In the 1950s and 60s, the influence of fashion, film, and music could be seen in the glossy pages of magazine ads and commercial illustration. Mac (MaCauley) Conner (born 1913) created advertising campaigns for a variety of products during the decades when the advertising industry was at its height and centered on Madison Avenue. This summer, the Delaware Art Museum explores the work of one of the original “Mad Men,” with the comprehensive and lively exhibition The Original Mad Man: Illustrations by Mac Conner, on view June 24 – September 17, 2017.

Comprising of 70 original paintings, this is the first exhibition of works by the New York City-based artist whose advertising and magazine illustrations filled the pages of leading publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, McCall’s, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and Woman’s Day. His work is a “time capsule” of an era when commercial artists helped to redefine American style and culture.

Conner produced most of the works in the 1950s and early 1960s. His illustrations captured the aspirations and anxieties of post-War America when plentiful consumer goods and national optimism prevailed for a broad, predominately white, middle class. For the illustrators who worked with the advertising writers during this time, the visual vocabulary was often indistinguishable from that of magazine covers and illustration, attracting the eyes of consumers and readers.

“Some of Conner’s subjects—like the pretty girl and the matinee idol—were familiar from turn-of-the-century illustration. But his style, especially his startling perspectives, intense close-ups, and dramatic color blocks and pattern, reflected changes in the larger art world,” explains Mary F. Holahan, Delaware Art Museum’s Curator of Illustration/Curator of Outlooks Exhibitions.

The Museum’s presentation will include printed pieces, correspondence with editors and art directors, reference photos, preparatory sketches, and a video interview with Conner, who is still living in New York City well after his 100th birthday. Visitors will explore images related to themes that include romance, family life, gender roles, and politics.

“Such topics are a reminder of Conner’s link to the Museum’s collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century illustration. A tour of our permanent collection galleries shows that, though styles and content had changed by Conner’s time, illustrators have always relied on storytelling and emotional appeal to entertain and persuade,” explains Holahan.

Conner studied illustration during the Depression, when he attended the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts) and the Grand Central School of Art in New York City where he was a student of Harvey Dunn, a student of Howard Pyle. During World War II, he designed wartime Navy training ads. Established as a freelance illustrator, he then co-founded Neeley Associates, where he worked with clients such as United Airlines, US Army Recruiting, General Motors, and Greyhound Lines. As photography increasingly displaced illustration in the 1960s, Conner moved from magazines to genre paperbacks.

To view large images and caption information, click below.

Sponsors and Organizers

Organized by the Museum of the City of New York, this traveling exhibition was curated by Terrence C. Brown, former Director of the Society of Illustrators and consulting curator D. B. Dowd, Professor of Art and American Culture Studies at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visuals Arts, and Faculty Director of the Modern Graphic History Library, both at Washington University in St.Louis.

The Original Mad Man: Illustrations by Mac Conner was developed by the Museum of the City of New York and co-sponsored by the Modern Graphic History Library, Washington University in St. Louis, the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, and the Norman Rockwell Museum.

In Delaware, this exhibition is made possible by the Edgar A. Thronson Illustration Exhibition Fund. Additional support was provided, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on


Founded in 1912, the Delaware Art Museum is best known for its large collection of works by Wilmington native Howard Pyle and fellow American illustrators, a major collection of British Pre-Raphaelite art, urban landscapes by John Sloan and his circle, and a survey of American art from early 19th century through the present. Visitors can also enjoy the outdoor Copeland Sculpture Garden and a number of special exhibitions throughout the year.

The Delaware Art Museum is at 2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, DE 19806. Open Wednesday: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Thursday: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., and Friday – Sunday: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday and Tuesday: Closed. Admission fees are charged as follows: Adults (19–59) $12, Seniors (60+) $10, Students (with valid ID) $6, Youth (7–18) $6, and Children (6 and under) free. Admission fees are waived Thursdays 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. and Sundays 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. thanks to support from generous individuals. For more information, call 302-571-9590 or 866-232-3714 (toll free), or visit

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