In the spirit of the season of giving, we’ll be highlighting some of the amazing gifts we’ve received from our donors in 2018 throughout the rest of the month! ❄️
The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at the Ohio State University recently acquired a portion of cartoonist Hal Empie’s artwork from the 1930s, which consists of original pen and ink drawings, many published in Arizona Highways magazine and newspapers across the Southwestern United States, in addition to some of Empie’s well-known humorous western themed Empie Kartoon Kards. Empie was highly regarded for his fine art portraying places and people of the American Southwest.
Empie (1909 – 2002), a pharmacist, businessman, and artist contributed to a number of publications including Life magazine and drew countless cartoons for newspapers and magazines. His Empie Kartoon Kards were postcards sold at stores across the Western United States. These cards were famous for their humorous slice of life scenes as interpreted by Empie.
Hart Haller (Hal) Empie was born on March 26, 1909 in Safford, Arizona Territory. Empie’s path to becoming a cartoonist came through his pharmacy career. As a teenager, Empie worked at the Best Drug Store in Safford. After his graduation from high school, Empie attended the University of Arizona in pre-med and later transferred to Capitol College of Pharmacy in Denver, Colorado. After passing Board of Pharmacy licensing examinations in both Colorado and Arizona, Empie received a special dispensation to practice pharmacy before the age of 21, making him the youngest licensed pharmacist in Arizona history. In 1934, he purchased Duncan Drug Store in Duncan, Arizona (later renamed Art Gallery Drug Store) and set up his easel next to the prescription counter, where he painted between customers. Empie started drawing his famous Empie Kartoon Kards in the mid-1930s and was a major contributor to early issues of Arizona Highways magazine. Amazingly, Empie was a self-taught artist and art teacher, his only formal instruction was a six-week course in 1950 studying oil painting techniques under Polish artist, Frederick Taubes.
“This collection demonstrates Hal Empie’s imagination and talent documenting everyday life in the mid-century United States,” says curator Jenny Robb. “We are very fortunate to have this excellent body of work from Empie. We are grateful to his daughter, Ann Empie Groves for sharing these treasures with us.”
The collection also includes metal printing blocks that match the selection of Empie Kartoon Kards and printing matrices. These are wonderful printmaking artifacts in addition to the artwork.