Though not generally recognized in the art world as the superlative
illustrator and artist some critics know him to be, J. Allen St. John is
Beginning shortly before World War I after the publication of his
first Tarzan illustrations, he attracted wide attention in the science
fiction world. Many fans and collectors in this field became avid devotees
of St. John and have continued this interest for decades.
However, St. John hs always been recognized for his versatility and
received considerable renown as a portrait artist in New York while
still a young man. The early years of this century were the golden age
of illustration. Howard Pyle's Brandywine School was turning out artists
like N.C. Wyeth, Frank
Schoonover, and Randall Parris. St. John was a contemporary of these
artists. He began working in 1898 and died in 1956.
St. John studied at Art Student's League of New York under William
M. Chase, Carroll Beckworth and Kenyon Cox. Later he studied in Paris with
Jean Paul Vierin. He moved from New York to Chicago early in his career
and lived there the rest of his life. For twenty years he was Instructor
of Painting and Illustration at the Chicago Art Institute. Then he
became Professor of Life Drawing and Illustration at the American Academy
During all these Chicago years while he taught art, he lived with
his wife, Ellen, in the Tree Studio on East Ontario Street, and he continued
to paint, draw and illustrate.
Here for the first time is presented a bibliography of this beloved
artist's work, along with two hundred examples of his art. It is
the result of over forty years of dedicated research.
St. John lives on in the work he left behind, and in its power to
stir the imagination of man and transport the human spirit form the everyday
world to the unlimited realm of the stars in all their magic and glory.
I have admired the art of J. Allen St. John since I first
saw a sample of his work when I was eight years old. I was charmed by his
illustrations while reading THE BEASTS OF TARZAN. I never lost my
interest and over the years I have continued to search for and collect
every one of his illustrations I could find.
Early on I managed to acquire all the Tarzan, Martian, Pellucidar,
and other stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs. These were, of course, profusely
illustrated by St. John. By the time I was a teenager in the 1930s I had
begun to locate titles by other writers with St. John art. Later, when
I began to collect pulp magazines I added more St. John illustrations to
My younger brother, Haskell, took a liking for St. John even before
he was old enough to start to school. He maintained his interest through
the years. It may have been one of the prime reasons why he decided to
be an artist. He never wavered form this aim and after finishing college,
he studied at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. Here, he met in person,
his idol, J. Allen St. John, one of the professors. Haskell spent his entire
career as a professional artist.
This book is not a biography or a critical work on J. Allen St. John.
Such a book is now in preparation and is scheduled for publication in the
near future. I have been gathering information and collecting illustrations
for this project for nearly fifty years. Facts about his life and work
and critical appreciations are reserved for the forthcoming book.
Beginning soon after I discovered St. John, I started to compile
a list of the books and magazines containing his work. The list grew as
I located additional art. I did not attempt to compile a real bibliography
until 1950. It came about in this manner.
I had heard for years that St. John was living in his old studio-apartment
in Chicago. He was not visited by fans and collectors. He had the reputation
of being something of a recluse and had not responded to the letters of
fans. I decided to beard the old lion in his den. I lived in Fort Mitchell,
Kentucky at this time, and Chicago was only a day's drive away. That first
evening in Chicago I went to the American Academy of Art, with my brother
Haskell, who was a student there. St. John then taught evening classes
at the Academy. We went to the office of the President, Frank H. Young
and arranged to meet Professor St. John. Mr. Young took us to the class
room where he was teaching a class in Life Drawing. After a friendly and
lively conversation, he invited us to visit him in his studio the next
This visit established an enduring friendship. The visit and interview
resulted in information which was later used for several articles I wrote
on the great artist. He invited me back the next day to show me some of
the original art still in his possession. This resulted in the purchase
of several pieces of his original art. However, there was another development.
He showed me his special portfolio, a huge leather bound scrap book,
filled with samples of his work. He used this to show editors, publishers
and clients examples of his published art. It contained nearly a hundred
samples of his work, mostly clipped from books and magazine stories. There
were several samples of his advertising art, none of which I had ever seen
or hear of before. A lot of the displayed book jackets, magazine covers
and illustrations were familiar to me. Many, however, were unknown to me
or other collectors. I hurriedly took notes as we leafed through the pages
of this fantastic portfolio. Often the source of the illustration was not
evident. I asked about these and wrote information quickly in my notebook.
