Illustration for The Atlantic magazine
I was commissioned to do a dual portrait of two well-known American icons: John Wayne and John Ford. In their creative partnership, “the two men succeeded in defining an ideal of American masculinity that dominated for nearly half a century,” Nancy Schoenberger writes in Wayne and Ford: The Films, the Friendship, and the Forging of an American Hero. The illustration accompanies the essay written by Stephen Metcalf in the December 2017 issue of The Atlantic. Thanks to Zak Bickel for the fantastic art direction here.
Inventing John Wayne
The actor’s persona was inextricable from the toxic culture of Cold War machismo. He was the apotheosis of a Cold War type—unsentimental, hard, brutal if necessary, proudly anachronistic, a rebuke to the softness of postwar affluence. He was turning, in other words, from an artist into a political symbol. “Unlike Ford,” Schoenberger says, “he ended up making propaganda, not art.”