Thornton Utz - Saturday Evening Post Cover Artist



Thornton Utz was born Nov. 15, 1914, in Memphis, Tenn., where he spent his young years doodling in textbooks. After discovering his artistic talent, he struggled to save enough money to attend art school in Chicago. With the country in a depression, Utz could afford only one year at the American Academy of the Arts, and though he studied there for only a short time, he learned the secret to being a great artist: drawing continually.

And draw Utz did, as well as paint, illustrate and design. Initial recognition of his work came for his illustrations. During the 1940s and '50s, Utz provided advertising illustrations for clients such as Coca-Cola, General Electric and Ford Motor Co. His work also graced more than 50 covers of the 'Saturday Evening Post.' 
Eventually, Utz dedicated himself full time to working in the fine arts, which for him included portraiture and sculpture. International fame came with portraits of Princess Grace of Monaco and President Jimmy Carter, as well as the Carter family.

Despite his achievements, Utz never fancied himself a talented artist. 'He was so humble, thought so little of himself,' said his daughter Dawn Hadley. 'He never thought of himself as a great artist. That was just his work and his trade. That's what he did to provide for his family.'

During his lifetime, Utz became a leading contemporary painter of nudes and portraits, preserving this tradition with spontaneity and joy. In addition to classic figure painting, he attacked the areas of portraiture, sculpture, stained glass and architecture as well. Utz saw the nude, however, as an endless challenge. His numerous paintings of nudes are reminiscent of Degas' coloration and Renoir's brushwork, and are proof of his artistic triumphs.

"Drawing and painting the nude is a classic, endless challenge," Utz said. "For subject matter I prefer a model to perform an action or a chore she would naturally and normally do alone, such as bathing, fixing her nails and so forth. In my paintings I want to express a respect for the particular young woman portrayed and for women in general."

Thorton Utz and his family lived in a home he designed and built on Siesta Key, Sarasota, Florida.



Thornton Utz
Tech 1933 






Thornton Utz:
A Salute to Dad


There’s a ruckus up in the boys’ room. Dad slips up the stairs, only to find two angelic boys fast asleep in their beds. The “this is way too familiar” theme was typical of artist Thornton Utz (a German name pronounced Ootz). Admit it, you were supposed to be asleep a few times and pulled the little innocent “angel” routine when you were about to be caught. Did any of us ever really fool Dad?

A 1949 Post article salutes Utz, delighted that he and artists like him could “disprove the old canard that Art doesn’t pay.” Thanks largely to magazines like yours truly, artists moved “out of the garret and into the ranks of the regular eaters.” And Utz and family were able to eat well. The article happily reports that last year his net income “topped $30,000.” If you’re not impressed, be hereby reminded that the average salary in 1948 was $3,600. It would appear that Post readers readily identified with Dad going to work in the morning and coming back whipped (6/28/52) or how one dad just gave up on yard work and painted the patio green (5/2/1953). Were those neighbors envious of his ingenuity–or did they think he was nuts? These were among the many multiscene covers, such as Mr. Mom from May 12, 1956. Nine scenes show us Dad getting up early, fixing breakfast, putting in a full day at work, getting the kids to bed and getting his payoff–a visit to his newest pride and joy.

As a gawky 12-year-old himself, Utz started out with a comic strip he handed out to neighborhood kids. High school was Memphis Technical, where he studied his craft. With an equally enterprising classmate, he did display work for the Memphis Mid-South Fair, splitting the $3 a week they earned. They knew they wanted to be illustrators like J.C. Leyendecker, but had no idea how to accomplish this. “Either of us could probably have been talked out of the whole idea if we’d been offered a good job driving a laundry truck.” When we see the vacationing family from the June 18, 1960 Post cover, we’re delighted no laundry truck appeared just then. Pipe in mouth, fishing gear in hand, Pops is out the back door of the cabin retreat before Mom and the kids even have the car unpacked. Which is our wish for all dads out there on their well-deserved day–do what you darn well want!