Adolf Treidler Biography

Adolphe Treidler came to Chicago, en route to New York, in 1906.  He spent 18 months there working mostly with fashion illustration.  His employers never gave him the proofs, ensuring he didn't have a portfolio with which to apply for other jobs.  He worked for the Chicago Tribune at a pittance, not knowing to ask the proper wage in the beginning.  He arrived in New York and settled into the Madison Square area, making early contact with art director Walter Whitehead.  For his early work, he was paid thirty dollars a day.  "At the time Scribner's, The Century, McClure's, Munsey's--all those magazines were published in that area . . . I could take my samples to three places on one block . . . I started making up New York samples.  I had never seen a hansom cab and hardly ever been in an automobile.  I decided to make a drawing with a hansom cab in it.  There were a few cars and a lot of hansom cabs at Madison Square and that was the first sample I made to try to get work in New York."

In one of his drawings he included a Pierce Arrow car and Whitehead had just started handling their account.  That painting started a long relationship between Treidler and Pierce Arrow.  "I never much like story illustration.  A little bit . . . I liked scenery and I like travel. . ."  He began with some spot illustrations for catalogues, but the main work for Pierce Arrow started in 1928.  He used his own images for reference rather than the company's own.  "I went out in a car and took my own photographs.  I could have had [company produced] photographs and I probably did at some time, but the photographs were all, you know, conventional views such as they used in catalogs, and they weren't much use to me."

The war started him as a poster artist.  In 1916 he won the Newark 250th foundation celebration poster and established a national reputation.  He was not paid for war posters.

Treidler was also celebrated for his series of magazine covers for Colliers magazine.  He met the editor Albert Lee who commissioned six covers at three times what he was normally paid.  From 1930, he worked mainly on marine and holiday images for the French Line (and their agents Ayers of Chicago).  He also painted murals in the head offices of the French Line.

Adolphe Treidler was instrumental in the development of American commercial art.  Treidler produced prints of urban life and one of his favorite themes was the construction of the city.  His work show a command of drawing, in most instances derived from photographic reference, and a love of intricate surface pattern often from cast shadows. In the 1930s, Treidler was seen as the great American poster artist, to be mentioned in the same breath as the Beggarstaffs and Steinlen.  After 1945, his reputation seemed to have declined except among graphic design enthusiasts and the admirers of Pierce Arrow cars with whom Treidler was most associated.  In his later years he turned from commercial illustration to paint purely for his own pleasure.  He died in 1982.