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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Newspaper Artist

Newspaper Artist

GRHC - August 24th, 2011

Grand Rapids artist Gert VanHouten became a well known WWI cartoonist publishing under the byline 'GERT'.



Gert VanHouten began her commercial art career at the Grand Rapids Press in 1916. She was accomplished in fashion and advertising illustration, but it was for her popular little cartoon character, “Gert”, that she was best known. VanHouten was Clara Brown Young, when she began at the Press, wife of Ernest Young, a lieutenant who served as a pilot in World War I.

In February of 1918 the Press sent her to Washington DC to sketch wartime cartoons and report on happenings in the capital. Her by-line was simply, Gert. As the wife of an officer, she was admitted to Walter Reed Hospital when she required emergency surgery, and she spent a long convalescence among the war-wounded. Propped up in her hospital bed she began work on a series of Liberty Loan cartoons.

In 1921 Gert transferred her talent to the Chronicle, published by George Welsh, where little “Gert” continued to delight her fans until 1926. She then turned her talent to free-lance art work.

Perhaps her greatest piece of work was the design for the well-loved memorial to John Ball at John Ball Park. The bronze sculpture, by the Italian artist, Copini, stands as a monument to her artistic ability. For this she received the princely sum of $20.

Returning, in 1972, from California where she had lived for many years, Gert Van Houten, at the age of 80, again created cartoons for a newspaper, the Interpreter, owned by her old friend, George Welsh.



Full Details

TitleNewspaper Artist
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, cartoonist, WWI, Gert VanHouten , WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, radio, Podcast
Pubdate StringAugust 24th, 2011

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