E. Simms Campbell was one of the first commercial Black artists in the US, with a career that stretched from the early 1930s to the late 1960s.
He was a cartoonist for his high school paper. Campbell studied at the Chicago Art Institute and moved to New York, selling cartoons to the humor mags (Life, Judge, College Humor). Fellow artist, Russell Patterson, pointed out his own success with “good girl art” and impressed Campbell to follow.
Campbell created the “Harem Girls,” a hit from the very first issue of Esquire (1933). Campbell’s watercolors were a key reason for Esquire’s success and he turned out several paintings per issue, as well as ideas for other artists, articles and covers. Campbell created ads for Springmaid, Hart Schaffner and Marx, Barbasol.
When Esquire abandoned illustration art, Campbell and several others moved to Playboy and helped make yet another magazine a success. He made contributions to Cosmopolitan, New Yorker, Sunday Pictorial Review, Opportunity Journal Of Negro Life and Ebony. He also created two collections of World War 2 cartoons: Cuties in Arms and More Cuties in Arms. He then had a long run with King Features.