Ed Vebell, The Illustrator

At left, Ed Vebell is dressed in one of his many costumes from the Old West. Below right is a picture of Ed Vebell from his championship fencing (epee) days.


Born in 1921, Edward Vebell has had a fascinating life. His illustrating career has touched on several historical moments, and the stories he is able to share are anything but ordinary. Even as a relatively young artist, he rose to a place of prominence. In World War II, he served in the U.S. Army and was assigned as an illustrator for Stars and Stripes, one of the publications for the U.S. Armed Forces. He was also one of the court artists for the famous Nuremburg Trials in 1945. During his military career, he was stationed in Paris and grew to love the area, staying there even after the war ended to become the last U.S. soldier to leave France.

Back in the United States, his career escalated. His artistic abilities were recognized in a wide variety of areas. In addition to being an artist, he was an expert in the sport of fencing, winning championships at the Pan-American Games and representing the United States in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki (he was a semifinalist). His interest in sports and photography and illustrating abilities made him a natural choice for illustrating books on many sports, including tennis, fencing (he also wrote a book on fencing), baseball, diving, billiards, and other sports. His talent was also in demand for drawing illustrations for juvenile books, and he had a long-time relationship with the magazines Life and Time as an illustrator.

Vebell also illustrated books for Reader's Digest, many of which can be obtained at used bookstores. In addition, he was early recognized as an artist who drew authentic historical scenes; so it's no surprise that he was contracted to draw scenes for U.S. postage stamps (15 total), all with a historical theme.

Mr. Vebell's interest in history and its illustration also led him to begin collecting authentic costumes years ago from a variety of periods. When a publisher wants an artist to draw a cover that shows people in costumes of the Old West or in military uniforms, it's not uncommon for the artist to contact Mr. Vebell to rent some of his costumes so that they can pose some pictures from which to draw their illustrations. Mr. Vebell is a stickler for authenticity and has become a recognized expert who can ensure that drawings are historically accurate.

While he no longer does full-time illustrating, Mr. Vebell nonetheless remains active in illustrating. He has a daughter who is an illustrator, he spends time helping the younger illustrators in the field as they try to get established, and he remains active in the Society of Illustrators. He also maintains an active connection to the sport of fencing, continuing to teach fencing to a new generation.

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