at complex cutaway illustrations were used and clearly who better than Frank Soltesz to do them. His son says 29 were produced for Armstrong though I’ve only managed to find twenty-five. Cleverly each ad picture was in a frame and titled and readers could send off for a 21 by 22 inch copy, as the ad says ‘suitable for framing’. Later ads in the series offered a free booklet with thirteen of the cutaways.
The amount of detail in these paintings is incredible and a nice touch, I thought, are the number of pedestrians walking past these plants. An obvious question is how long did each painting take from initial rough to the finished art…we’ll probably never know. Also, what happened to them once they had appeared in the ads? I class Soltesz as a unique talent: the king of the popular cutaways (rather than the technical type) in the same creative league as Carl Evers who painted amazing cityscapes of Philadelphia. Featured in Illustrations 3, December 2011.
|This copy is typical of what the ads said, it mostly keyed into the numbered diagram. The ad appeared in the Saturday Evening Post March 12, 1949.|