The art of Jack Davis, MAD cartoonist and one of the all-time greats

The Society of Illustrators in New York City has launched an exhibit featuring the cartooning art of Jack Davis, marking "the centenary celebration" of his birth." Davis (1924-2016) had an incredibly prolific career, highlighted by his work on the comic book and magazine Mad.

Mad was probably was the most influential humor institution in America for over two decades since its start in 1952, until "Saturday Night Live" came along. And Davis was a founding cartoonist of Mad and one of its most important contributors. He also did much horror comic book work for Mad's sister publications at EC Comics, and went on to become a hugely popular freelance commercial cartoonist, drawing magazine covers, advertisements, and movie posters.

The Society of Illustrators exhibit showcases pieces from his entire career, but focusing on his Mad work. I went to the show's opening and was able to examine this gorgeous, intricate cover for Mad #27 (1956).

This image from the feature "Let's Go for a Ride," from Mad #26 (1955) also shows why cartoonist Drew Friedman says in the exhibit's notes: "Davis has been called "the fastest cartoonist alive" and "the master of the crowd scene."

Here is a preliminary Mad-referenced movie poster for the 1973 Elliott Gould movie The Long Goodbye (left); a 1979 representation announcement illustration (above right); and a 1967 magazine illustration for the TV show "Captain Nice" (below right).

Artwork for the cover of Tales from the Crypt #33 (1952).

The Jack Davis: A Centennial Celebration exhibit runs at The Society of Illustrators through September 21.

All photos, credit: Ruben Bolling