Learn about Life in the 1920s

C. Coles Phillips Illustrator and Creator of the Fadeaway Girl

THE creator of The Fadeaway Girl was born in Springfield, Ohio, thirty-one years ago.

Illustration of Girl in Bathers
Coles Phillips Illustration
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There was little of the artistic temperament in his early years, rather more of the healthy, fun-loving boy's capacity to fall into deviltry, and it was not until his college days that he realized that his natural ability to draw might be of use to him. In his efforts to work his way through Kenyon College at Gambier, Ohio, he earned his first money as an artist by illustrating and decorating the college monthly magazine. After his graduation at the age of twenty-one, he went to New York and for some time picked up a varied experience here and there, clerking and working at odd jobs. Later he found employment as solicitor in one of the city's biggest advertising and designing houses. In this position he represented his chosen field and cultivated a keen business sense and a practical knowledge of commercial art.

He soon used this knowledge to good advantage in forming a dozen artists into an advertising organization of his own. In this new adventure he was forced to spend so much time as "outside man" on the business end of the concern that his painting suffered from neglect. But he finally responded to the call of the artist in him, retired from the commercial field, rented a studio, and set out to remedy his lack of technical training by attending the Chase School in the afternoons and the Free Art School on Forty-fourth Street in the evenings.

On his first drawing Phillips worked a month. "Life" accepted it as a double-page cartoon and proceeded at once to look up Phillips. He immediately became a regular contributor, and when "Life" issued colored covers the Fadeaway Girl made her bow to lovers of the daintily feminine. Her success was instantaneous, and her type with its elusive lines and its happy blending of colors, has become famous the country over. So original was the conception that the Fadeaway Girl will always stand for Coles Phillips and Coles Phillips for the Fadeaway Girl. He says, however, that his other achievements with the brush have done more to bring him success than the fadeaway drawings.

Fadeaway Girl

Admirers of the art of Phillips little realize the amount of work required in these apparently simple creations. So much of the surrounding detail is eliminated that it is doubly imperative to show the central figure to its best advantage. Therefore, since his artistic effects must be produced with so few actual lines, every drawing demands the most careful study. To do this with truth to life, Phillips always uses living models.

The originator of the Fadeaway Girl is not of the long-haired, flowing bow-tie variety of artists, but prides himself on his practicality and enjoys having his friends call him "sane and business-like," which he is. He lives in New Rochelle, the New York suburb which now has another claim to fame than the fact that it is "Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway," and there in his studio overlooking Long Island Sound, with his slender, sweet-faced wife as a model, he does much of his best work. For the wife of C. Coles Phillips is the inspiration of the art that has made him famous. America has opened wide her arms to welcome this new creation. The Coles Phillips Girl typifies the subtle charm of American womanhood. In the drawing-room or in the kitchen, breaking hearts or baking pies, or sturdily joying in the mighty stillness of the great outdoors, always alluring, always at home, a real woman from the tip of her dainty boot to the soft glory of her hair, she stands out from her flat background and answers completely to a young man's fancy at its highest and best.

Source: A Young Man's Fancy, 1912

Many of Coles Phillips illustrations can be found in the following two books which are basically collections of illustrations done mainly for Life Magazine.



His illustrations also graced the pages and covers of many other magazines, novels, calendars, postcards and advertising material.

You can see a collection of Coles Phillips Posters Online here.