George and Nan Pollard
George and Nan Pollard
For more than 50 years George and Nan Pollard sketched and painted
together, winning national and international acclaim
in quite different areas. While Nan has illustrated
more than 2,000 books for children, George has produced
more than 5,000 portraits of the rich and famous.
Growing up in Burlington, Iowa, Nan knew she liked to draw from an early age. She won awards for her artwork in both junior high and high school, and went on to study at the Layton School of Art in Milwaukee.
George was raised in the small farming community
of Waldo, Wisconsin. Encouraged by his mother, he
began drawing at a young age and attended the Layton
School of Art after high school. George soon moved
on to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and then to
Chicago to study under Frederick Mizen, one of the
nation's top illustrators. When World War II began,
George left Mizen's academy and enlisted in the
U.S. Marine Corps. During his 39 months of service,
he continued his art. His work attracted the attention
of his superiors, who ordered him to paint the portraits
of Eleanor Roosevelt and General Douglas MacArthur.
George returned to the Layton School of Art after the
war, where he met and married Nan in 1947.
Nan and George settled in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Nan
was soon hired as a staff artist at Lowe Publishing,
where she and George collaborated on celebrity doll
books. George painted the covers while Nan would
do the dolls and dresses. Nan continued to illustrate
children's books while George's career as a portrait
artist took off. He did portraits of Presidents Eisenhower,
Truman, Kennedy and Reagan; Supreme Court Justices
William O. Douglas and William Rehnquist; Wisconsin
governors Lee Sherman Dreyfus and Tommy Thompson; and
sports figures Muhammad Ali, Bart Starr and Vince
Lombardi. He even painted Pope John Paul II, which
won the Pontiff's Medal, an honor usually reserved
for heads of state. George currently has more portraits
hanging in Washington D.C. government buildings than
any other artist.
Nan built a prestigious career as an illustrator
and was continually sought out by publishers for
the quality of her work. She drew some of the best-loved
children's subjects, including Captain Kangaroo,
Mickey Mouse, Lassie and Curious George. In addition
to story books, Nan did coloring and activity books
as well as paper doll books. She retired in 1999.
Nan and George raised four children together, and their children all have become distinguished
artists in their own right.
The Wisconsin Historical Society celebrated the lifetime achievements of Nan and George Pollard, along with three other individuals with Wisconsin ties, during its first annual History Makers Gala in Milwaukee on Tuesday, May 23, 2006. The Pollards received The Award for Distinction in Visual Arts Given in Memory of Artist Georgia O'Keeffe. George Pollard died at his home in Kenosha on April 17, 2008.