A generous and humble man, a superb draftsman much admired for his skill as an artist and illustrator, known for his meticulously researched historical paintings and drawings, Norman Mills Price was among those who worked during what is known as the Golden Age of Illustration.
Norman Mills Price was born in the small town of Brampton, Ontario, Canada in 1877. Although an aspiring concert pianist, Norman enrolled in the Ontario School of Art. By 1902, having abandoned his musical plans, he decided to further his art education in Europe. Along with three fellow art students, Norman traveled to London. After studying briefly at the Goldsmith Institute, and the Westminster School of Art, the four young artists opened Carlton Studios, and waded into the art business. In 1909, Norman moved on to Paris and studied at the Academie Julian under Jean Paul Laurens. Along the way, Norman met and married an English woman named Nita E.J. Anson. Together they had a son, Donald.
In 1911, the Price family moved to New York where Norman opened a branch of Carlton Studios on 23rd Street. After a year, Norman Price left Carlton Studios and began illustrating for many publications including Liberty, Harper’s, Cosmopolitan, Argosy, Collier’s, and Women’s Home Companion. Among his many advertising clients were The Metropolitan Insurance Co., Sherwin Williams Paint, Victrola, and Coca Cola.
Mr. Price, however, was known mainly for his book illustrations, in which he worked in color and pen and ink. A stickler for detail, he would immerse himself in the research for his subjects. Leaving no stone unturned, he would read voraciously, and study historic artifacts, clothing, uniforms, and weapons. It was said of Mr. Price that his talents exceeded his fame, possibly due to the amount of time that he spent sequestered in his research. The results are spectacular.
Mr. Price would illustrate many classic novels including those of Robert Louis Stevenson, Alexandre Dumas, Rebecca West, and William Shakespeare. Other subjects of interest were the lives of Meriwether Lewis, Paul Revere, Leif Erikson, and Will Rogers. The illustrations that he is most fondly remembered for, however, are the novels of Robert W. Chambers, namely The Rogue’s Moon, and The Rake and the Hussy. Robert Chambers said of Price’s illustrations: “I am at a loss for words to describe my admiration for Norman Price’s work. Drawing, composition, and character are unusually fine. I am most grateful to Mr. Price for putting the vital spark into my stuff.”
In 1947, the paintings of Norman Price, Harvey Dunn, Frederic Gruger, and Wallace Morgan were featured in an exhibition titled “The Big Four” which was heralded with much acclaim.
Throughout his career, Norman Price was very involved with the Society of Illustrators and served for a time as an honorary president. Following his death in 1951 a memorial exhibition of his work was held at the Society of Illustrators in New York, after which the society library was named in his honor.