Thursday, January 19, 2012

Illustrations from past decades / part 4 / Frank Soltesz

Artist Frank Soltesz (1912- 1986) was probably unknown outside the commercial art and publishing world he worked in all his life but his lasting legacy now seems to be these stunning cutaway illustrations he painted between 1947 and 1951 for Armstrong Cork. The only background details available seem to be from his son’s website created in 2008. Here, Ken Soltesz, reveals his dad’s life as an illustrator. During the war years he had a deferment because of essential war work doing technical illustrations of aircraft for various defense manufacturers.
    After the war Soltesz went freelance and used an artists agent to generate commissions. One of these was Armstrong Cork who wanted ad illustrations to show how their products were used. I thought it odd that these ads, which ran in the Saturday Evening Post, were for a company that didn’t directly sell anything to the public. To get round this and get the ads looked at complex cutaway illustrations were used and clearly who better than Frank Soltesz to do them. His son says 29 were produced for Armstrong though I’ve only managed to find twenty-five. Cleverly each ad picture was in a frame and titled and readers could send off for a 21 by 22 inch copy, as the ad says ‘suitable for framing’. Later ads in the series offered a free booklet with thirteen of the cutaways.
    The amount of detail in these paintings is incredible and a nice touch, I thought, are the number of pedestrians walking past these plants. An obvious question is how long did each painting take from initial rough to the finished art…we’ll probably never know. Also, what happened to them once they had appeared in the ads? I class Soltesz as a unique talent: the king of the popular cutaways (rather than the technical type) in the same creative league as Carl Evers who painted amazing cityscapes of Philadelphia. Featured in Illustrations 3, December 2011.

This copy is typical of what the ads said, it mostly keyed into the numbered diagram.  The ad appeared in the Saturday Evening Post March 12, 1949. 


  1. These are fantastic. Do you know when they are from?


  2. Andrew: you beat me to it. I uploaded the pictures first then did the text. Have a look at Ken Soltesz's website for the only background info about his dad.

  3. Lovely, Can't tell from the pages you show at the top: how extensive was the text that accompanied, and was it keyed to parts of the pic? Also, do you rate Leslie Ashwell Wood at all?

  4. I’ve posted the copy part of one ad (hospital) which is typical of the rest. The numbered diagram was the key to give readers an opportunity to understand the cutaway.
    Wood must be considered as one of the top cutaway artists of his time though I always felt his Eagle art was a bit garish, probably an editorial instruction as the rest of the comic had bright panel artwork. Maybe GH Davis (1881-1960) was better, his work appeared in the Illustrated London News for years, diminished a bit because they used a dark sepia instead of black ink. His crowning achievement was a 1936 cutaway of the Queen Mary, in colour and a huge foldout in the ILN.
    I don’t know how good Wood or Davis were at actual technical drawing (this applies to Soltesz, too) but maybe this didn’t matter so long as they could produce realistic art that captured the eye and imagination of readers.

  5. Hi Westread - is there any way to tell which issues of the SEP (by date) the ads are from?

  6. Kristina
    I don’t have dates for all of them because some have been trimmed but these are the dated ones, all SEP:
    Bakery March 13 1948
    Brewery July 3 1948
    Dairy August 30 1947
    Fish pier November 18 1950
    Food market March 11 1950
    Frozen food June 30 1951
    Hospital March 12 1949
    Hotel July 5 1947
    Locker plant October 25 1947
    Frozen orange juice May 6 1950
    Cold rubber November 19 1949
    Steamship November 22 1947
    Theater March 10 1951

  7. This is wonderful. Thank you for all of the time you spend scanning content and posting it on this fabulous blog!

    1. L: thanks for the comment. Stay tuned plenty more Past Print to come.

  8. Hi...I am Frank's daughter. I have a few of these prints but not all. These are prints, correct? I've been wondering what ever happened to the originals. Nice to see these! thanks for posting.

    1. Hello Patty Sue, Did you live in Ridgefield CT? I grew up around the corner from the Ridgebury Congregational church. The church would have an annual art show. My mother bought a beautiful watercolor of an autumn tree. Your father also did such things when not doing commercial art? Thanks! Andrew Graham

    2. Wayne Fish July 29, 2018

      Hello Patty Sue,

      I have one of Frank's original paintings that he did for the Esso corporate calendar in 1970. I acquired it when I was employed at General Drafting, Co., Inc. and it has been hanging on my office wall(s) ever since. I've downsized for the fourth time and no longer have space for my art collection.
      If you have any interest i can be reached at