Raymond Perry had a long and fascinating career as an illustrator and fine artist before he began working in comics, and then he drew an adaptation of “Ivanhoe” for Major Malcolm Wheeler Nicholson’s NEW FUN COMICS (later MORE FUN COMICS) from 1935 to 1937. Some time after the Major’s company was taken over by Harry Donenfeld and Jack Liebowitz around 1938, Perry began working in their production department where one of his jobs was to color most of the covers, according to Jerry Robinson. He also did many text page headers, both lettering and art. He worked on staff at National (later called DC Comics) from about 1938 nearly until his death in 1960 at the age of 84. For more about Perry’s life and career I recommend THIS article on Alex Jay’s blog, and MY OWN article about his DC work. Larry Nadle began working for All-American Comics some time in the early 1940s, and when that company merged with National/DC around 1946, he came over along with other editors like Sheldon Mayer, Julius Schwartz and Robert Kanigher. Larry’s forté was humor, and he edited many humor titles for DC, from funny animals to teen humor to Hollywood humor like THE ADVENTURES OF BOB HOPE. Larry’s brother Martin was a humor artist for DC, but he spelled his last name Naydel to make that connection less obvious I guess. Larry was born in 1913, and he did many kinds of humor writing himself, a Wikipedia article about him is HERE. He died in 1963 at age 50. These two DC staffers became close friends, and Larry’s son Ken has sent me scans of letters and art by Perry that he wanted to share. Ken told me that, after holding on to them for 50 years, he’s now thinking about selling these items. If you’re interested in purchasing any, please CONTACT ME through my website and I will put you in touch with Ken. Raymond Perry’s art is known and appreciated in the fine art world, which has not yet seen any of these works by him. Above is his portrait of Larry, I think in oils. Perry liked to do small portraits of people he knew, and I believe other DC staffers also received one from him, but this is the first example I’ve seen. Comparing it to photos of Nadle, I think it’s a good likeness.
This portrait in oil is more of a sketch, looser and less detailed, but also charming. We don’t know who the subject is.
Another loose study in oil which Ken suggests might be based on a work by Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla, whose impressionistic paintings were popular in America early in the 20th century, but I don’t know for sure if that’s the case, or if there’s a Sorolla painting like this. It may just be in the style of Sorolla.
These two loose oil studies are impressionistic as well, though there’s more detail in the first one. I find the colors appealing.
The Poe Cottage in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a National Historic Site I have yet to visit. Apparently Ray planned a work for the house depicting a scene from Poe’s poem “The Raven,” but I don’t know if it was ever delivered and displayed there. There’s no sign of it on their website. Ken has several studies relating to this work, the one above is a well-drawn figure in what looks like pencil or conte crayon, and dated 1944. I’m guessing the model was a friend.
These are smaller and looser, probably done before the one above, and undated.
Another study. The Lenore reference is to a woman in the poem by Poe, who is only mentioned as someone the author admires, but she must have had a place in the work by Perry. If anyone knows of this painting, I’d love to hear more about it.
What I find even more interesting than Perry’s stand-alone paintings are some letters to Larry illustrated with small pen and watercolor vignettes, and on this page, a sample bookplate. The letter is on National Comics (DC) stationery from their original offices at 480 Lexington Avenue, Manhattan. You can read more about that office beginning HERE. The bookplate was done by Perry for DC co-owner Jack S. Liebowitz. On it, Perry writes, “Made it for present to JSL.”
The text of the letter, as best I can decipher it follows:
Dear Larry — why am I sending you the enclose[d] trivia? Merely because, when I was holding down a hospital bed, I enjoyed getting any piece of mail however unimportant. So here goes
(Next to man’s face) What funny things one sees on the buses! I saw a man like this with very marked forms above his nose — had he been a baritone singer, & specializing in ‘Mephisto,’ he would have welcomed this help for makeup! —
I had 4 holiday parties! And by the way I am now trying to reduce in earnest and with some of Mrs. Larry’s advice in mind. I am now at 163, having lost at least 10 pounds! So I was reasonably careful at these parties — but not too perfect! The office party was as usual a very pleasant affair with oodles of food and drinks replete. (Name I can’t read) and others decorated the room with garlands but we missed the frieze that Rube made last year. (Probably Rube Grossman, the artist for DC’s RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER and many funny animal stories.) Sol H (Harrison, in charge of the production department) got some of the new luminous paint (continued below)
The letter continues:
and there were pictures a la Grandma Moses on the glass of the editorial offices which enlivened the place. My step-daughter ‘Sis’ presented me with a large coffee cup and saucer and all my favorite colors in oil paint and I wrote and drew something like this by way of acknowledgement. The picture below is a Butterfly and Chrysalis idea illustrating a passage (continued below)
(Next to the art) To Sis and Hugh, The people who have made my yule most happy —
with a giant beaker By all odds Fit for the Gods — But privileged only to Pappy!
Best thrill of all! on my palette I see Rainbow hues waiting for me!
An image is forming, vague yet in my prayer which will later resolve to a masterpiece there!
(Continued from above) from Emerson’s Essay on ‘Circles’ to the effect that what we all desire is a new set of circumstances around us, new powers and viewpoints — a new cycle. The figure of a gal with wings arises from the body of an old lady pilgrim. (Continued below. The painting sketched here is one called “New Cycle” that Perry did in the 1930s. It was exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in 1934, as described in Alex Jay’s blog article.)
This page reads:
At Easton Pa I was a guest at a marvellous old farm house built in 1823, but including all modern ‘appliances.’ My stepson calls his place “Slate Post Farm” because the fence posts were formerly all made of slate. A number have been preserved and are used in the approaches to the homestead (see below); at Easton one of the parties was “M.C’d” by a charming matron (continued below)
(Next to the art) And I saw in the core of the tree
The perfect hostess that Madelyn can be
With five active cherubs and adults galore
Making for friendly good feeling and more
R. Byron Perry
(Continued from above) who was caring not only for her own children but some of her sister-in-law, on her way with dutiful husband to camp near Washington. He is a veteran of War II and now they may take another shot at him! He was well established as an architect. For the gal I made a card like the above showing a tree with children and adult heads in the decorations. And now you had better improve soon, so you won’t have to peruse any more of this stuff. Ray (More about Slate Post Farm is in THIS obituary of its last resident.)
Another letter from Ray to Larry in the hospital, this one is five pages. It doesn’t seem to involve anyone they worked with, so I’ll just post the images and let you decipher it if you wish, but the art included is interesting.
There is one DC Comics reference on this page, the large circular sketch, which is on vellum or tracing paper and pasted on, is for a text page that Perry designed the header for, see below. Unfortunately the glue, probably rubber cement, has turned brown, marring the image.
This shows that he put a lot of thought into these often unnoticed works.
One last letter to Larry’s wife from 1954, now in the hospital herself, with more interesting art. Again, I found no mention of people at National/DC Comics, so I will just include the images.
These letters give us insight into Ray’s interests and talent, and they also show what a kind and thoughtful person he was to go to such lengths to entertain his friends in the hospital, and how generous he was with his time to cheer them up. Ray and Larry were far apart in age, but clearly close in friendship, and I enjoyed this brief glimpse into that bond. Thanks again, Ken Nadle, and if you’d be interested in purchasing any of these items from him, contact me through my website and I will put you in touch.