During the first three decades of the 20th century P.J. Monahan was
one of New York's most prolific illustrators. He created ads, movie posters,
commissioned art but the majority of his work was for the "pulp" magazines
of the day. His paintings were noted for composition, design and use of
colours -- stimulating images full of romance and adventure. Sadly the
work of P.J. Monahan and the other pulp artists of that time have not received
the recognition of their contemporary illustrators, whose work appeared
in art galleries and the "slick" magazines. Of particular interest to followers
of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs are the artists of who illustrated
the pulp magazines in which most of ERB's stories first appeared.
Before seeing release in hard cover, Tarzan et al appeared in the Argosy/All-Story/Cavalier
and Munsey's magazines as well as in Blue Book, Red Book, Amazing,
Modern Mechanics & Invention, Fantastic Adventures, Thrilling Adventure
Stories, and even Liberty. The best known illustrators for these
magazines were P. J. Monahan, Modest Stein, Clinton Pettee, Stockton Mulford,
Pahl Stahr, and of course the great J. Allen St. John. Between 1913
and 1923 P.J. Monahan painted wonderful covers for 13 All-Storys that featured
Patrick John Sullivan (Monahan) was born in Des Moine, Iowa, on January
4, 1882. His parents, John and Mary, had immigrated from County Cork, Ireland
in the '70s via Boston to a homestead in the Des Moines area. The Sullivans
had three children, Patrick, Eugene and Anne. The only two members of the
Sullivan family to survive the flu epidemic of 1891 were Patrick and Eugene.
The boys were taken in and raised by neighbours Rose and Jim Monahan.
Patrick won a four-year art scholarship to Drake University of Ministers
where his artistic talent bloomed. This talent won him a first prize at
the St. Louis Exposition and the opportunity to further his art studies
in Europe, where he went on to win more awards and even painted a full-figure
painting of Pope Pius X. After graduation he worked as a newspaper illustrator
in Chicago and St. Louis.
On October 24, 1905, Patrick married Louise Cecelia Averill, much against
the wishes of her family, who were staunch Protestants who objected to
his Catholic and orphan background. After the birth of their first child,
Cecelia, they moved to New York where Patrick worked at illustrating fashion
catalogues. His reputation grew and soon he was painting covers for Leslie's
Weekly, The New Broadway Magazine, The Delineator, and
Magazine. In 1909 his work was featued with that of 16 other top artists
to appear in the collection, "Judge Art Prints."
This led to work for higher class magazines and by 1911 he was doing
interiors for The Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, Leslie's Weekly,
Pearson's Magazine, The Hearst Magazine and Hampton's. He kept
a small studio in New York in the Printers Craft Building, but was now
able to afford to move the family to a more upper class area in New Jersey.
By 1912 he was doing cover work for syndicated newspapers across America,
colour illustrations for New York World newspaper and he also did the cover
and eight interiors for his friend Jack London's book, Smoke Bellew.
He was invited to become a member in the Society of Illustrators headed
by Charles Dana Gibson (creator of the "Gibson Girl") and became friends
with artists such as James Montgomery Flagg, Norman Rockwell and many other
top artists of the day. Contracts with Street and Smith Publications provided
steady employment for titles such as: Air Trails, Western Story Magazine,
Detective Story Magazine, People's Magazine, etc. His imaginative composition,
design, use of colours and his stimulating images full of romance and adventure
were soon providing ideal illustrations for Munsey's stable of adventure
writers: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Rex Stout, H. Bedford Jones, Frank L. Packard,
J. Allen Dunn and George Allan England. Soon he was producing colour cover
paintings ($125 each) for the Munsey pulp magazines: Munsey Magazine,
Argosy, All-Story, Cavalier, and Railroad Man's Magazine.
In 1912, Robert H. Davis and Thomas Metcalf of The All-Story Magazine
published the first installment of an unknown writer's first novel: Under
the Moons of Mars in the February issue. Response for this unique
romantic science fiction tale was so overwhelming that they followed it
up in the October issue with another of the author's highly imaginative
tales -- Tarzan of the Apes -- with a cover illustration
by Clinton Pettee. This proved to be the start of a new era of pulp fiction
in which P. J. Monahan would play a major part.
Through all his work for society magazines and fashion catalogues, Monahan
had developed a special skill in the painting of women. This talent would
serve him well in the crafting of pulp adventure covers. Monahan's colourful
heroines exuded an air of innocence, femininity, and romance that appealed
to both sexes. He also did all his own lettering -- and was often called
upon to paint over the original magazine lettering to adapt the paintings
for use on dust jackets for hardcover book releases.
