material came from Harry Devlin: A Retrospective written
by Barbara J. Mitnick, Ph.D.
Harry was born March 22, 1918 in Jersey City, New Jersey, the
second of two sons of Harry G. and Amelia Crawford Devlin. In
1922, his family moved to Elizabeth.
When Harry was just eight years old, his artistic talent became
evident. In the third grade at the William Livingston School in
Elizabeth, a picture he drew on the blackboard so amazed the teacher
that she brought the principal, Miss Seran to see it. A former
teacher at Elizabeth's Hamilton Junior High School, Kathleen Millar,
remembered Harry as a shy but talented and creative twelve year
old in a navy blue suit seated in the middle of the front row
in her seventh grade art class. Indeed, if one were to pinpoint
a beginning for Harry's career as an illustrator, it probably
would have been this moment, since the recognition he received
led to a growing reputation for fine artwork.
In 1935, Harry graduated from high school. He then began attending
Syracuse University, and majored in illustration. During his senior
year he met his future wife, Dorothy Wende, known to her friends
and family simply as Wende. She was then a junior from Buffalo,
New York also majoring in Fine Arts.
In 1939, after completing his undergraduate studies, Harry moved
to a studio in New York City. He soon found work illustrating
stories written for the "pulp" magazines, publications
generally consisting of brightly colored covers surrounding newsprint
His big break was a result of meeting an artist's representative,
M.Philip Copp, in need of an illustrator to do war drawings. Copp
introduced Harry to Charles Tudor, art director at Life Magazine
the publication chosen to prepare U.S. Army manuals, and Harry
was immediately hired on a freelance basis. This work established
his career and reputation. He was finally able to propose to Wende.
They were married on August 30, 1941. Home
for the Devlins after their marriage was in New York City, where
Harry continued to illustrate the "pulps," U.S. Army
manuals, and managed to secure advertising commissions.
On October 30, 1942, Harry began his active duty in the Navy as
an Ensign. He was assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence
and assumed responsibility for all illustrations necessary for
members of the armed services to identify enemy planes. With
World War II at an end and Harry's Navy enlistment over, the Devlins
had to decide where to settle with their two children. They returned
to Elizabeth, where Harry began what became a ten year association
with Collier's Weekly, a popular magazine which had begun publication
in 1898. This association offered a chance at creative expression;
an opportunity for Harry to design and paint relevant illustrations
for magazine articles. The work at Collier's was demanding.
Harry was always looking for new challenges. In a short time,
Harry Devlin became the leading editorial cartoonist at Collier's.
By 1950, Harry's reputation as an editorial cartoonist was known
throughout the publishing industry. Therefore, it is not surprising
that as an expert in the field, he was asked to write the first
chapter, "Making a Cartoon Tell the Story" for Illustrating
and Cartooning, an instructional manual published in 1951.
For Wende and Harry, this was a time of prosperity. Illustration
truly was in its golden period, and Harry had almost more work
than he could handle. From 1946 to 1955, in addition to his work
for Collier's, Harry illustrated the stories written each week
by Bob Considine and Dorothy Kilgallen for the Saturday Home Magazine.
During this time, the Devlin's moved from Elizabeth to a charming
mid-nineteenth century house and carriage house in Mountainside.
Their seven children have memories of a childhood in which their
parents presented the world to them as a wonderful place.
During the early 1950's Harry also produced editorial cartoons
for The New York Daily News. Unlike Collier's, he developed his
own themes and enjoyed the creativity of the experience. However;
when the News asked Harry to print a cartoon in support of Senator
Joseph McCarthy, Harry refused as a matter of principle, and was
promptly fired. The trauma at the loss of his job did not compare
with the feeling that always comes with the saving of conscience
1954, Harry was named Vice-Chairman of President Eisenhower's
"People to People" Committee, and in 1956, he was elected
President of the National Cartoonists Society. In 1986, he became
the Society's Honorary Chairman. Harry was also a life member
of the Society of Illustrators.
By 1957, Collier's Weekly was out of business, as television succeeded
in taking over most of the advertising market that had formerly
been the province of magazines and newspapers. For Harry, however,
it began an artistic collaboration with Wende, that continued
throughout their lives.
Harry was making his mark as an illustrator and editorial cartoonist,
Wende had been busy in her own studio. Her painted still lifes
were winning prizes in New Jersey art exhibitions, and throughout
her long career, she had never been without a portrait commission.
