Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Frank Soltesz!

I don't know about you, but for me one of the fun things about the internet is having the ability to look up random topics that I find interesting. Often I wind up going "down the rabbit hole", so to speak, with one topic leading to another, and another. Today's subject was kind of the result of that phenomenon.

It started with this scan of a wonderful (and not particularly rare) certificate that was given out to guests who visited the "Rocket to the Moon" attraction, sponsored by TWA of course. What a fantastic item, with a beautiful illustration. Who painted it? Well, on the right hand side you can see the name "Soltesz".

It's Googlin' time! There is not a lot of information about Frank Soltesz (1912-1986), but I did find some on several sites. Soltesz was born in Pennsylvania, and showed an aptitude for drawing at an early age. He won a number of art contests, and then enrolled in the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. During World War II he produced lots of technical illustrations for various manufacturers. After the war he went on to a successful career as a freelance artist. Two of his biggest clients were TWA, and Armstrong Cork.

Look at this beautiful TWA poster! I like everything about it.

Here's another incredible poster - I had a chance to buy one of these a few years ago (before I even knew who the artist was) and passed - talk about regret. Such a gorgeous painting.

And how about one more ad for TWA? I'm sure you won't mind.

One of Soltesz s particular skills was doing "cutaway" illustrations, such as this one of a seaplane. The detail is so fun. Bunks, luggage storage, lounges, the cockpit, and yes, even a terlet. 

Some of Frank Soltesz's most well-known work is the series of paintings that he did for Armstrong Cork. One site says that between 1947 and 1951 he produced 29 detailed illustrations of various structures, from this steamship, to factories and steel mills, and so on.  These appeared in "Saturday Evening Post", and gained him a great deal of attention. I love this steamship cutaway...

... or how about this office building, including the subterranean floors? Not to mention things like the subway train, the sewer system, and pipes carrying other city services.

And one last picture as it appeared on a Saturday Evening Post page. As a kid I would have pored over these wonderful paintings for so long, delighting in every tiny element. In fact, I still enjoy doing just that!

What a talent! I'm so glad I went down this particular internet vortex. I hope you all enjoyed learning about Frank Soltesz.


Nanook said...


A "rabbit hole" well-worth exploring. Such great drawings-!

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

These TWA posters are wonderful! Love the old travel posters from that era. And yeah, that Moonliner certificate isn't so rare. I used to have four of them.

I remember many of these cutaway illustrations but never new the name of the illustrator who did them. The last two remind me of a PC strategy game called "Sim Tower" which I used to play into the wee hours of the morning. Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

That is some gorgeous artwork! I love cutaway diagrams, like these. They remind me of the children's book, "What Do People Do All Day?" by Richard Scarry. I still have my childhood copy of the book and I remember spending a lot of time staring at the cutaways of a steamship, a hospital, a paper mill, a flour mill, etc.

Thanks for sharing these, Major!

Andrew said...

TokyoMagic, the pictures in that Richard Scarry book left quite an impression on me at a young age. I loved how the arrows showed how items moved through factories, water through pipes, etc. In fact, I've always enjoyed any type of "cross-section" illustration. I can remember that books of the Star Wars spaceships in this style were always some of the most popular choices at the elementary school library.

These are some gorgeous examples of this type of picture. Illustrations from the mid-century always rule. Thanks for piecing this all together!

Melissa said...

It's a beautiful day,
Soletsz cut away

My ship is a corker;
The hold's full of porkers
We'll sail to New York or

Even before I read your text, Major, I was thinking the same thing about Kid-Me getting lost for hours poring over the detail in the cutaway pictures. Especially the tiny little theater!

TM! and Andrew, I had Scarry's Busy, Busy World, but it had much the same effect!

Anonymous said...

TWA was one of those companies that was just "magical" to me as a kid. The Lockheed Constellation, with its triple vertical stabilizer was beautiful and graceful. Plus, it loaned it's nosegear mechanics to a certain Moonliner...

