Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Arthur Burdett Frost (1851-1928)

Arthur Burdett Frost was born 19 Jan 1851 in Philadelphia. He began his working life at the age of fifteen as an engraver’s apprentice. He studied at night under Thomas Eakins and William Merritt Chase at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts. In 1874 Frost was working as a lithographer when he illustrated (with wood engravings) the humor book Out of the Hurly-Burly by ‘Max Adeler’ (real name Charles Heber Clarke), for a Philadelphia publisher. In 1875 he was working on the New York Graphic, and in 1876 began illustrating for Harper & Brothers, where he drew numerous comic strips that combined modern style speed-lines and Muybridge inspired movements which cemented his reputation as the premier comic artist of his generation.

Frost was probably more famous as an illustrator than a comic artist, at least until modern times. Frost won fame for his illustrations to Uncle Remus, and also illustrated works by Theodore Roosevelt, Lewis Carroll, Frank Stockton, H. C. Bunner, and Thomas Bailey Aldrich. In 1884 he published Stuff and Nonsense, a collection of his comic art. Stuff and Nonsense was recently published in a handsome volume by Fantagraphics. Frost and his family lived in France from 1906 to 1914. He returned to the United States and died on 22 Jun 1928 at Pasadena, California.

Frost was a wonderful wildlife illustrator as is shown in these McClure’s Magazine images from 1904. Some of them seem to mimic his famous comic strip “Our Cat Eats Rat Poison,” although the cat in question is no mere house-cat, but a wild lynx.

A. B. Frost portrait May 1895 Harper's Monthly.

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