Friday, December 16, 2011

The art of Alan Jedla

Alan Jedla,  (Jack Rosenblum), 1900-1960, was a celebrated caricaturist who appeared on the scene in the late 1930's, and after the war became alongside pinup artist Vargas,  one of Esquire magazine's preeminent artists, creating portraits for many of their show business and celebrity features.
Alan Jedla

Esquire thought so highly of Jedla's work, (they referred to him as a "caricatoonist"), they gave him a regular full page beginning in January 1947, "January's Children", "February's Children", etc, a pictorial guessing-game depicting six celebrities born in that particular month with various clues to their identities. Jedla also created "caricatoons", for Esquire, featuring popular celebrities reenacting classic,  (if corny), jokes,  and portraits for two ongoing series called "People we can't read enough about", and "People we read too much about". Jedla opened his own art gallery in Brooklyn, but in the early 1950's he would develop cataracts which sidelined his career as a caricaturist.

Leonard Maltin introduced me to the work of Alan Jedla.  Like Sam Berman and George Wachsteter, he's a masterful mid-20th century caricaturist whose work has been sadly overlooked.

His family's official Alan Jedla biography:
Jack Rosenblum was born May, 1900, on Rivingston Street, New York city, the first of 7 children.  He was an untrained artist who left school after the eighth grade.  As the eldest, he had to go to work to help support the family.  He worked in the garment industry before working at a laundry in Coney Island.  From 1939-1941 Jedla worked at Casey Jones School of Aeronautics as a structural assembly instructor.  After the war started the military acquired his position and thereafter Jedla pursued his art career, and Evelyn went to work to help support the family.   In order to gain recognition, he changed his name to Alan Jedla – J stood for Jack, E for Evelyn (his wife) D for David his eldest son, L for Leatrice his daughter and A for Alan the baby!  J-E-D-L-A.  He hired his brother Murray Rosenblum to act as his promoter.  His caricatures and cartoons started getting published in magazines such as Today’s Woman, Cosmopolitan and Esquire.
Prior to his working at Casey Jones as an instructor he worked in an all girl’s commercial high school in Brooklyn as an art teacher.  There he worked along with Zero Mostel (the actor) who also was an art instructor teaching a LIFE Class.   
His career progressed as a free-lancing caricaturist for motion picture companies, later taught cartoon and caricature on the Federal Arts Project.  During the war he instructed air force inductees in ground-crew technique.  After that program was disbanded, his first assignment was to draw the jumbo-sized caricatures of Olsen and Johnson which appeared over the Winter Garden Theater, during the New York run at Laffing Room Only.  He also donated six caricatures to the Victory Loan Drive which brought in 30,000 dollars in Bonds.  His Jumbo Posters of Groucho Marx  “THE BIG STORE” produced for Metro Goldwyn Meyer and W.C. Fields “THE GREAT NOSE IT ALL” hung brightly over Broadway.  
We were told that he was also offered the caricaturist position at TV Guide but declined because they wanted him to work at their studio but he would only work from home.  The great and well known Al Hirschfield then got the project.
Early in his 50’s, Alan Jedla developed cataracts which impaired his vision.  He opened an art gallery in Brooklyn, New York called the BARTOK GALLERY which did not last a year.    In 1956 he opened up a picture frame store across from Fortunoffs on Livonia Avenue, Brooklyn.  He died suddenly 4-1/2 years later from a coronary thrombosis.

Mid-thirties caricatures. 
                     Before becoming the published artist JEDLA, He signed his art work as Jack Rosenblum / Fuentes /and Jack Alan.

Mickey Rooney
 mid-thirties caricature of comedic actor Sammy Cohen by Alan Jedla,
still using his real name J. Rosenblum

an early ad by Jedla

and another early ad freaturing Hitler, still credited to Rosenblum
Alan Jedla drew the Marx brothers for this 1941 MGM film poster. Al Hirschfeld
created several other poster designs for this film.

Jedla's Marx Brothers art, larger

Jedla drew this caricature of W.C. Fields used for the newspaper ads for
his latest film "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break" in 1941

When the film opened in New York's Times Square, Jedla's (flipped) caricature
was prominently displayed in front of the theatre

the color image

Bob Hope by Jedla, 1941

Lou Costello

Hope poses with a recreation of Jedla's caricature

a Jedla self-portrait

A Brooklyn Street scene by Jedla

"Chagall viewing his work"

From Esquire, 1947-48:

stars of Hollywood Westerns

From Esquire 1948

from Esquire...

and the flip-side...

the following celebrity"caricatoons" appeared in Esquire in 1946/1947

Harry Hershfield

Albert Einstein

General Eisenhower

Mamie Eisenhower

from 1949, Marx bros faces by Jedla, cartoons by Virgil Partch (VIP)

portrait of actress Claudett Colbert

Carmen Miranda

Adloph Menjou

J. Paul Getty

Harry Truman

At Jedla's Bartok gallery, screen star (and co-star of "Love Happy"), Ilona Massey and Jedla's
brother/promoter Murray Rosenblum hold Jedla's latest
portrait's of Harry and Bess Truman

 Unknown, (perhaps a local politician?), admiring his portrait,
 Jedla and IIona Massey

a list of portraits by Alan Jedla that were created for and displayed at his Bartok gallery in Brooklyn.
Most of these portraits been distributed to Jedla's friends and relatives and have never been
a 1947 Jedla Biography from Esquire
Special thanks to John Wendler who uncovered much of Jedla's lost work, to Chris Boyko and to Alan Jedla's granddaughters Roberta Michael and Wendy Roth


  1. Needless to say, I wasn't familiar with his work either. Thanks for hipping me to Alan Jedla!

  2. What 'th…! "The Secret Life Of Danny Kaye…?!"

    Ooof. I'm not touching that with a ten foot pole.