James (Jim) Flora is best-known for his wild jazz and classical album covers for Columbia Records (late 1940s) and RCA Victor (1950s). He authored and illustrated 17 popular children’s books and flourished for decades as a busy magazine illustrator. Few realize, however, that Flora (1914-1998) was also a prolific fine artist with a devilish sense of humor and a flair for juxtaposing playfulness, absurdity and violence.
Cute — and deadly.
Flora’s album covers pulsed with angular hepcats bearing funnel-tapered noses and shark-fin chins who fingered cockeyed pianos and honked lollipop-hued horns. Yet this childlike exuberance was subverted by a tinge of the diabolic. Flora wreaked havoc with the laws of physics, conjuring flying musicians, levitating instruments, and wobbly dimensional perspectives.
Taking liberties with human anatomy, he drew bonded bodies and misshapen heads, while inking ghoulish skin tints and grafting mutant appendages. He was not averse to pigmenting jazz legends Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa like bedspread patterns. On some Flora figures, three legs and five arms were standard equipment, with spare eyeballs optional. His rarely seen fine artworks reflect the same comic yet disturbingqualities. “He was a monster,” said artist and Floraphile JD King. So were many of his creations.
GRANDPA'S GHOST STORIES REPRINTED
Grandpa’s Ghost Stories, originally published by Atheneum in 1978 and long out of print, has been republished by Feral House. Grandpa’s Ghost Stories is one of the most beloved and sought-after of Flora’s children's titles. It’s also one of his most demonic. The book contains no cute-and-cuddly fairyland fantasies. This is Flora at his most mischievous; the pages swarm with creepy monsters, dancing skeletons, dark caves, wart-nosed witches, hungry werewolves, and ghouls who dismember each other with axes. One story presents a TV program called “Feeding Phantom Faces,” in which “a big, fat-bellied demon” shows viewers “how to make soup out of a dead elephant,” followed by a witch who teaches “how to fry baby toes and eyeballs and bake a knuckle-bone pie.” All in good fun, of course!
The old JimFlora.com was looking a bit "early web," so we recently redesigned, improved, reconfigured, updated, refashioned, reorganized and repainted the place. New images have been posted, there's greater ease of navigation, the site is responsive to phones and tablets, the checkout system has been streamlined, and our pages have that new website smell.
We hope to resume issuing new Flora fine art prints soon. While browsing the new site, let us know if you discover mistakes or broken links. Thanks for dropping by.
"Flora’s designs are magically simple distillations of Cubism, Surrealism and cartoon madness, with playful figures and instruments floating in planes of color." — Ben Sisario
"Flora took the modernism of painters such as Miro, Klee and Picasso, blended it with a jazz sensibility and added a dollop of the Sunday funnies pages." — JD King
JD King 1
"Flora’s illustrations have that almost impossible-to-attain quality that work done for commercial consumption rarely has: his vintage drawings and designs are still interesting and lively today." — Chris Ware
"Jim Flora was a big influence for me, and I was inspired by the spontaneity and animation in his work." — Lane Smith
Lane Smith 2
“Flora was one of a kind.” — Lane Smith
Lane Smith 1
"A twisted, bizarre, joyous genius of an artist." — Drew Friedman
“Flora has a special genius all of his own.” — Jason Lethcoe
“Exciting eyeball jazz.” — John Canemaker
“Flora’s work features great modernist design and eye-catchingly expressive cartoon characters, and neither loses out to the other.” — Pete Docter
"Jim was one of my closest friends and my earliest graphic influence. In the 1940s, his stuff sent me into a buzz, and I was brazenly imitating his style in my work." — Gene Deitch
Gene Deitch 1
“Flora did it like nobody else.” — Shag
"Designer, illustrator and record cover maestro, Flora was a master of many forms, who left a legacy that has been difficult to categorize." — Steven Heller (PrintMag.com)