In a recent example, Portrait of Gurlie Benou, Wende exhibits
fine draftsmanship and the ability to capture the personality
of the sitter. Harry also found portraiture a promising medium
for his talent. Over the years, he has painted family, friends,
and members of the community.
Portraits, however, were only one area of creativity shared by
the Devlins. Wende's talents were not limited to painting, but
included a gift for writing, particularly clever and lighthearted
comedy. Thus, the combination of Harry the illustrator and Wende
the author was bound to produce an interesting collaboration.
In 1954 they began the publication of Fullhouse also known as
Raggmopp, a comic strip with characters named for their own six
children; Wende, Harry (Herky), Brion, Jeff, Lexi (Alexandra)
and Nicky [the seventh, David, was born in 1956]. The strips were
based on the antics of the children - almost a documentation of
their actual childhood.
Wende also created her own comic feature in the 1950's featuring
the friendly little girls Amy and Margie, and developed still
another career writing the highly acclaimed "Beat Poems of
a Beat Mother", for Good Housekeeping Magazine. Harry soon
developed an association with Parent's Magazine Press, publishers
of Calling All Girls, Humpty Dumpty's Magazine for Little Children,
and Children's Digest, among others.
Looking back, it seems like an inevitable progression. From comic
strips to children's literature to children's book illustration,
Harry had found an important outlet not only for his talent, but
also his whimsical sense of humor. In 1963, Wende wrote and Harry
illustrated Old Black Witch, which along with its two
sequels, have sold over one-and-one-half million copies. A long
list of children's books came in time, most were written by Wende
and illustrated by Harry.
1967, however, Harry began his own project when he authored as
well as illustrated a book for young people describing and picturing
examples of American architecture. Titled To Grandfather's
House We Go: A Roadside Tour of American Homes, it contains
illustrations of paintings Harry had actually begun as early as
years later, Harry completed his second architectural book for
young people, What Kind of a House is That?
their later years, the Devlins concentrated their efforts on the
Cranberry series of stories involving the ongoing activities of
characters in a New England town. The first, Cranberry Thanksgiving published in 1971, captures the essence of a New England Thanksgiving
in a house on the edge of a cranberry bog in the town of Cranberryport
and even includes a touch of mystery involving a secret recipe.
Illustrations include scenes similar to those many Americans can
recall in their own celebrations of the holiday. The
success of Cranberry Thanksgiving encouraged Wende and
Harry to continue the theme and location as the context for celebrations
and stories revolving around other important holidays. The books
also continue the adventures of many of the same characters, while
others are added.
The collaboration of the artistic and literary talents of Wende
and Harry Devlin had not gone unnoticed in the academic and publishing
worlds. In 1977, they shared Syracuse University's highest alumni
award, the George Arents Medal for Excellence in Art and Literature;
and both were members of the New Jersey Literary Hall of Fame.
They were great favorites at colleges and universities for conferences
and symposia related to children's literature. In 1985, Kean College
of N.J. granted Harry an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters
and in 1992, Rutgers University presented him with a Presidential
Over the years, Harry created illustrations for advertisers such
as the Shell Oil Company, O'Mealia Advertising Corporation of
Jersey City, New Jersey's Public Service Electric and Gas Company
and New Jersey Bell Telephone, Exxon, General Motors and Ford
Motor Co. In 1983, he was inducted into N.J.'s Advertising Hall
of Fame. He created six stamps for the U.S. postal service.
Harry devoted a significant amount of time to helping the State
of New Jersey as well as local communities. From 1970 through
1979, he was a member of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts,
and from 1984 through 1990, he served on the New Jersey Committee
for the Humanities. In Mountainside, he was instrumental in arranging
for the building of a new library, and he also used his artistic
skills to support the United Fund of Westfield.
Harry had also been an active supporter of the Westfield Chamber
of Commerce. In the early 1980's, he began a series of scenes
of Westfield that were produced in limited editions of 200 signed
and numbered prints. A depiction of the business district of Westfield
along with other local landmarks complete the series.
In 1977, Louis Presti, a film director, invited Harry to write and host a series of films on domestic architecture for New Jersey
Public Broadcasting [New Jersey Network]. Given the overall title, Fare You Well, Old House, they include The Pattern Ended
Houses of Salem County, Dutch Houses of Hackensack Valley and
The Federal Houses of Princeton.
