November 2013 | Nate Pedersen

Washington University Acquires Illustration House Archive

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Washington University in St. Louis has acquired the archive of Illustration House, a New York gallery that led a renaissance in illustration art sales and appreciation in the last quarter of the 20th century. Opened by Walt Reed in 1974, the Illustration House remains in operation in Chelsea, Manhattan, where the gallery "offers a fascinating look at the intersection of American popular culture and art history of the past." 

Washington University's Modern Graphic History Library (MGHL) acquired the Illustration House archive with the assistance of Walt Reed himself. The acquisition includes 8,000 periodicals, 1,200 illustrated books, 250,000 magazine tear sheets, and 140 pieces of original art, ranging from sketches to production art and finished canvases. Walt Reed is famous in the field for his encyclopedic knowledge of illustration history and for the long-term friendships he developed with many of the top illustrators of the 20th century, including Norman Rockwell, Tom Lovell, Al Parker, Jon Whitcomb, and Stevan Dohanos.

Roger Reed, Walt's son and the current president of Illustration House, said of the acquisition: "Most institutions and collectors approach this field with a narrow focus on a few trophy objects, and context gets lost, whereas my father always took a broad stance, had catholic taste and shared information with all comers. Even a minor drawing could delight him in its draftsmanship or cultural resonance."

In addition to housing and maintaining the collection, Washington University will also digitize material from the Illustrated House archive.

[Image of the John M. Olin Library at Washington University from Wikipedia]