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.
JIM FLORA 2021 CALENDARS
Now available: Jim Flora 2021 letterpress calendars featuring the honking sax player from our Dig You Later notecard set. The calendar backing cards were designed and letterpress-printed by Yee-Haw Industries, Knoxville TN, and assembled with a 2021 calendar pad by Pioneer House (successor company to Yee-Haw). The calendar is 9-3/4" high and 4-1/2" wide and comes packaged in a clear sleeve.
And the Dig You Later notecard sets (four cards/four musicians) are now back in stock.
Our most recent Jim Flora limited edition fine art print is entitled Portofino. The undated and previously unpublished work, rendered with tempera and pencil, was discovered in an artist’s sketchbook which contains drawings and paintings from a European sojourn by Flora during the early 1960s. The swirling cityscape was likely rendered in 1962 when Flora visited Italy. The limited edition run consists of twenty (20) numbered prints.
“Exciting eyeball jazz.” — John Canemaker
"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
"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
"Jim Flora was a big influence for me, and I was inspired by the spontaneity and animation in his work." — Lane Smith
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“Flora was one of a kind.” — Lane Smith
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“Flora did it like nobody else.” — Shag
"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
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"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
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“Flora’s work features great modernist design and eye-catchingly expressive cartoon characters, and neither loses out to the other.” — Pete Docter
"A twisted, bizarre, joyous genius of an artist." — Drew Friedman
"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)
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“Flora has a special genius all of his own.” — Jason Lethcoe