In 1989, Harry Devlin authored and illustrated Portraits of
American Architecture: Monuments to a Romantic Mood, 1830-1900.
The culmination as well as the documentation of Harry's lifelong
love of American architecture, Portraits of American Architecture presents a collection of his paintings and studies within the
context of "the history of the era and the fascinating mood
in which its buildings were conceived.". It was republished
by Random House in 1996.
Harry's architectural paintings reveal his sociable and warm personality,
which invites the viewer to take a closer look and perhaps even
enter the buildings. Harry's painting, Cape May Antiques I, presents
a street devoid of figures with a single barber's pole in the
However; the store is clearly identified; an open sign hangs in
the window; and the door is ajar inviting entry to visiting shoppers
and clearly implying the presence of additional figures within.
Originally Harry painted a figure entering the store, but removed
it when he realized that it was drawing too much attention from
the building, the main subject of the work. In its place, he installed
the barber's pole. This decision to delete the figure was made
in a positive sense related to a desire to improve the composition.
Harry Devlin's style has been described as "contemporary
Photo-Realism", although it is also clear that Harry arrived
at his artistic solutions independently. The style is acknowledged
neither to impose restrictions on artists nor to imply a lack
of selectivity. Generally, it calls for more than mere reproduction
and goes beyond basic realism.
The body of work created by Harry Devlin spans the range of American
architectural history. Here are only a few examples of his many
architectural styles. The house in the painting is actually a
relatively new structure located at Murray Hill Square, a reproduction
of a mid-nineteenth century village located in a section of New
Providence, New Jersey. Harry's painting removes the house from
its surroundings and places it alone on farmland, as he imagined
the source for the structure would have originally appeared. The
sunflower gives the composition added romantic appeal as he had
again used the license of the Photo-Realist to make important
To Harry Devlin, Portraits of American Architecturedescribed
in visual form the sum total of his artistic experience. Not simple
transcriptions of existing structures, they require the artistic
expertise and historical, sociological and cultural knowledge
necessary to create the several forms of illustration for which
he had become widely known. These works also represent the form
of painting that gave him the most pleasure - the one that expressed
his love of architecture and fulfilled his vow made a half-century
ago to one day "recapture the mood and ambiance of an architectural
epoch so thoroughly maligned." Harry Devlin had done much
of what most of American has failed to do: Preserve and honor
America's heritage by capturing its unique and beautiful architecture
on his canvases.
Wende Dorothy Devlin, writer and artist, was born April 27, 1918
in Buffalo, New York. She was the daughter of Dr. Bernhardt Phillip
Wende and Elizabeth May Buffington. Wende married Harry Devlin
on August 30, 1941. The couple had seven children: Harry, Wende,
Jeffrey, Alexandra, Brian, Nicholas, and David.
She received a BFA from Syracuse University in 1940. Wende was
a talented and well-known author. She wrote the following children's
books: Old Black Witch, 1963, Old Witch and the Polkadot
Ribbon, 1963, The Knobby Boys to the Rescue, 1965, Aunt Agatha, There is a Lion Under the Couch, 1968, How
Fletcher was Hatched, 1970 (N.J. English Teachers Award), A Kiss for a Warthog, 1970, Cranberry Thanksgiving,
1971, Old Witch Rescues Halloween, 1973, (Chicago Book
Fair Award for excellence 1974), Cranberry Christmas,
1973, Cranberry Mystery, 1979, Hang on Hester 1980, Cranberry Valentine, 1986, Cranberry Summer,
1991, Cranberry Autumn, 1994, The Trouble with Henriett,
1995. She created a comic strip Ragg Mopp, which ran from 1954-57,
and contributed many poems to Good Housekeeping Magazine.
Wende's work is represented with a permanent collection atMidlantic
Bank of N.J., National Westminister Bank of N.J., as well as in
many private collections. She had a one person show at Schering
Plough, N.J. Wende received many honors. She was awarded the Arents
Medal for Art and Literature, the highest alumni award, from Syracuse
University in 1977. She was a member of Rutgers Advisory Council
on Children's Literature since 1980 and was named to the N.J.
Literary Hall of Fame in 1989.
here to learn more about Wende Devlin.
here to learn more about Harry Devlin.