Fred Caropresi’s Mid-Century-Modern Illustrations for SMU’s 1951 Yearbook

by Paula Bosse

smu_1951-yrbk_people-places_caropresiLife on the SMU quad, 1951… (click to see larger image)

by Paula Bosse

I’m not sure why I happened across the artwork of Fred Caropresi (1921-1985), but I must have been looking for something in the 1951 SMU yearbook, The Rotunda — Caropresi’s work is all over it! Caropresi (or as he was known to fellow students, “Freddy”) had attended SMU in the 1940s, before and after World War II. His degree was in mechanical engineering, but after the war, he returned to study art as a grad student and eventually opened his own advertising firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Below are some examples of his work from the 1951 SMU annual — his drawings are reminiscent of the silkscreen process with their off-kilter, off-register areas of flat vibrant color. This type of 1950s “mid-century modern” commercial art is definitely one of my personal favorites. 

Here they are (click pictures to see larger images).

Peppy Mustangs:

smu_1951-yrbk_athletics_caropresi

The packed “Hi-Park SMU” streetcar (which ran along Hillcrest  — see a photo here):

smu_1951-yrbk_classes_caropresi

Bulletin board — pipes and the Arden Club:

smu_1951-yrbk_activities_caropresi

Post office (this is great — I’d love to see a photo of the real thing:

smu_1951-yrbk_organizations_caropresi

Relaxing with a drink and TV:

smu_1951-yrbk_personalities_caropresi

Cokes al fresco and another college boy smoking a pipe:

smu_1951-yrbk_pictorial_caropresi

The drawings below — also from the 1951 Rotunda — show a completely different style. The first one (“Beauties”) is fantastic. (Click a thumbnail image to open a slideshow.)

Like I said, Caropresi’s work was ALL OVER the 1951 Rotunda!

varsity-fight-song_smu-yrbk_1951

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New York native Frederick V. Caropresi (1921-1985) grew up in the Bronx with his parents (his father, a pharmacist, had immigrated from Italy), his grandmother, and his older brother Gregory. For some reason both Fred and Greg decided to attend SMU in Dallas. Fred originally studied mechanical engineering, receiving his degree in 1944. He returned to Dallas after his service in the navy during World War II, and took post-graduate art courses. He was busy around Dallas as a both a fine artist (his first one-man show was in 1952) and as a very busy commercial artist, working in local theater, industrial design, and advertising. He was an active president of the Dallas Print Society in the early 1950s, at the same time he was designing college yearbooks. He left Dallas in the 1950s and settled in a suburb of Pittsburgh where he established his own advertising agency. I hope he continued his own art, because I’m a fan.

caropresi_fred_smu-1942Fred Caropresi, 1942, SMU yearbook photo

He is represented in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art with this silkscreen/serigraph, a view of Reims Cathedral from about 1948.

caropresi-frederick_reims-cathedral_DMA_1948
Dallas Museum of Art

Fred Caropresi died in in 1985 in North Hills, Pennsylvania.

caropresi_news-record_north-hills-pennsylvania_040285_OBIT
North Hills (PA) News Record, April 2, 1985

Thank you, Fred.

caropresi-sig_1951

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Sources & Notes

All artwork by Frederick V. Caropresi from the 1951 edition of SMU’s yearbook, The Rotunda, is from the Southern Methodist University Yearbooks collection, DeGolyer Library, Central University Libraries, SMU; all editions are fully downloadable in PDFs, here.

caropresi_1951-rotunda

The silkscreen print “Reims Cathedral” (23/30, signed “F. V. Caropresi”) is from the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art; a Dallas Art Association purchase, it was accessioned in 1948.

All images are larger when clicked.

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Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

 

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