An archive of original art from Paul Laune (1899-1977), including 24 dustwrapper concept paintings, three multipage interior art mock-ups, and 10 supplied hardcover books displaying the final published artwork. Each painting is done in watercolor or tempera on art paper or stiff cardboard, with nearly all mounted and matted with a protective overlay. The three octavo-sized mock-ups are made from loose sheets stapled in the middle and folded. The art is in near fine or better condition with little wear, while the books are overall near fine.
Laune was born in Milford, Nebraska in 1899 to lawyer Sidney Benton Laune and Seigneora Russell, but was raised in the town of Woodward in the Oklahoma Territories. The family’s early years are described in his mother’s book of frontier life, *Sand in Your Eyes*, published in 1956 with his accompanying illustrations. Laune attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and by 1921 had relocated to Lincoln, Nebraska. There he formed his own art studio, Paul S. Laune & Co., receiving complimentary feedback from the well-respected printers' journal, *The Inland Printer*, for which he submitted samples of his work. He was a talented illustrator, painter, designer, and sculptor who produced works for book jackets, magazine articles, brochures, and programs. He specialized in Western-themed stories, but also illustrated aviation tales, children’s books, historical romances, war stories, and classic literature. His highest profile jobs were as cover artist for two popular juvenile series from 1937-1944, The Hardy Boys (#16-23) and the X Bar X Boys (#16-21). Laune also authored two books, *The Thirsty Pony* (1940) and *America’s Quarter Horses* (1973). While Laune left Woodward immediately after school he remained close to the community where he grew up. Today, the town hosts an annual high school art competition named in his honor, and murals he painted of the settlement of northwestern Oklahoma decorate the walls of The Plains Indian & Pioneer Museum. Laune died in 1977 at the age of 77.
The cover themes range from historic novels and classic literature to science and contemporary fiction, in an illustrative style typical of the day. While several of the pieces are rough and impressionistic, the majority are quite close to the final published cover concepts executed by Laune or, when finished by another artist, completed to a similar level of detail. Most of the covers depict realistic characters or idealized scenes from the book. Several though are more design oriented in nature with silhouette images, iconographic mosaics or, in the case of *Concepts of Force*, completely abstract images.
The majority of the artwork reflects Laune’s affinity for western themes – dusty desert scenes with looming mountains and populated by galloping horses, stagecoaches or wagons, gun-toting cowboys, and pioneer settlers. Among the covers are two different versions of the Paul Wellman book, *The Bowl of Brass*, featuring a frontier wife with bucket in hand overlooking a ranch with a workman and windmill in the distance.
The cover for Inglis Fletcher's 1946 novel *Toil of the Brave* is particularly interesting. While the artwork is very close to the final published dust jacket, the back of the artist board has notes by the author. She lists suggestions for other possible scenes from the book and comments about changing the number of window panes in the town hall to more accurately depict true colonial architecture (Fletcher was a notorious researcher). Despite the suggestions Fletcher has Signed off on the artwork "Approved Unreservedly" and below her comments adds the final note: "I believe this is my best dust jacket of all."
Also notable is what appears to be a mock-up for a periodical appearance for Alan Le May’s *The Searchers*. Whether this is for the original short story, “The Avenging Texan,” published in *The Saturday Evening Post* in late 1954, or for a later serialization version of the story published after the release of the book or film is not known. Accompanying it are two other multipage book or periodical mock-ups with nearly complete art; one for a story of a doctor flown-in to attend to a sick Inuit boy, and the other showing a pilot who crashed his biplane and seeks help from a farmer and his wife.
A charming collection of artwork from a prolific Mid-Western book illustrator.