Ben Kimberly Prins (1904-1980)


Back in 1945, still a few years before America's mass exodus from its decaying urban centres into freshly minted suburbs, companies like Barret tried to appeal to the country's rural and small town population:

"America's farm-to-market network of highways needs attention - and needs it badly."

The message was clear; farmers needed good roads to ensure the country could eat. By 1960, with urban sprawl well under way and America now deeply, madly in love with the car, the paving industry had abandoned the farm to chase after the commuter class. See this ad, illustrated by Robert Fawcett or this one by Bill Fleming as examples.

Illustrator Ben Kimberly Prins was six years into his career as a freelancer when he did the Barret ad above. He had previously been an art director at BBDO, after an extensive education at Pratt, The Art Student's League and The Grand Central School of Art. Among his teachers were George Bridgman and Dean Cornwell. The Barret ad looks to be heavily referenced from photography and is really well done, but this other piece by Prins, reminding me a bit of the style of children's book illustrator and author Robert McCloskey, captures the character of small town American archetypes more effectively.

A member of The Society of Illustrators and The Art Director's Club, Prins enjoyed a long career illustrating covers and features as well as advertising for many major magazines.

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