From the Eloise Book Series to Gourmet Magazine and So Much More, the Legendary Illustrator Continues to Create
Jolene Hardy for Time Travel Magazine
The Holiday Issue of Gourmet Magazine, December, 1956. Cover Art: Hilary Knight. Photo: Jolene
A couple of months ago I was searching for ideas and on the lookout for holiday magazines from the 1950’s when this one popped up on eBay.
I was so taken with the image, I bought it. It’s the December, 1956 issue of Gourmet and my photo doesn’t do it justice. The colors and design are so warm and beautiful I decided I wanted to create something like it as a holiday centerpiece. More on that in a bit.
When the magazine first arrived I flipped it open to the masthead, looking for the cover art credit. I literally went “Ooh!”
Such a sweet surprise to see it was created by Hilary Knight, the illustrator who brought the Eloise series of books to life with his drawings in 1955.
Eloise was written by author, actor (watch her in the 1957 film Funny Face) vocal coach (to Sinatra, among others) cabaret star and glamorous eccentric Kay Thompson.
Generations of children have been enchanted by Eloise (although Thompson intended it to be a book for adults) the fictional six-year-old tiny terror who lives at The Plaza Hotel. She finds adventure in its hallways and ballrooms and all of the mischief is charmingly illustrated by Mr. Knight.
Image left: Hilary Knight in his NYC Studio, 1960. Photographer Unknown. Collection of the Artist; ©️Hilary Knight
If you’d like to learn more about the larger-than-life Kay Thompson, I’ve included a link here. And if you get a chance, watch Funny Face. Ms. Thompson’s fictional character is based on fashion icon Diana Vreeland and she plays it for all it’s worth. It’s a really great movie.
Another Beautiful Cover. Thanksgiving Edition, Gourmet Magazine, November, 1956. Cover Art: Hilary Knight.
With my interest piqued by the Gourmet cover, I wanted to learn more about Mr. Knight’s other illustrations — particularly his work for Gourmet and other culinary assignments.
What I didn’t expect to find was that a retrospective of his work was being planned to open (and did) on November 12 and is currently on view until March 12, 2023 at The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
I’ve attached a link that includes an interview with Mr. Knight filmed at the opening of the show. He shares that at 95-years-old he still draws and, in fact, is writing an illustrated memoir titled Hilary Knight: Drawn from Life. What a treat that promises to be.
Here’s a link about the show (including the interview) and an additional biography.
Link: Illustration History
Link: Norman Rockwell Museum
Hilary Knight has illustrated more than fifty books and has written nine; he’s drawn the covers of major magazines and posters for hit Broadway musicals.
He also illustrated one of the most fun and sassy cookbooks of all time: The I Hate to Cook Book from 1960 by the ever-irreverent Peg Bracken.
Image: The I Hate to Cook Book, 1960, written by Peg Bracken and illustrated by Hilary Knight
I’m really looking forward to his memoir and I’ll keep you posted on any new information about its publication date. And if I get back East before March, I will surely make a trip to Stockbridge.
A Holiday Centerpiece Inspired by Hilary Knight’s 1956 Gourmet Cover Art.
My tribute to the 1956 Gourmet Cover and Hilary Knight. Photo: Jolene
I was so starry-eyed about the cover art for that Gourmet issue I really wanted to do a centerpiece inspired by it. The additional benefit is that a couple of members of my family got plenty of Vitamin C out of this project — I did, too.
It’s a bright, colorful centerpiece for the holidays and your family and guests can grab some fruit after dinner or take some home.
I used four red candles I had on hand to represent the four Sundays of Advent, and I had some vintage candle clips to hold them, a gift from a friend just this year.
If you’d like to make something like this, one trick is to get a tiered cupcake stand, or something similar. I got this one online for under ten dollars. The star is a small tree-topper ornament I bought for six dollars. The other thing I did was line the centers with parchment rounds on each tier - it kept the grapes from running away.
Five-tiered cupcake stand, but they also come in 2,3, and 4 tiers as well. Photo: Jolene
It was really a lot of fun to assemble, (even the chasing after rolling fruit) and it got a few ‘Oohs’ and ‘Aahs’ when people saw it, which is always nice. The fruit included clementines, ora
nges, red and green grapes, limes and some kiwis and Seckel pears that got hidden in the center — at Christmas I’ll arrange better. Let me know if you plan to decorate with fruit on your holiday table and if you decide to create a tower like this one, I’d love to know.
I was looking through the 1956 Gourmet Issue again today and saw this. I hadn’t noticed it before, but at the right-hand bottom is Hilary Knight’s signature.
Another charming illustration. I’m completely smitten. ✨
Gourmet. 1956. Photo: Jolene
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Enjoy the weekend!