John Alcorn (artist)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

John Alcorn (February 10, 1935 – January 27, 1992) was an American commercial artist and designer, and an illustrator of children's books. In addition to his accomplishments in the areas of packaging, corporate and dimensional design, Alcorn designed the opening titles for several Federico Fellini films. During his career, Alcorn created numerous book jackets and paperback covers, and his work appeared in many major exhibits.



Early life and education

A native New Yorker, John Alcorn was born in Corona, Queens, in 1935. When he was five years old, his family moved to Great Neck, Long Island. He was educated in the local schools. He studied graphic arts at The Cooper Union. During his first two years at Cooper Union, he studied drawing, calligraphy, architecture, the mechanics of typography, and dimensional design. In his last year his studies consisted of illustration, graphics and advertising design.


Alcorn's early career included work in the art department of Esquire magazine, a brief stint with a pharmaceutical advertising agency, and sound training at the Push Pin Studios, the celebrated design studio founded by Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Reynold Ruffins, and Edward Sorel. In 1958 Alcorn joined CBS Radio and subsequently the CBS-TV art department, but a year later he decided to freelance exclusively. In 1962 Alcorn designed and illustrated Books! by Murray McCain, which was selected as one of the best fifty books of the year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Besides book illustrations, Alcorn designed numerous paperback covers, jackets, and promotion materials.

Personal life

Following graduation from Cooper Union, Alcorn married and in 1962 settled in Ossining, New York, where he lived with his wife Phyllis, and their four sons. In 1971 he moved with his family to Florence, Italy. In 1977 he returned with his family to the United States, settling in Cold Spring, New York. In 1983 Alcorn and his wife moved to Hamburg Cove in Lyme, Connecticut.

Exhibitions and collections

Alcorn's work has been exhibited at the Louvre in Paris, the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, and the Venice Biennale. It was included in the Push Pin Studios Retrospective Show at the Louvre, in March 1970. Alcorn's works are included in the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota.


Alcorn received awards from the New York Art Directors Club, the Society of Illustrators, and Cooper Union. In 1968 he won first prize at the Bologna Children's Book Fair. He was the recipient of the prestigious Augustus Saint-Gaudens Medal from Cooper Union. In 1970, he was selected as the first graphic artist to be Artist-In-Residence at Dartmouth College. In 1987 he was Artist-In-Residence at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Other awards include:

  • New York Times choice of Best Illustrated Children's Books of the Year
    • 1962 for Books!
    • 1966, for Wonderful Time
  • Fifty Books of the Year, American Institute of Graphic Arts, 1963, for Books!
  • first prize Bologna Children's Book Fair, 1968
  • Augustus St. Gaudens Medal, The Cooper Union, 1970

Illustration work

Books illustrated by Alcorn are all for children, except as indicated.

  • Murray McCain, Books! (nonfiction), J. Cape, 1962
  • Al Hine, Where in the World Do You Live? (fiction), Harcourt, 1962
  • Mary Kay Phelan, The Circus, Holt, 1963
  • Ogden Nash, Everyone but Thee and Me (adult poems), Dent, 1963
  • Hine, Money Round the World, Harcourt, 1963
  • Stella Standard, The Art of Fruit Cookery, Doubleday, 1964
  • Sesyle Joslin, The Petite Famille (French language reader), Harcourt, 1964
  • Television Note Book: 1964, Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 1964
  • McCain, Writing! (nonfiction), Ariel, 1964. Hine, A Letter to Anywhere (nonfiction), Harcourt, 1964
  • Marie Winn and Alan Miller, The Fireside Book of Children's Songs, Simon and Schuster, 1966
  • Phyllis McGinley, Wonderful Time (poems), Lippincott, 1966
  • Joslin, La Fiesta (Spanish language reader), Harcourt, 1967
  • Jan Wahl, Pocahontas in London (fiction), Delacorte, 1967
  • Martin Gardner, Never Make Fun of a Turtle, My Son (poems), Simon & Schuster, 1969
  • One, Two, Three, Hallmark, 1970
  • The Great Book of Puzzles and Perplexities, 1978

He also illustrated and designed numerous book jackets and paperback covers, two print catalogs, and contributed illustrations to many periodicals, including McCall's, Playboy, and Sports Illustrated.


  • American Artist (Sept. 1958)
  • Graphis (Nov. 1958), Vol. 27, 1971-72
  • Newsweek (June 10, 1963)
  • Publishers Weekly (June 1, 1964)
  • Lee Kingman and others compilers, Illustrators of Children's Books, 1957-1966 (Horn Books, 1968)
  • Doris de Montrville and Donna Hill, editors, Third Book of Junior Authors (H. W. Wilson, 1972)

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "John Alcorn (artist)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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