Ben Stahl's Beginnings

Ben Stahl was a self-taught artist. He was born in 1910 in Chicago. At age 16, Stahl was exhibiting in the International Watercolor Show at the Art Institute of Chicago (where he later taught and lectured). At age 17 he got his first job in a Chicago art studio as an errand boy.

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Like a freight train hurtling down the track, Ben Stahl's early career sped along with singular purpose. Within 5 years he went from errand boy to apprentice to full-fledged advertising illustrator at one of Chicago's top art studios.

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In 1937 one of Stahl's advertising illustrations was noticed by the art director of the Saturday Evening Post. Stahl was subsequently offered the first of what would become over 750 assignments spanning thirty years.

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Ten years later in 1947, when the piece below was included in the NY Art Director's Annual, Ben Stahl had moved to Westport, Connecticut where he lived and worked alongside many of America's most successful and well-known illustrators.

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(Here's the same piece in colour as it appeared in magazines that year)

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To say the self-taught, former Chicago art studio errand boy had arrived would be something of an understatement.

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By the time he moved to Westport, Stahl could afford to build a studio behind his house that most illustrators today could only dream of.

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It included a shipping room, photographic dark room, library, a separate studio for his assistant, a screened-in sun deck...

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... and a built-in doghouse larger than Stahl's former workroom itself.

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For his profile in Ashley Halsey Jr.'s 1951 book, Illustrating for the Saturday Evening Post, Stahl remarked, "The carpenters who did the job told me that if the doghouse alone were built in New York City, I could have rented it for $100 a month at the time."

* My Ben Stahl Flickr set

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