Weimer Pursell: The Thumbnail Sketches

On view in this exhibition is just a small portion of this process rich collection and its many gouache thumbnail sketches that provide evidence of the visual thinking that led to final product, all created by hand, well before the digital era. The Pursell collection was one of three areas of the UTC Permanent Collection of Art targeted in a 2016 Preservation Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

October 29, 2018 - December 12, 2018 In 1948 Weimer Pursell took a hiatus from his successful career as a New York based commercial artist and illustrator to serve as Head of the Art Department at the University of Chattanooga (now UT Chattanooga) where he remained until 1952. During his tenure he introduced the first courses in “applied” or “commercial” art at the University.  His wife, Dorothea, left in her estate many of Pursell’s original works, reproductions, and posters. In 2006, the Pursells’ son and daughter, Scott Pursell and Anne Pursell Blair gifted the entire collection of nearly 320 individual pieces to the University. It is the largest body of Weimer Pursell’s work known to exist. 

Weimer Pursell (1906 – 1974) was born and raised in a Dyersburg, a small town in west Tennessee sixty miles from Memphis. After high school, Pursell worked his way to Chicago where he studied at the Art Institute. During the years that followed, he established a successful freelance practice illustrating feature articles and covers for well-known periodicals such as Life, Redbook, Town and Country, Newsweek, Forbes, and Space and Aeronautics; and he designed for companies such as Monsanto, American Airlines, Esso, Lederle Laboratories, Abbot Laboratories, American Brakeshoe Company, and Coca-Cola. In the history of graphic design, Pursell is most noted for his posters for Winchester Rifles and the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, and his 1943 poster for the U.S. Government Printing Office “When You Ride Alone, You Ride with Hitler”. Pursell received many awards and accolades during his career; his WWII posters have been included in exhibitions at institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, and he was selected as a member of Chicago’s “27 Group” a select band of artists, illustrators and designers.
A detail of the exhibition "Weimer Pursell: The Thumbnail Sketches"