Russell Patterson: Helped Invent the “Flapper”

Art Deco era visual artist Russell Patterson was born the day after Christmas, 1893. Patterson had a hand in practically every kind of influential visual expression in popular culture from the 1920s through the 1950s: cartoonist, illustrator, set and costume designer for both theatre and film. Today he is best remembered one of the key contributors to the popular conception of “the Flapper”.

Staring in the mid 1920s, Patterson began contributing illustrations (including covers) to such magazines as Saturday Evening Post, Vogue, Life, College Humor, Judge, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, and RedBook, a common feature of which was the stylish Jazz Age party girl known as the Flapper. Hailed as an expert on beauty, he was a judge in the Miss America Pageant from 1927 through 1945.

In the 1930s, Patterson’s visual ideas began to move in three dimensions. For Broadway he contributed to the shows The Gang’s All Here (costume design, 1931), Ballyhoo of 1932 (director, and scenic and costume design), Hold Your Horses (scenic and costume design, 1932), Ziegfeld Follies of 1934 (costume design), Fools Rush In (scenic design, 1934-35), George White’s Scandals of 1936 (costume design), and The Illustrators’ Show (curtain design, 1936). For Hollywood, he did costumes and sets for Bottoms Up (1934), art direction for Stand Up and Cheer! (1934), and a unique on-camera visual demonstration in Artists and Models (1937). While uncredited on IMDB, he also contributed some set and costume designs for Give Me a Sailor (1938), and some costumes for Shirley Temple in Baby, Take a Bow (1934). In his younger years he had studied architecture at McGill University, in addition to many years of classes at the Art Institute of Chicago, the training that accounted for this kind of versatility.

In the early 1940s, he contributed a Sunday strip for Hearst’s American Weekly Magazine called Flossy Frills and a daily and Sunday strip for King Features called Pin-Up Girls. From 1951 through 1956, he drew the strip Mamie which ran in United Feature Syndicate papers. From 1960 through 1963 he was a judge in the Miss Universe pageant. He was working on a major retrospective of his work when he died in 1977.

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