Advertisements as Art #socs

Linda told us "When you sit down to write your post, find a picture, whether in a magazine, newspaper, or even product packaging. Write whatever thought or emotion the picture provokes." We don’t have any magazines or newspapers around Chez Holton, so I did the next best thing: I visited the Vintage Ads group on LiveJournal (yes, some of us still have a LiveJournal account) and borrowed a couple of ads, because that’s what we do.

If you click the picture above, and anywhere in this post, the ad grows to full size. First of all, this is a lady’s boudoir, or at least an artist’s concept of one. I love the attention to detail in this. Many ads until about the 1950’s were drawn rather than photographed, so the artist could come up with whatever he wanted (and they were generally men who did the pictures). He could draw it however he wanted to. I look at this picture, and I can feel the pride the artist felt when he finished. This actually takes me back to the 1930’s, when ladies’ boudoirs were ornate like this, at least the wealthy ones.

It’s getting close to summer, a prime time for sherbets. The good folks at Sealtest came up with a unique way to give their customers a taste of three of the sherbet flavors: put the three of them together, like Neapolitan ice cream. I’d be apt to go buy this, because I like Neapolitan ice cream (and I’m probably the only person you know who does). This puts me in a summer mood, seeing the little boys in their striped t-shirts enjoying cones of the different flavors (this was an ad from the category "creepy kids"). Notice that the carton is a drawing rather than a photograph, which again shows the attention to detail.

We have members of the group from England, so naturally we get ads from there. Notice the drawing style, more like a designer’s sketch of the bride’s gown and the bridesmaids’ dresses. Now, of course, they’d get three models, one to wear the bridal gown and two others to dress like bridesmaids, but back in the ’40’s, that was expensive, so you lived with the drawing. It gave a prospective bride an idea of the sorts of dresses that were available, and got them into Harrods. Lord and Taylor in the US still features drawn ads like this, sometimes even more abstract. Abstract drawing notwithstanding, I think she’s a beautiful bride. Since June is the month for brides, this is thoroughly apropos.

Finally, we have this ad, from the category "unfortunate food." It seems that there are hundreds of ads for Jell-O that show it being transformed from a delicious gelatin dessert into something that, if it were offered to you, you’d take a hard pass. As you can imagine, my reaction is "Eww, gross!"

The first time I saw this ad, I said that if this were my bathroom, I’d never come out. I still feel that way.

Now a word about Betty Crocker cake mixes….

48 thoughts on “Advertisements as Art #socs

  1. Thanks for sharing the vintage ads – nice take on the prompt, John. I agree, if my bathroom was that luxurious, why leave it!? I also smiled at your category names. Very clever! Jello and tomato sauce…yuck.


  2. Was the person who invented tomato tasting jello pregnant? I wonder who thought that was clever. I love the hand drawn images because it felt more dreamlike. I have used Better Crocker or Duncan Hines when in a pinch but always with butter. Back then, they always used lard which is gross and has no flavour. I only use it when I make pie crust


    1. I think there were days in the tesst kitchens when they had gross-out contests, and I’m sure the barbecue Jell-O was a product of one of those.

      We had a German lady that Mom hired ostensibly to clean the house but who spent most of her days with us baking, and she used a lot of lard. Mom always used vegetable shortening…


  3. These are great ads! I love the Harrod’s ad and the ladylike wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses. I went to Harrods when I was in London which was a fabulous experience. Yep, the tomato jello is definitely “eww”! And the boudoir is gorgeous!


    1. We didn’t get to Harrods, but we did get to Fortnum and Mason. Had we known about it, we’d have gone to Selfridges, which was started by a guy who worked for Marshall Field. Mary and I first saw each other in a training class at Marshall Field’s (we didn’t actually meet until we saw each other at Loyola), and I understand walking into their store was like walking into Field’s on State Street.

      A guy named James Lileks used to have a feature on his website called “Unfortunate Food” that featured some rather disgusting concoctions that were created to sell certain food items. A&P was particularly notorious…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember A&P and their coffee which I think was pretty decent coffee. When i was in Harrods I found an expresso bar where customers would take a break from shopping. Of course, the group at the bar was very diverse and very congenial, as well. We teased each other about who had an accent. Fun times!


  4. Ewww is right John. Who in their right mind came up with that? I guess I shouldn’t judge if I haven’t tried it, but my mind just can’t wrap itself around jello (what we call jelly in South Africa and eat as or with dessert) and tomato anything. Great reminders of way back when, and to think that it can be cheaper to photograph a scene than get a good artist to draw it these days – If you don’t have to pay professional models that is. How times change. Thanks for the post.


    1. It’s funny how that happens, where now it’s cheaper to photograph than to draw something like that. Either that, or companies feel it’s worth the money to have things photographed, especially now where photography is digital and there are tools like Photoshop to clean the pictures up. Still, you can marvel at the work that went into the creation of the drawings.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi John – fun post – thank you … the boudoir ad is beautiful … I have a cousin who is a well recognised artist of interiors – ‘Her paintings use architectural imagery to explore the emotive potential of space and its associations with longing.’ Brilliant post … fascinating – the Harrods ad looks like ‘Simple’ and other dress patterns – another yearning to look like that, once the dress is made – never happens unfortunately! … cheers Hilary


    1. My godmother would buy the dress patterns (here, they’re Butterick or McCall’s) for outfits for my female cousins. She was very good with a wide variety of artistic endeavors, and they always came out looking like something you’d buy in the store. Is any of your cousin’s work online?


      1. Hi John – yes … I used Simplicity – for my dresses – they were certainly wearable, but not superb! I did the easy ones!

        Anna’s site is here: and I have mentioned her in my blog on a couple of occasions (use anna freeman) – but this is the gallery I visited where her work was being shown:

        Cheers and thanks for your interest – Hilary


        1. Anna’s work is fantastic! I’ll be keeping these links…

          I think some people just have knack for working from those patterns. My aunt was very good at it.


  6. Very cool vintage ads. I’m with you on the Eww, gross for the “unfortunate food”. Whoever came up with tomato sauce jello under the guise of barbeque salad? Just no. lol


  7. John, these are great varieties of ads. That jello ad makes me gag. I am one of the people that enjoys Neapolitan ice cream. It’s not my first go to, but I enjoy it. The commercial was sure a blast from the past. I always enjoy the great ones you find.


    1. They’re great, aren’t they? When I was a kid, my grandfather had a subscription to National Geographic, and the back cover was always an ad for Coke. I used to love to see those, especially the Christmas ads…


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