Society of Illustrators
FormationFebruary 1, 1901; 123 years ago (1901-02-01)
FoundersHenry S. Fleming, Otto Henry Bacher, Frank Vincent DuMond, Henry Hutt, Albert Wenzell, Albert Sterner, Benjamin West Clinedinst, F. C. Yohn, Louis Loeb, and Reginald Birch
PurposeEncourage high ideals through exhibitions, lectures, education, and by fostering a sense of community and open discussion. Its mission is to promote the art and appreciation of illustration and comics, as well as their history.
Headquarters128 E. 63rd Street
New York City, U.S.
Coordinates40°45′52.56″N 73°58′1.25″W / 40.7646000°N 73.9670139°W / 40.7646000; -73.9670139
FieldsIllustration and Comics
Executive Director
Arabelle Liepold
SubsidiariesMuseum of Comic and Cartoon Art

The Society of Illustrators (SoI) is a professional society based in New York City. It was founded in 1901 to promote the art of illustration and, since 1959, has held an annual exhibition.

Since absorbing the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) in 2012, the Society has also promoted the art of comics. In addition to its holding exhibitions in its own Museum of American Illustration, the Society holds the annual MoCCA Festival, an independent comics showcase.



Society of Illustrators members at the Berkeley Theater in Manhattan in 1914

The Society of Illustrators was founded on February 1, 1901, by a group of nine artists and one advising businessman. The advising businessman was Henry S. Fleming, a coal dealer who offered his legal staff to the Society in an advisory role and also served as the Society of Illustrators Secretary and Treasurer for many years.[1] The nine artists who, with Fleming, founded the Society were Otto Henry Bacher, Frank Vincent DuMond, Henry Hutt, Albert Wenzell, Albert Sterner, Benjamin West Clinedinst, F. C. Yohn, Louis Loeb, and Reginald Birch.[2]

The mission statement was "to promote generally the art of illustration and to hold exhibitions from time to time".[3] Women first became part of the organization in 1903, when Elizabeth Shippen Green and Florence Scovel Shinn were named Associate Members; but women were prohibited from full membership until 1922.[4]

World War I

J. M. Flagg's 1917 poster used to recruit soldiers for both World War I and World War II; Flagg used a modified version of his own face for Uncle Sam, and war veteran Walter Botts provided the pose.[5]

During the World War I years, with Charles Dana Gibson as the acting president,[6]

Society members worked through the Committee on Public Information's Division of Pictorial Publicity, creating many original poster designs, including James M. Flagg's US Army iconic recruiting poster of Uncle Sam,[3] as well as advertising of the massive War Bond effort.[2] Photo journalism was impractical during these years[7] and eight Society members, commissioned Captains in the Engineers, were sent to France to sketch the war.[6] After the war, the Society operated the School for Disabled Soldiers.[8]

In 1920, the society was incorporated, and in 1922 women were allowed to become full members.[4] The early history of the society was documented in 1927 and 1939 by Norman Mills Price. His hand written notes are held in the Society of Illustrators archives.[2]

During the 1920s and 1930s, the Society presented the Illustrator's Shows, featuring artists and their models as actors, songwriters, set designers and painters. Professional talent such as the Cotton Club band and Jimmy Durante also performed. Through member and set designer Watson Barrett, the Illustrator's Show of 1925 was held at the Shubert Theatre, and the Shuberts purchased the rights to the skits for their Broadway productions of Artists and Models. In 1939, those funds allowed the Society to acquire its present headquarters, at 128 East 63rd Street.[3]

Norman Rockwell's Dover Coach became the backdrop for the bar on the fourth floor, donated by Rockwell in honor of the Society's new building. This painting currently hangs in the Members Dining Room.[9]

World War II

A 1943 poster illustration by society member C.W. Beuttey for the Office of War Information
A 1945 poster illustration by society member Harry Morse for the Office of War Information

During World War II, the society again contributed to the war effort with a massive campaign of posters. Society members visited veterans’ hospitals to sketch the wounded,[3] and these art works were sent to the families to boost morale.

