Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Ink-Slinger Profiles: George Clark

Don Wootton caricature of Clark
Riverside Daily Press 6/9/1934

George Rife Clark was born in Bridgeport, Oklahoma on August 22, 1902. His birthplace was recorded on his marriage certificate at Ancestry.com, and the birthdate is from the Social Security Death Index. His middle name was his mother's maiden name. In the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, he was the second of three children born to Arthur and Georgia. They lived in Bentonville, Arkansas on Elliot Street. His father, who worked for a vinegar producer, died around 1911. His mother eventually remarried.

In the 1920 census, he lived on a farm in Osage, Arkansas. His step-father was Robert Cook, a farmer. Clark's art training included the Landon Course. An advertisement in Boy's Life, November 1920, touted Clark's work for the Oklahoma City Times.

Boy's Life November 1920

His childhood was described in the Meriden Record (Connecticut), April 19, 1954:
…George Clark's drawing began early. He got first hand experience with a paint brush at the age of 10. His father had died the year before, and to help the family he joined a 15-year-old entrepreneur of Bentonville in a painting business—mostly signs, but they would paint anything, from a building to a farm wagon.
At Oklahoma City, where he went to live with an aunt and try high school, he also painted signs, and sold political and sports cartoons to the Oklahoma City Oklahoman for $5 each. There were movie cartoons in Chicago, four years as a cartoonist with the Cleveland Press, and then on to New York.

The Rogers Historical Museum's History of Benton County profiled Clark and said:

George Clark went to high school in Oklahoma City and then attended various art schools, with the majority of his training done at the Chicago Art Institute. When he was 16 he started work as a cartoonist with the Daily Oklahoman, drawing political and sports cartoons. A stint as head artist at the Cleveland Press followed. In Cleveland he took long walks on his lunch hour sketching lakefront scenery. According to his grandson, “his drawing continued long into the night, with his wife a willing model for his pen and pencil.”
Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Records and Indexes, 1810-1973, at Ancestry.com, said he married Mary Eliese [sic] Conine on May 16, 1924. She was a Bentonville, Arkansas native. The Ottawa Citizen (Canada), April 23, 1937, said he moved to New York City in 1927. For NEA, his panel Side Glances debuted January 19, 1928 according to Yesterday's Papers.

The 1930 census recorded the couple in Yonkers, New York at 808 Bronx River Road. He was an artist. He joined the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate in 1939 and the name of the panel was changed to The Neighbors. The NEA continued Side Glances with William Galbraith Crawford. On creating his cartoons, the Meriden Record said:

...He loves his work, but getting started is torture.

He dawdles and smokes, he rummages thru sketches or clippings. Or he may turn on his projector and display on the wall some candid camera shots he has taken of unsuspecting men, women, and children watching parades or baseball games, or just walking down the street. At last he begins to draw.

"The first one takes forever," said George Clark, the pipe-smoking creator of "The Neighbors." "Then it's easy. I do six at a time, one week's supply."

That the daily portrayals of the foibles of homo Americanus and his wife, children, and friends do not spring without travail from the brow of their creator may surprise some of his millions of readers. Clark is one of America's most popular cartoonists because he seems to point up gently, but unerringly the humorous, pathetic, whimsical human weaknesses that everyone recognizes in himself and his friends.

"There is a certain idealization in my work," he said as he sank into a worn leather chair and put a match to his pipe. "I present what everybody wishes our civilization were like. My work ends before I get to the objectionable qualities in people…."

"...I have to draw genuine people, doing things within the realm of reason," he said. "On my word I can't draw a figure that satisfies me unless I know a situation. For instance, if I just sit down here and draw a boy—it doesn't ring true. But if I see this boy as a kid who's in a jam with his old man—now there's something I can handle. A drawing is feeling rather than conscious thought."
Clark resided in New York City at 12 East 89 Street, as recorded in the 1940 census. He was syndicated cartoonist who had three years of high school.

He received the National Cartoonists Society's Newspaper Panel Cartoon Award for his work in 1961. Clark passed away May 25, 1981 and was buried in Saint Charles Cemetery on Long Island, New York, according to the Rogers Historical Museum. He should not be confused with George Clarke who scripted The G-Man and G-Boys, and the artist George Fletcher Clark, whom AskArt.com mistakenly attached "The Neighbors" original art to.

(Updated 4/5/2018)


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