Besides this regular work he freelanced for even more magazines -- Adventure,
Woman's Magazine, Pictorial Review, The Designer, Colliers -- and doing
covers and interior illustrations for numerous books. P.J. had many other
interests and achievements besides magazine and book illustrations.
OTHER INTERESTS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
SOON TO APPEAR: FISK TIRE PAINTING STORY & MONAHAN ROTARY ENGINE
helped in the war effort in 1917-18 by producing propaganda materials and
paintings for Liberty War Bond drives.
taught at the Art Students League in New York
formed his own agency to solicit art contracts
sang in a church choir
sang tenor at Carnegie Hall wihtthe Walter Damrosch Oratorium
invented and patented the Monahan rotary motor
invented an umbrella that could be folded into a purse or satchel
an avid baseball player
managed a double-A baseball team called the West New York Giants
painted movie posters and magazine ads for Fox studios using images of
the popular stars of the day: Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, William S. Hart Mary
Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith's "A Birth of a Nation."
painted some of the most beautiful models in New York -- many of whom went
on to become famous on stage and screen and the Ziegfeld Follies.
friend and fellow-artist Robert Ripley went on to gain fame with his "Believe
It or Not" syndicated feature.
unwound by hunting and fishing
collected books and art by other artists he admired
well-versed in astrology
appreciated music and collected records -- especially those of Enrico Caruso
studied many subjects, including math, history, politics -- and was a great
admirer of Leonardo da Vinci
wrote an unpublished novel titled "The Land That Time Forgot" -- apparently
bought a farm in Dover, NJ in 1924 and became a gentleman farmer
father of eight children -- but never got over the loss of first born Cecelia
who died in 1910 after eating paints from her father's artist palette
Between 1913 and 1923 -- at the request of Edgar Rice Burroughs --
P.J. painted all 13 of the covers for the Argosy/All-Story pulps featuring
ERB stories. The first was for "A Man Without A Soul" -- a painting
for which he himself posed -- and the last was "The Moon Maid."
The model for most of the Tarzan covers was a P.J. regular, Joe Murray
-- in fact, Murray's image pre-dated the well-known Elmo Lincoln's film
appearance. Curiously, the last cover painting he was paid for ($150) was
that of "Tarzan and the Ant Men," but the cover was never used.
Surprisingly a different cover by Stockton Mulford appeared on the February
2, 1924 issue. It has been suggested that P.J.'s rendering of the ant men
with faces resembling those of real ants did not match the Burroughs description.
After choosing appropriate scenes to illustrate -- often with the help
of his wife Louise -- P.J. would make preliminary sketches which he would
submit to the Munsey art director for approval. He then sketched the image
onto a 24" x 36" canvas using brown tones of oil paint and then took a
day or two to finish the painting in full colour. P.J. kept ownership of
the canvases and after they were returned he stored most of them in his
NY or NJ studio. All of these paintings -- except for the Tarzan
and the Golden Lion painting that was purchased by ERB -- were
either sold or given to friends . . . or tragically lost in a fire that
demolished his New Jersey studio.
After leaving Munsey's in 1923 he continued to work for Street and Smith,
often turning out a cover a day for magazines such as: Action Stories,
People's Magazine, Complete Novel Magazine, Complete Story Magazine, Love
Stories and numerous others. The main impetus for this demanding schedule
seemed to be his determination to make good the money lost by friends who
had invested in his failed rotary engine project. P.J.'s lack of business
sense led to Louise stepping in to serve as his business manager. Partly
because of Louise's health problems they bought a 32-acre farm in 1924
and eventually converted part of a three-storey barn on the property into
P.J. left Street and Smith in 1926 and started work for George T. Delacorte,
Jr.'s Dell Publishing Co. -- doing increasingly boring romantic cover and
interior illustrations for Sweetheart Stories and Cupid's Diary.
He also did covers for Fiction House Publications' Love Romances.
In 1927, King Features hired him to produce a daily newspaper strip adaptation
for Shakespeare's classics: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, The Merchant of
Venice, Macbeth, and Taming of the Shrew -- as well as others such
as Dickens' Pickwick Papers. By this time some of his kids were
helping with reading manuscripts for cover ideas, as well as working as
his inkers and models.
A series of tragedies hit the Monahans in 1928. The barn and studio
burned down, destroying 200 Monahan paintings, art supplies and P.J.'s
art and book collection. Soon after he was involved in a traffic accident
and the resulting head injury plagued him with severe headaches which affected
his work and creativity for the rest of his life.
Patrick Monahan died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage at age 49 on November
1, 1931. He is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery at Wharton, New Jersey. Louise
never remarried and raised their eight children on their farm. She died
at age 84 on June 12, 1968 and was buried alongside her husband.