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Map of an Imaginary Estate for an Inveterate Fly-fisherman c1931

  • Author: HELD, John R
  • Publisher: Country Life Magazine
  • Date: c1931
  • Dimensions: Sheet: 26 x 36 cms / Map: 20 x 28.5 cms


Map of an Imaginary Estate for an Inveterate Fly-Fisherman: John Held’s comic map of the “ideal estate” for anglers

About this piece:

Map of an Imaginary Estate for an Inveterate Fly-fisherman conceived and engrossed by John Held Jr

Single page, printed in black & white, extracted from an early 1930’s issue of Country Life magazine, the pages numbered 39/40. Monochrome photograph of Amelia Ehrhart & article on aviation to verso. Wide margins. Overall fine condition.

Charming comic map, one of a series of three similar maps designed for publication in Country Life Magazine in the early 1930’s by the renowned American illustrator & cartoonist, John R Held or John Held Jr [1889-1958].

Held was a Mormon & native of Salt Lake City. His artistic talent manifested itself from a young age and he sold his first drawing to a local newspaper at the age of just nine. He then sold his first cartoon to Life magazine at the age of 15 and from 1905, still in his teens, became a regular contributor to the Salt Lake Tribune.  He was seconded to US Naval Intelligence as an artist and cartographer for an archaeological expedition to Central America in 1918 I and by the 1920’s had become an established cover artist for some of America’s leading illustrated magazines, including Life and Vanity Fair. In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s he also developed a distinctive woodcut & linocut style, and many of his designs and maps appeared in the Gay Nineties column of the New Yorker, founded by one of his college class mates, Harold Wallace Ross [1892-1951], and poking gentle fun at the older pre-war generation. By the same token, his drawings and cartoons also managed to capture the energy and excitement of the younger college generation, to the extent that they have become almost synonymous with the Jazz Age, not least in their portrayals of the 1920’s flapper.  Married four times, he died in New York in 1958 and is interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery.

An evident dog-lover, Held published numerous sketches of dogs during his career and even an illustrated book, Dog Stories [Vanguard Press, 1930], a delightful collection of stories, originally serialised in Cosmopolitan, told from the anthropomorphized perspective of Mac Dunald, a pampered Scottish terrier,  of a style & genre reminiscent of  Walter Emanuel & Cecil Aldin.

A companion map to this one, published about the same time as Held’s Dog Stories, unsurprisingly features a Scottish terrier as the anarchic representative of the canine kingdom lording it over his own “ideal country estate”. Needless to say mud, raw steaks, slippers, cats, old ladies, bicycles, digging, barking, biting and buried bones feature prominently!

Held’s eccentric imagination here focuses on the piscatorial pleasures of fishing, in the form on an “imaginary estate” for the obsessional fly-fisherman. The latter’s camp sits centrally in the security of heavily protected private grounds, a fish hatchery on its northern fringes feeding a profusion of meandering freshwater streams, characterized by riffles and deep water pools abounding with fish. On the southern perimeter of the estate, a flock of wood duck are being “raised in order to secure certain feathers for certain types of flys” whilst immediately adjacent sit the impressive premises of the “Fly Tying Department” where the special coloured feather lures & flies are made up by the evidently well-to-do workforce, whose numerous saloon  cars are parked outside.

A thumbnail sketch of the happy fisherman displaying his prized catch appears bottom centre.

Refs: cf Katherine Harmon, You are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination [2004] ill p.169; The Works of John Held Jr [1931], ill p.12;cf David Rumsey Collection