Time Executive Editor J. Dana Tasker handled the retention or disposition of magazine cover art from around 1945 to 1953. While Time only acquired the first publication rights from the artists when commissioning a cover, Time frequently purchased and sent as a gift, or presented, the cover art to either the subject or a related interested party. Early cover artists for Time were Boris Artzybasheff, Ernest Hamlin Baker, Boris Chaliapin, and Guy Rowe.
Tasker sent lists of available covers to Publisher James Linen along with his thoughts on disposition. Time executives often gave cover art to government officials, politicians, and members of the military, though they rarely sent covers to celebrities or entertainers. However, in a break from tradition, Humphrey Bogart was given his cover 1954 in the hopes for another opportunity to “drink Bogie under the table.”
Eleanor Roosevelt received her cover art as a gesture of goodwill in 1952. The next year, the memorandum discussing Mamie Eisenhower’s gift states they should send the art “in the hope that she will gradually learn to like us better.” Sometimes the gift was a simple gesture of gratitude for cooperating on a story. In other cases the art would be given away to improve an important relationship with a source. If someone already was a very good source, Time might “save its money.” There were also business reasons to give away cover art: the presentation could be turned into a promotional event.
Time decided against making a gift to the dictator Francisco Franco of his 1946 portrait, although Linen remarked that “maybe it would do some good.” In 1950 Time executives also declined to offer his cover portrait to Berlin Airlift organizer General William H. Tunner because he had been “more critical than cooperative in the past.” They were also on the fence about giving Albert Einstein his portrait in 1946 unless “Tom [probably T. S. Matthews from the managing editorial staff] wants to as a Princetonian.” Einstein was at the university’s Institute for Advanced Study at the time and school spirit at the magazine was strong. Occasionally TIME executives would not give a portrait to its subject if the likeness wasn’t good, or if the artist wouldn’t part with the piece, or perhaps had a buyer for it.
Cover art not given to the subjects or others remained in the Time Cover Art Collection, which was donated to the National Portrait Gallery in 1978.
[The composite image across the top of this post, drawn from digitized originals at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, shows (left to right): Oscar Hammerstein II, Elizabeth Taylor, and Albert Einstein. Clicking each of the preceding hyperlinks will bring you to that portrait’s page on the NPG website.]
This post is by Holly Deakyne, Supervisory Archivist, Time Inc.