Found in the Collection: Arthur Radebaugh’s “Closer Than We Think”

Just in time for 2013, we’re starting a tradition of our own – we have too many of the fantastic original works of visionary Arthur Radebaugh not to share them during this changing time of year!

Art Radebaugh’s 1950s/60s visions of the future feel equally as outrageous as they do eerily spot-on. Millions of readers saw his syndicated feature Closer Than We Think in the hundreds of newspapers from 1958 to 1962.

Original from Arthur Radebaugh's "Closer Than We Think", from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Original from Arthur Radebaugh’s “Closer Than We Think”, from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

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Original from Arthur Radebaugh’s “Closer Than We Think”, from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Radebaugh was born in Coldwater, Michigan in 1906, and started experimenting with air brush painting while attending the Chicago Art Institute in the 1920s. Through the 30s, he worked as a sign painter, engraver and magazine illustrator, and eventually enlisted in the army in the 1940s. Both before and after his duty, he had begun elevating himself in the motor and transportation illustration business- even designing the Detroit Automotive Golden Jubilee symbol.

Original from Arthur Radebaugh's "Closer Than We Think", from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Original from Arthur Radebaugh’s “Closer Than We Think”, from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

While continuing to produce automotive art over the next few decades, his work consistently maintained a sleek and futuristic focus. He created his first syndicated series Can You Imagine for the Detroit News Pictorial in 1947, and his black light artwork was featured in articles and exhibits.

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Original from Arthur Radebaugh’s “Closer Than We Think”, from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

His Closer Than We Think series elevated him to national recognition, many episodes of which he created while touring America for inspiration in a 1950s British Ford van that he converted into a mobile studio.

    Original from Arthur Radebaugh's "Closer Than We Think", from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Original from Arthur Radebaugh’s “Closer Than We Think”, from the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Radebaugh fell on difficult times in the 1960s as a result of health complications, and spent some of the last years of his life working as a furniture decorator before passing away in Grand Rapids, MI in 1974. He was clearly a man living far before his time, and the hundreds of brilliant works he created throughout his career lend an essence of the  extraordinary to his remembered life. In our favorite anecdote about Radebaugh, from the The Future We Were Promised website, his New Center Studio’s office is described:

Radebaugh’s studio is decorated with an unusual touch, invisible until he turned off the lights and ignited his blacklight. Springing to life on one long studio wall is a life-size and life-like vista painted entirely in fluorescent blacklight paints. The scene is of Rio de Janeiro: famous statue of Christ on the hill to one side, beach and city below, as seen from a hotel balcony, bedecked with an arabesque striped awning and elegant white railings.”

2 Comments

  1. Clearly ahead of his time but lots of people make predictions. He sells the future so wonderfully with what was current commercial illustration vernacular. I can being a kid in the 50′s and waiting for the paper so I could color in his drawings while dreaming about what was to come.

    Great post!

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