Theme/Style – Commercial art, illustration
Media – Watercolors, drawings, prints
Artistic Focus – Kenneth Sawyer is best known for his skillful work as the advertising artist for San Francisco’s 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. His maps, posters and panoramic views of the GGIE captured the scope and beauty of the event and remain collector’s items. Sawyer later had a successful career as a commercial illustrator and Hollywood movie poster artist, creating dramatic and colorful advertising images for numerous 1950s-era westerns and horror films.
Career Highlights –
- Kenneth Sawyer was born in Oklahoma in 1896.
- Sawyer lived in San Francisco, California during the 1920s and early 1930s, and by the late 1930s he was working in the city as a commercial artist.
- Sawyer was the Art Manager in the department of Promotion and Publicity for the Golden Gate International Exposition (GGIE) on San Francisco’s Treasure Island in 1939. In this capacity he rendered many views and maps of the GGIE for postcards and posters published by the H.S. Crocker Company and others.
- Sawyer’s rendering of Ralph Stackpole’s monumental Pacifica sculpture at the GGIE was on the cover of the Standard Oil Bulletin published by the Standard Oil Company of California in 1939.
- Sawyer moved to Los Angeles around 1939-1940 and continued to work as a commercial artist, creating advertising art as well as illustrations for Automobile Club of Southern California publications and Sunset magazine.
- During the 1950s, Sawyer worked as an illustrator for film studios in Los Angeles, producing “key art” (the main image for a movie’s marketing campaign) for westerns, romances and monster movies.
- In 1959, Sawyer’s original 1939 watercolor of Stackpole’s Pacifica was donated by Standard Oil to the city of Pacifica, California to hang in its city hall and serve as the basis for the design of the city’s seal.
- Kenneth Sawyer passed away in Oakland, California in 1960.