The Illustrator's Jazz Band was formed to entertain the wounded,[10] and an ensemble by the same name plays at Society events up until the present.[11]

In 1946, a Welfare Fund for indigent artists was established.

In 1948, the Joint Ethics Committee, of which The Society is a member[12] developed the first Code of Fair Practice, which still serves today in addressing concerns of artists and art directors working in the graphic communications field where abuses and misunderstandings regarding usage rights and ownership of works of illustration and other works of art created for a wide range of public media.[13]

In 1954, the U.S. Air Force began sending Society of Illustrators members around the world to document its activities. This program continues today. Thousands of paintings have been contributed over the years.[14]

In 1959, the society hold its first Annual Exhibition, juried by Bob Peak, Bradbury Thompson, Stevan Dohanos, and others. It opened with 350 original works of art and led to the publication of the first Illustrators Annual.[15]

21st century

The society's headquarters in New York City since 1939

In 2001, the 100th anniversary of the society's founding, a 12-month celebration began with the U.S. Postal Service issuing the Great American Illustrators.[16] That year was punctuated with the 9/11 Memorial Exhibition, Prevailing Human Spirit.[17]

The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) endowed its assets in August 2012 to the society, which has since subsidized the MoCCA Festival.[3]

Anelle Miller was appointed executive director of the society in 2007 and served in that capacity until 2023. She updated the exhibition space, hired new staff, and instituted a slew of programs open to the general public.[18] Arabelle Liepold took the position in June 2023.[19]

The Society of Illustrators maintains an annual of illustration, student scholarship competition,s and various awards honoring excellence in the field of illustration.[12] The society has had outreach programs with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation since 2001,[20] and with the New York City Board of Education since 1999.[21]


As of 2023, the president of the Society of Illustrators is Leslie Cober.[22]

Notable past presidents of the Society:[22]

Museum of American Illustration and Exhibitions

The main upstairs gallery at the Museum of American Illustration in June 2015

The Museum of American Illustration was established at the society in 1981, under the stewardship of John Witt, the society's president.[12] The Society's permanent collection, featuring pieces on rotational display throughout the building, includes nearly 2500 works by such artists as Norman Rockwell, Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, James Montgomery Flagg, Bob Peak, and Bernie Fuchs.[23]

The Museum hosts the Annual Illustration show and smaller topical exhibits related to illustration and comics.[24] In recent years, the main galleries have played host to numerous acclaimed, contemporary, and popular exhibitions including:

The Society also has a gallery on the second floor dedicated to MoCCA that frequently hosts smaller exhibits of comic book art.


The Society of Illustrators inaugurated the Hall of Fame program in 1958, to recognize "distinguished achievement in the art of illustration".[36] The first recipient was Norman Rockwell.[6] Like other recognized artists, he was elected by former Society presidents for his contributions to the field of illustration. Every year since 1958, one or more illustrators have been added to the Hall of Fame. In 2001, two additional forms of recognition were added: Dean Cornwell Recognition Award[37] and the Arthur William Brown Achievement Award, which may be awarded annually.

In 1965, The Society established the Hamilton King Award, which is given annually to one society member.[38]

In 1981, The Society established the Student Scholarship Competition, which has continued annually to the present.[39] The Highest Award presented to a student by the society is the Zankel Scholarship Award, established in 2006 in honor of Arthur Zankel, an advocate for higher education whose bequest made the scholarship possible.[40]