Even so, my notes were far from complete. Later that night, my memory supplied
some pertinent data. I intended, hopefully, to take another look at the
portfolio during my next visit. It never happened. Even so, information
gleaned at this time furnished information that forms the heart of this
bibliography. It was at this time that I decided to eventually od a bibliography
of my favorite artist. It was a year before I saw St. John again. In the
meantime I had purchased several more paintings form him and we had exchanged
several letters. We again had a splendid visit and much stimulating conversation.
I had exploded the theory that he was a recluse and found him to be an
affable, friendly and charming gentleman of the old school. He was erudite,
widely read, and seemed at home in almost any field of knowledge.
During our conversation I took notes on information about his art,
some of which came about from questions which I posed to him. Much information
about his life and works turned up at this time. It seems incredible to
many art aficionados today that this great artist was so little known in
the art world. Then and now, there was little published information about
him, and no listing of his art had ever been published. Obviously, this
made research about his life and career exceedingly difficult. Much of
the information related to me on this visit had never been noted before.
However, the most important episode this day was my opportunity to
examine a special book case containing books which had been illustrated
by the artist. Though not nearly complete, it provided much of the basic
information found in this book. Many of the books lacked a jacket, many
of which had been lost, given away, or used for promotional purposes. In
several instances St. John did only the art for the jacket and no interior
illustrations. Thus, if you saw the book you would have no way of knowing
that he did the jacket. Had he not pointed it out for me at this time,
I would not have known that he painted the jacket for certain titles. This
was a truly red letter day for me in my quest for information about St.
The next day I fulfilled one of the main objectives of this trip
to Chicago. I visited the offices of the A.C. McClurg Publishing Company.
St. John had arranged for me to see a friend at the company, R.W. Barber,
who was the current keeper of the archives. He took me to a small room
on an upper floor next to the vaults. Here in three medium size old book
cases with glass doors were to be found all that was left of the archives
of books published by A.C. McClurg. The curator explained to me that the
collection was far form complete. Many books had been lost or stolen through
decades of publishing history. I was appalled at the indifferent care that
had been given to these important archives. It should be pointed out that
A.C. McClurg had for many years ceased being a publisher and was a book
distributing agency. They did, however, maintain copyrights and handled
royalties and reprints of their published titles going back for generations.
I was left alone in the archives where I spent three very interesting
hours. I looked at every book in the three old bookcases. Many books were
without jackets. Some were in excellent condition and some were worn and
in rather poor condition. I took notes as I looked through the shelves.
I found many books illustrated by St. John that I had never seen before.
I was careful to record dates, number and type of illustrations and pertinent
bibliographical information as I went along. Naturally, I observed many
titles which I already knew about and a large number which were in my collection.
I paused to examine rare and interesting books not illustrated by
St. John which appealed to me. I made note of a number of these which I
later searched for and added to my library.
Of the many Burroughs titles published by McClurg fewer than twenty
were still to be found in these shelves. Some of these had jackets and
some did not. Looking at a copy of THE SON OF TARZAN, I discovered that
the McClurg jacket wa a wrap around painting. Previously I had only seen
the Grossett & Dunlap jacket which printed only half of the St. John
picture. There were other interesting discoveries similar to this one.
All in all, the research done on this eventful day at McClurg, and
the day before in St. John's own library provided the basic information
which has formed this bibliography.
All other lists or partial bibliographies of St. John by other collectors
or writers have been copied from this original research. This is not to
discount the research of many other people who have contributed to the
knowledge of his art. Through the years, one by one, and sometimes by the
score, St. John illustrations have been located by numerous fans and collectors
who love his art. I am grateful for the contributions of these friends.
It has finally made possible the publication of this bibliography.
It is my hope that this bibliography will prove useful to fans, collectors,
researchers, scholars and all those who admire the art of J. Allen St.
Darrell C. Richardson