Anonymous said...

Did someone misspell his name at the bottom of the rocket illustration?

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, it was fun researching this one.

K. Martinez, I am still kicking myself for not buying that one TWA poster (image #3), but it was *just* a little more money than I wanted to spend. And yes, I have had at least four or five of those certificates over the years. I still have two.

TokyoMagic!, I must have seen those cutaway children’s books you mentioned - I know I used to see things like that at bookstores and in libraries - but never owned one. Frank Soltesz did a ton of cutaways, it seems like he did things like hospitals and paper mills. I wonder if Richard Scarry was influenced by Soltesz’s work?

Penna. Andrew, any super-detailed illustrations used to fascinated the heck out of me. I have a brochure from when my grandparents went on a cruise, and there’s a very long cutaway of the ship they were in, if I can find it I will scan it and post it here!

Melissa, I feel like I should know the tune for those lyrics, but I can’t quite come up with it! Meanwhile, I guess I was the only kid who didn’t have a Richard Scarry book, and now I know I was a deprived child.

Stu29573, “vertical stabilizers”? I thought they were just “those three tail thingies”!

Anonymous, YIKES! Nope, it’s just your humble blogger, unable to spell, or type (or both). Thanks, I’ve gone back and fixed my dumb gaffe!!

JG said...

Major, these are great! I confess I am partial to the building drawings, but the planes and ships are eye-catching too.

I have (somewhere) my old Disney kid's book of 20K Leagues, bought at the Main Street Bookstore, it had an "elevation plan" of the Nautilus, drawn in a similar, but less detailed style. I spent hours, probably, poring over that, especially the "tail thingies".

Andrew, the Star Wars cross-sections attract even the older audience.

Today, 3D modeling software can create similarly detailed images as a "by-product" of design. Drawings like this are pretty useless for production since they are not scaled or annotated, but do serve as an introductory description of the design. The modern computer images do not have the charm of the old look.

I'm pretty sure I had a Richard Scarry book or two, and I know we read some to our kids, but I don't recall any with cutaway drawings. Something to look for!

Thank you, Major.


K. Martinez said...

Major, I must've been a deprived child as well as I never owned a Richard Scarry book either. I did become aware of his work later though. Also, That's funny about you having only two Moonliner certificates left as I only have two left as well. The other two are in good homes though.

JC Shannon said...

Ah, the Connie with TWA livery, a thing of beauty. His art captured that beauty perfectly. He also nailed it with the Moonliner. Great photos today Major, thank you.

Major Pepperidge said...

JG, I think I’ve seen a side “elevation” of the Nautilus as well, though I sure can’t remember where I saw it. Maybe in “The E-Ticket Magazine”? I’d love to see the version you mention. All this talk about cutaway views makes me REALLY want to scan the cruise guide from my grandparent’s brochure. It’s cool!

K. Martinez, I had a lot of fun children’s books - lots of Roald Dahl! Those are still some of my favorites. I’ve sold off some of my duplicate items on eBay, or given them to people who will enjoy them.

Jonathan, there has never been a plane as pretty as the Constellation - even as a kid I liked the way it looked.

JG said...

Hello Major, I dug out some of my old books purchased at the Disneyland Book Store. I didn't find the 20K book, but I am sure I did not throw it out or give it away.

It's probably in some boxes of kids books put away against the (hoped for) arrival of grandchildren.

I will make a more concerted effort to find it. I now have my own large-format scanner and scanning it up will be much easier than the Guide Book I did a while back.

I will keep you posted.


Major Pepperidge said...

JG I feel guilty that I have put you to work! Please don't go out of your way, I was curious, but don't want you to spend hours going through boxes and shelves.

JG said...

Thanks Major, you're not goading me. This is something I have wanted to do for years, but I haven't had the courage to go through those old boxes.

Time passes, emotions settle, and I am feeling more up to the task. I have found a lot of interesting things recently, who knows what else is in there? Maybe my old Batman comics! I'd love to have those back.