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Past Exhibit - 2002 - The Art of George Erickson as Eugene Iverd

    The Art of George Erickson as Eugene Iverd:
    August 4-September 30, 2002

    This is a very special art exhibit that has come to WCHS from the Owatonna Art Center and sponsored in part by a grant by the Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council Waseca, with funds appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature.

    George Erickson was a native son of Waseca from a family of five children--three sons and two daughters, the children of John and Matilda Erickson. The family lived in a house in the southeast part of Waseca. John Erickson started the first concrete company in Waseca and constructed the first sidewalks all over the city.

    George was very close to his mother Matilda, who supported her son's talents as an artist early on. All the children were active in school activities, plays and dances, but George was the artist. While they were still in high school, the boys bought a popcorn wagon to earn some money. They kept it parked uptown at the corner of Elm and State. When George announced he wanted to attend art school in St. Paul, his father didn't think he could ever earn money as an artist, and so would not support him.

    George went anyway, and brother Carl kept the popcorn wagon going and sent George the money to live on.

    George loved his days in art school. He loved the freedom of being able to draw all day, instead of just at night after work. He learned so much about figure work, lighting, color, proportion, composition. His work improved immediately.

    The story goes that George Erickson told his brother Carl that he was going to become a famous artist one day, and when this happened he would make the name "Eugene Iverd" famous. "Iverd" was Carl's middle name which he hated. To make Carl feel better he took his middle name and added to another friend's name, "Eugene", another unpopular name according to Carl, put them together and came up with his new alter-ego, "Eugene Iverd."

    He signed all of his commissioned artwork with "Eugene Iverd" as a kind of pen-name. But there are several landscape paintings that he signed with his own name, George Ericson--he often left out the "k" because he liked the look of that spelling better!

    George became one of the best painter/illustrators in the country during the 1920s. Campbell's Soup Company, Monarch Foods, Saturday Evening Post were among his high-profile clients. His work appeared in their advertising, and magazine covers for several years. When he received the check for his very first commission, he proudly wrote a letter to his mother to let her know how her faith in him had been rewarded.

    George married Lillian Remund about 1918. After serving in World War I, George and Lillian moved to Erie, Pennsylvania and built a lovely house where George could have his studio. He also taught art at the nearby college and settled into an idyllic life. He and Lillian had two daughters. Their memories and the memories of George's brothers and sisters tell us that George loved his family, his students, his friends, and his work--all with such passion and fun.

    Tragically, and as George was becoming so successful, he developed arthritis in his hands and it became very painful for him to hold his brushes. He tried many treatments to relieve the condition. However, it was when doctors resorted to gold injections, which affected his immune system adversely. He developed pneumonia and died in 1931.

    The epilogue is that George Erickson, as Eugene Iverd was among the most popular and respected painter/illustrators of his time, but few people know of his reputation today. Many people compare him to Norman Rockwell, another painter of Saturday Evening Post covers, noting that he was probably even better than Rockwell. But his wife, Lillian, was so devastated by his death, that she never did anything to continue to promote his works as prints or anything beyond family keepsakes.
    The Waseca County Historical Society is proud to have in its collection several original and early paintings by George Erickson. Some of his first oil paintings as a teenager, and several landscapes likely inspired by Maplewood Park or scenes along the local riverbanks. Also in our archives are prints of his magazine advertising art, many of his magazine covers, illustrations for magazine articles. And in our photograph collection we have several Erickson family albums.