  1. ^ "Catalogue of The Second Annual Exhibition of the Society of Illustrators, 1903" (PDF). Detroit Area Library Network. Retrieved 2016-12-16.
  2. ^ a b c Brown, Terrance. "Historic Rights Issues in American Illustration". The Journal of Biocommunication. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
  3. ^ a b c d e King, Carol (March 20, 2013). "Leader Unafraid to Venture Outside of the Lines". The New York Times. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Grove, Jaleen (11 February 2015). "A Brief History Of Sexism And The Illustration Industry". Ravishly. Retrieved 2016-12-10.
  5. ^ "The Most Famous Poster". American Treasures of the Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 2016-07-02.
  6. ^ a b c Jonkhoff, Sabrina. "3 Things to Know About the Society of Illustrators". New York Adventure Club. Retrieved 2016-12-03.
  7. ^ Roberts, Hilary. "Photography 1914-1918". Encyclopedia of the first world war. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
  8. ^ Rogers, W.A. (1924-03-01). Bowles, J.M. (ed.). "Making Good". Bulletin of the Art Center, New York. 2 (7).
  9. ^ Soloman, Deborah (2013-11-05). American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell. Macmillan. p. 167. ISBN 9780374711047. Retrieved 2016-12-07.
  10. ^ Kilgannon, Corey (26 April 2005). "Nudes on Stage, and Music to Sketch By". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-12-10.
  11. ^ Sloan, Michael. "About Michael Sloan". Retrieved 2016-12-15.
  12. ^ a b c "History of The Society of Illustrators". Society of Illustrators. Retrieved 2016-12-14.
  13. ^ "The Code of Fair Practice for the Graphic Communications Industry". Graphic Artist Guild. Retrieved 2016-12-10.
  14. ^ Hannon, Greg. "Society of Illustrators visits U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center". Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Retrieved 2016-12-10.
  15. ^ "llustrators '59: The First annual of American Illustration". Abe Books. Retrieved 2016-12-10.
  16. ^ Kronish, Syd. "Postal service pays tribute to illustrators". LJ World. Associated Press. Retrieved 2016-12-03.
  17. ^ McKinley, Jesse (2 February 2002). "$25,000 Raised by Artists Helps Sept. 11 Charities". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-12-03.
  18. ^ Kino, Carol (2013-03-20). "Leader Unafraid to Venture Outside of the Lines". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  19. ^ MacDonald, Heidi (May 2, 2023). "Arabelle Liepold to take over as Executive Director at Society of Illustrators". The Beat.
  20. ^ Hoory, Leeron (30 March 2016). "When It Comes to Art in New York City Parks, Jonathan Kuhn Knows His Stuff". Garden Collage. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
  21. ^ "ANNUAL ARTS IN SCHOOLS REPORT 2014-2015" (PDF). New York Department of Education. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
  22. ^ a b "Board and Staff". Retrieved 2020-02-22.
  23. ^ "More Than The Museum Can Hold: A Purposeful Partnership". Art Director's Club. 28 October 2014. Retrieved 2016-12-03.
  24. ^ "Illustrators 60 Exhibit: Part Two | Society of Illustrators". Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  25. ^ "R. Crumb retrospective exhibit at Society of Illustrators opens in March". Fantagraphics. 2011-02-24. Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  26. ^ Murg, Stephanie (2013-06-10). "Where the Wild Things Art: Sendak Gets the Spotlight". Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  27. ^ Kahn, Eve M. (2013-08-01). "For Fans of Sendak, the Artist Keeps Giving". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  28. ^ "The ZAP Show: A Cultural Revolution | Society of Illustrators". Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  29. ^ "Zap Atcha: How Underground Comix Spelunked America's Id | The Village Voice". 5 April 2016. Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  30. ^ "WILL EISNER: The Centennial Celebration 1917-2017 | Society of Illustrators". Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  31. ^ "Will Eisner's Universal New York Stories | The Village Voice". 7 March 2017. Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  32. ^ "MARCH | Society of Illustrators". Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  33. ^ "AI-AP | DART » Upcoming Exhibition: The Art of MARCH". Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  34. ^ Gustines, George Gene (2019-06-26). "Batman Through the Decades, in Black and White". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  35. ^ Horne, Karama (2019-07-11). "New York has a bonanza of Batman art, toys, and ads for his 80th birthday". SYFY WIRE. Retrieved 2020-02-14.
  36. ^ "Homepage".
  37. ^ "Dean Cornwell". National Museum of American Illustration. Retrieved 2016-12-03.
  38. ^ "Hamilton King Award – Society of Illustrators". Retrieved 2022-06-20.
  39. ^ "Society of Illustrators Student Scholarship Competition". The University of the Arts. Retrieved 2016-12-10.
  40. ^ "Zankel Scholar". University of the Arts. Retrieved 2016-12-10.