Artists: Ralph William Williams (U.S., 1958)



Figure 1.--Ralph William Williams was a well-known American commercial artist. He is best known for his "Breck Girls" art which was so popular in the 1940-60's. The ads were for Breck shampoo. Many magazines carried the ads which were done in his photo-realism style. We have one portrait he did of a boy in 1958.

Ralph William Williams was a well-known American commercial artist. He is best known for his "Breck Girls" art which was so popular in the 1940-60's. The ads were for Breck shampoo. Many magazines carried the ads which were done in his photo-realism style. We have one portrait he did of a boy in 1958. There is lots of info on the internet about this artist, including locations of museum exhibits. The subject tells us that his parents were thrilled to have the artist with his distinctive style do a portrait of their son. The boy is shown with one of the short hair cuts that were so popular for America boys during the 1950s. Indobtedly the short GI haircuts of World War II helped to influence this style. It was rather a departure for Williams, as in contrast to his Breck Girls ads, this boy did not have much hair to shampoo. Notice the button-down collars that had become popular in the 1950s.

Breck Girls

Edward Breck was the son of John Breck who founded the Springfield Massachusetts B+reck Shampoo Compamy. Edward created a vurtual shampoo hysteria when he began using portraits of girls with beautiful hair in his advertising. He hired a noted commercial artist, Charles Sheldon, to create images of beautiful, healthy girls with long flowing usually blond hair to showcase his producrts. It proved to be a classically successful advertising campaign. Beginning in the Great Depression of the 1930s through to the 1950ís, Breck showcased girls that were as American as apple pie. The first Breck girl was Roma Whitney. She was 14 years when she appeared as a Breck girl. Sheldon was replaced with Ralph William Williams. The Breck girls were the idealized American girl and woman.

Boys

We see some portaits of boys done by Williams as well. The pastel of the boy here looks like it could have been used for an advertisement (figure 1). We have not yet noted, however, any commercial work by Willians except the Breck Girls. Perhaps our readers will know more. One reader has sent along another portrait of a boy. [Topolcic] It looks to us like a standard pastel portrait to us. The boy wears an open white collar shirt, tan suit jacket or blazer, and dark brown pants. It does not look like one done for commercial work.

The Artist

Ralph William Williams was a well-known American commercial artist. He is best known for his 'Breck Girls' art which was so popular in the 1940-60s. The ads were for Breck shampoo. Sheldon's early Breck portraits depicted slightly provocative images executed in pastels, with soft focus and halos. Ralph William Williams, perfected the Breck images of American womanhood that served as one of the most successful advertising camapigns of the mid-20th century. Many magazines carried the ads which were done in his photo-realism style. There is lots of info on the internet about this artist, including locations of museum exhibits. The subject tells us that his parents were thrilled to have the artist with his distinctive style do a portrait of their son.

Chronology

Williams did this portrait in 1958, about the same time he did the Breck work. .

Hair Cuts

The boy is shown with one of the short hair cuts that were so popular for America boys during the 1950s. Indobtedly the short GI haircuts of World War II helped to influence this style. It was rather a departure for Williams, as in contrast to his Breck Girls ads, this boy did not have much hair to shampoo. Most of his drawings were of girls and women with long, beautiful hair. Perhaps he wanted to draw a boy as a diversion from his Breck work.

Clothing

Notice the button-down collars that had become popular in the 1950s.

Reader Comment

An Australian reader tells us, "This looks like the very short sailorboy haircut I was given aged about age 6 or 7 for my home made sailor suit my Aunty made for me because she liked the film 'Anchors Aweigh' starring Gene Kelly."

Sources

Topolcic, Cludio. E-Mail message (October 20, 2014)







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Created: November 20, 2002
Last updated: 1:42 PM 10/25/2014