Saturday, October 15, 2016

Young A.B. FROST & Out of the Hurly-Burly

The “comic artist,” as I take it, is the artist who draws what are known in the profession as “comics,” pure and simple — pictures that are true to nature and funny at the same time. — H.C. Bunner

by John Adcock

YOUNG A.B. FROST got his start in Philadelphia at fifteen years of age, employed by an engraver. He then studied and worked as a lithographer (a bad one according to himself) for the next five years. He started his career as an illustrator when his friend William J. Clarke introduced him to his brother, the humorist Charles Heber Clarke, who wrote under the name “Max Adeler” and employed Frost to illustrate Out of the Hurly-Burly (1874). The book was a smashing success. Still, Henry Cuyler Bunner in an article titled ‘A.B. Frost’ in Harper’s Magazine for October 1892, wrote of the illustrations
It is hard to see in those coarse woodcuts, that look as if they were carved with a penknife, the touch of Mr. Frost’s firm and facile hand. Those who know his work today must find it difficult to realize that these rough productions represented a positive superiority to the efforts of other young men of his day and generation; yet they did, and the fact was immediately recognized. But as we look at those cuts today, it seems as if that engraver could have killed any genius that ever lived.

1874 [1] Pen drawing
1874 [2] A.B. Frost art reproduced in woodcut

THE NEXT YEAR. A.B. Frost (full name Arthur Burdett Frost, b. 1851) was working in New York on The Graphic, and in 1876 made his first drawings for Harper & Brothers. H.C. Bunner who edited the humorous weekly in the years 1877-96 described how he had “seen one modest “comic” redrawn, wholly or in part, five several times, to get just the proper effect — the effect that made you remember that picture as you would have remembered it if the thing had really happened; if you had stood on the very ground and seen it all with your own eyes.”

HERE & NOW. Recently, Rüdiger Krischel purchased in England eight original pages of original “comics” described as “1880s original artworks for illustrated magazines Life, Harper’s Young People, Harper’s Bazaar and Out of the Hurly-Burly with some pages by artists A.B. Frost (‘Tim Keyser’s Nose’) and Peter Newell (signed).” 

Fully titled Out of the Hurly-Burly, or Life in an Odd Corner by Max Adeler and A.B. Frost the book was published in 1874. Krischel’s pages with pen drawings hold some interesting annotations as follows.
[page 1] “Hurly Burly” and “Penny Comic” – [page 2] “Life” and a date which is hard to read but it looks like 2/10/88 – [page 3] “Hurly Burly” – [page 4]  “Barnes” and “Harper’s Young People” and “Peter Newell” – [page 5] “Hurly Burly” and “Penny Comic” – [page 6] “Bull Ant” – [page 7] “Life” – [page 8]  Signature, GHG?

1874 [3] Pen drawing
1874 [4] Pen drawing
1874 [5] A.B. Frost art reproduced in woodcut

ESTIMATION. At first I thought the images were drawn by a variety of artists. The title page of Out of the Hurly-Burly states “with nearly Four Hundred illustrations by Arthur B. Frost, Fred B. Schell, Wm. L. Sheppard, and Ed. B. Bensell.” But my opinion has changed since my initial impression and I’m quite sure now that all of the illustrations on all eight pages are the work of one cartoonist, probably A.B. Frost. Co-editor Huib van Opstal disagrees and believes they are simply clumsy copies, in no way are these pen and ink drawings ever made by A.B. Frost himself. The hand-written text is consistent from page to page. “Penny Comic” may refer to a publication although I haven’t traced this to a source. “Barnes” and “Peter Newell” probably refer to contacts rather than signatures to the art. There was a New York cartoonist named C. Barnes who worked on Golden Days in the eighties. That leaves “Bull Ant” and “GHG,” neither of which ring any bells to my mind.

1874 [6] Pen drawing
1874 [7] Pen drawing
1874 [8] Pen drawing
1874 [9] Pen drawing
1874 [10] Pen drawing

Thanks to Rüdiger Krischel.


1 comment:

  1. C. Barnes also drew animal cartoons for LIFE into the 1890s. Bunner and Frost were neighbors in New Jersey, and friends. The latter, editor of PUCK, could not induce Frost to draw more than a few cartoons for his magazine through the years. But several of books -- notably "Story of a New York House," which had been serialized in Scribner's as were his other novels -- was illustrated by Frost.