Allen Lewis was an influential artist of the period. He is known a century later for his book illustration and titling and for his many bookplates.
Upon his return from studying abroad, he set up a studio in a warehouse owned by Hamilton Easter Field (1874-1922). Field, whom Lewis called his guardian angel, had helped the struggling artist to sell some of his prints in Paris. While in Paris, Lewis had designed five lithographed bookplates for Field, and then created two more following his return. The generous Field introduced Lewis to many of his friends, who in turn offered commissions to the young artist.
Much of the demand was for Lewis's bookplates, executing more than fifty bookplates in the course of his career. Lewis produced two bookplates for Paul Burry Haviland (1880-1950), a member of the Limoges china-making family and Field's cousin, in 1904 and 1906.
In 1904 the first honor came through a bronze medal at the St. Louis Exposition. A decade later, at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, he won a gold medal for his showing.
In 1915, Lewis received his first commission for illustrations for Journeys to Bagdad, a book by Charles S. Brooks. With this work Lewis established his characteristic approach to book illustration, carefully considering the relation of the image to the page as a whole and taking particular pains with both the type design and the lettering. To Lewis these were as important as the illustrations to the visual integrity of the book as a whole.
Looking for a distinctive display type for the new magazine New Yorker, Rae Irving, design director noted an alphabet drawn by the American etcher Allen Lewis. This was the typographical basis for the "Irvin type." The story is that Irvin may have spotted Lewis' lettering, which was drawn to imitate a woodcut, in a pamphlet entitled "Journeys To Bagdad", and liked it so much that Irvin asked Lewis to create the entire alphabet but that Lewis was uninterested in this project and suggested that Irvin create the alphabet himself –this became the "Irvin type." This was then used for its nameplate and headlines and the masthead above The Talk of the Town section.
In 1916, Lewis participated in the first annual exhibition of the Brooklyn Society of Etchers, an organization of which he served as the first president.
The show of Allen Lewis work in 1918 at Goodspeed's was well received.
In 1925, the Avon Old Farms academy asked for a title page for their manual.
In 1929 Pascal Covici published a limited two-volume edition of The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter and Lewis provided the illustrations but, unaccountably, not the title page.
Other book illustrations and titles include Calico Bush, etc.
Lewis exhibited his works and won honors for them throughout his career. His long association with Alfred Stieglitz, artist, promoter and gallery owner, was augmented by an unusually subtle bookplate and a tag for his personal collection.
Finally, in 1929, he was elected an Associate of the National Academy of Design, and in 1935 made a full Academician. (notes from Annex Galleries).
Most collectible and visible, the woodcut and etching bookplates Allen Lewis are varied.
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