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James Lewicki in his Centerport studio








~ Life History ~

The second child of Ukrainian immigrants, James was born on December 13, 1917, in Buffalo, New York, to Max and Alexandra Lewicki. His teachers noted his artistic talent from an early age and he went on to attend Buffalo Technical High School, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, and Pratt Institute, where he graduated in Illustration in 1939.

He married Lillian Schalow in 1943, also an Illustration major at Pratt, who partnered with him on many projects throughout his career as researcher, draftsman, studio assistant and secretary. They had two children, Roy Lewicki and Lisa Lewicki Hermanson. First living in Brooklyn, then Hollis, New York, they moved to Centerport, New York (on Long Island) in 1952, where they built a house and studio.

Jim's illustration career began in 1939 when he completed all the illustrations for Robert K. Swan's book, From Village to Metropolis, a visual history of New York City. In the 1940's, he completed many "bread and butter" projects, including dozens of maps and diagrams. Jim's career really took off in the 1950's when his work appeared in Life magazine (and on the cover) for the World We Live In series and the American Folklore series. His Christmas themed work was featured in numerous magazines (including Life), as well as on greeting cards for American Artist Group and Hallmark. His last major book project was The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer for Limited Editions Club (now Heritage Press) in 1969. He continued to work on smaller projects until his death in 1980.

When not working on illustration assignments, Jim painted just for enjoyment, exploring different media over the years. He worked first primarily and masterfully in watercolor, later on, in acrylics. He also did a series of  ink and graphite drawings, as well as experimenting in collage. Printmaking also became an outlet, producing etchings, monoprints, collographs and also dry lithography, a new green process invented by his C.W. Post colleague, Harry Hoehn.

Jim was always looking for a story, and that included tapping personal experience. In 1952 he sold Life Goes Camping with the Lewickis to Life magazine based on a family cross country trip.  In the 1970s wrote and illustrated The Territory for Yankee magazine, based on his experiences with a cherished vacation home in the woods of northern Vermont.

During the 1960’s and 70’s, he became a professor and chairman of the Fine Arts Department of C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University (now known as LIU Post). A charismatic personality, he loved sharing his expertise and enthusiasm for art with students of all ages.


Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Society of Illustrators, New York City

New Britain Museum of American Art

Lilly Library of Indiana University

many private collections, including Clare Booth Luce

~ Illustration Career ~
Early Assignments -- Christmas -- The World We Live In -- American Folklore -- Maps -- The Golden Bough

Early Assignments

Jim completed his first book project while still at Pratt in 1939; From Village to Metropolis by R.W. Swann, a pictorial history of New York City from its early days a as Dutch settlement up to modern times.

Jim began to work for Life magazine directly after Pratt, honing his skills with a wide variety technical black and white illustrations, many related to World War II, such as What To Do In a Bombing Attack. Jim’s ability to meet short deadlines was a key to his success, also doing spots for The New York Times.


In 1943, Jim entered a Christmas card competition - the challenge - to depict the Christmas message in a time of war, sponsored by the American Artists Group. His painting of a bombed out church, with a great stained glass window of Madonna and Child miraculously intact, won second prize. The following year, asked to do a commission, he recalled the Buffalo winters of his childhood, picturing the Ukrainian Christmas tradition of carrying a lighted paper star from house to house as carols were sung. This led to a lifelong association with the theme of Christmas, starting with the series of cards, Christmas Customs of Many Lands, also for American Artists Group.

Jim also made a rebus of The Night Before Christmas published by Hallmark Cards. Later on, he completed two picture essays for Life Magazine on the origins and legends of Christmas. These paintings later appeared in book form published by Simon and Schuster as The Golden Book of Christmas Tales, with the stories written by Lillian. Jim continued to produce Christmas cards in a variety of decorative styles for American Artists Group through the 1960’s.

The World We Live In

A detailed record of nature is evident in Jim's paintings for the Life magazine series, The World We Live In, for which Jim was one of the featured illustrators. Jim's illustrations of undersea life appears on the cover and in Part 2, Miracle of the Sea, published on February 9, 1953, and in Part 4, The Canopy of Air, published on June 8, 1953.

After running successfully in Life, The World We Live In was released in book form in 1955, for which Jim did the cover art - a dramatic scene of a full solar eclipse presiding over a landscape of all manner of living creatures.

American Folklore

It was while working on Christmas legends that a neighbor commented to Jim that the United States really had no strong tradition of folklore and cultural heritage. Jim went to the library to see if this was so, and found volumes to the contrary. He proposed the theme of folklore to Life magazine, and they asked for a for a dummy presentation of 12 pages. Jim found it impossible to condense it all down to one article, so he suggested a series, and much to his surprise the editors agreed. This assignment lasted for five years. Legends from all over the country, representing the diverse cultures of Native Americans, early explorers and European settlers, were included. The final paintings were completed in a detailed egg tempera style on gesso panel, preceded by multiple color studies and pencil sketches. American Folklore appeared in Life as a 5 part series over a year and half, followed by the hard cover book, The Life Treasury of American Folklore, featuring additional paintings created just for the book. Lillian worked side by side with Jim during this time, assisting with in depth research, and studio support, including hand mixing the egg tempera paints and completing preparatory drawings.


Pictorial map making was also a staple of Jim’s repertoire, which Lillian assisted with extensively. Memorable examples include the poster The Fabulous Fifties, created for Time Magazine in 1960, and resort and trail maps for the Stowe Ski Association, also from the sixties. Maps also appeared in Christmas themes tracing the journey of Mary and Joseph to Egypt.

The Golden Bough

In 1969 Jim completed a series of illustrations for The Golden Bough by Sir James Frasier, another book themed around the folklore - this time the beliefs, customs and traditions of cultures from around the world. For this assignment Jim worked in a freer style, overlaying fine, fluid line drawings on abstract patterned fields of color, to suggest the mystery and mood of ancient and tribal rituals.


From Village to Metropolis, by R. Swann

The World We Live In - cover and part 2, Part 4

The Life Treasury of American Folklore

Little Christmas

The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazier, Limited Editions Club


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