Thursday, July 7, 2016

Clare Angell (1874-1932)-Part Two

The third mystery concerning the artist Clare Angell isn't a mystery so much as a possibility, and it isn't really essential to understanding his life or work.

Clare Eugene Angell (1874-1932) was the son of Eugene Angell (1848-1907) and Mary Butterfield Angell (ca. 1853-?). Eugene Angell, born on May 13, 1848, in Livingston County, Michigan, was the son of Henry Angell (1809-June 2, 1872) and Sarah M. (or W.) Bennett Angell (Jan. 4, 1821-May 25, 1872). (1) Henry and Sarah were both natives of New York, but that is as far east as I can get them. In 1850 they were in Michigan. Before that . . . ? And I don't know the names of their parents.

Angell is a common name in some places in the East. One of those places is Providence, Rhode Island. In fact, there is a street in Providence called Angell Street. At 494 Angell Street, there is a large house, once home to a family named Lovecraft. On August 20, 1890, the last male child in America with that surname was born in that house. He was christened Howard Phillips Lovecraft. In 1926, H.P. Lovecraft penned a story called "The Call of Cthulhu." One of the characters in that story is named George Gammell Angell, almost certainly after one of Lovecraft's own ancestors and an unknown Angell of Providence. So was Clare Angell the artist descended from the Angells of New England? Maybe. We may never know. But like I have said before, if you draw any line long enough, it becomes a circle, and so a connection to Weird Tales eventually meets another connection to Weird Tales.

* * *

The last mystery of Clare Angell concerns this drawing, reprinted in Weird Tales in the Winter issue of 1985:

The first thing to take care of here is the signature and the artist's credits. The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb) gives the artist's name as "Clare A. McGill." The misreading of the signature is understandable. If I hadn't already written about Clare Angell, I might have looked right past his name myself. But there's no doubt in my mind that Angell was indeed the creator of this illustration--or at least the right side of it.

One of the things I have noticed in looking over the Bellerophon issues of Weird Tales is that some of the illustrations appear to be amalgamations of drawings, either two old drawings fitted together, or a collage of an old drawing and a new drawing to make the old drawing fit a new story. There is something a little odd about the drawing above, attributed as a whole to "Clare A. McGill." The men on the right are dressed in early twentieth-century costume. The woman on the left is obviously a creation of a later period, probably no earlier than the 1920s. Also, the perspective is off: she's a giant compared to the men. And note the mostly blank area separating the two sides of the picture, which are linked by a few scribbled lines. Lastly, she seems to have been drawn in a different style or with a different technique than the men on the right. I would not be surprised to learn that she was drawn by a different artist.

So I guess here is the issue: If this is one drawing created by Clare Angell, then it seems to have been drawn for a science fiction magazine of the 1920s or '30s. But Clare Angell is not elsewhere on the website of the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Did he slip through the cracks somehow? If this is an amalgamation of two drawings, then maybe the right side of the drawing came from one of the many books illustrated by Clare Angell in the early 1900s and the Internet Speculative Fiction Database is correct in not giving him any pulp magazine credits, even if he lived into the pulp magazine era (assuming the death date of 1932 is correct). Still, the right side of the drawing obviously illustrates a science-fictional scene, so I guess we had better track down Clare Angell's credits as an illustrator and make a case that he belongs somewhere on the ISFDb.

(1) They were married on August 5, 1872, in Mason County, Michigan, not long after the deaths of Eugene Angell's parents.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Your analysis of this drawing is most intriguing; enough so that it has caused me to do a bit of speculating myself. The style of illustrating the two components is similar, but the inking technique used on each one is rather different. This could be because the images were indeed drawn by two different artists, as you guessed, or it could be that Angell wanted them to look different for effect.
    As far as the odd perspective goes; I've seen some beautifully detailed illustrations by artists in which the relative sizes of people and objects are all wrong. In the rush to meet a deadline for the disposable pulp market, this attention to detail could have been overlooked...or ignored. Or maybe the woman here is, in fact, supposed to be a giantess (from the future.) Without knowing the original source we'll never know.

    I'll bet Clare Angell never suspected that one of his drawings would garner this level of study so long after his passing.

  2. Dear Mike,

    Terence Hanley here, away from my own computer.

    Like you, I have seen highly professional artists mess up perspective and human anatomy, probably because they were trying to meet a deadline. Your other speculations might be borne out as well, but my feeling is that this is the work of two different artists. We may know something soon.

    Of course none of this is likely to be important or of interest to anyone who is not a Hoosier or who is not bothered by missing details. I am both, hence all the words spilled on Clare Angell.

    Thanks for writing.


  3. I'm not a Hoosier, but I am curious. Keep me posted.

    1. Dear Mike,

      Well, as it turns out, Ken Dickinson does not recognize the illustration shown here. He suspects, as I do, that it is from before the science fiction pulp era, but until someone finds the original source, we won't know for sure.