His two previous books reveal an artist steeped in colorful contradiction. His images are fun, while threatening; playful, yet dangerous; humorous, but deadly.
The Sweetly Diabolic Art burnishes Flora's reputation as one of the great overlooked artists of the 20th Century. This book features paintings, drawings, and sketches from the 1940s through the 1990s, most never previously published or exhibited, as well as more artifacts from Flora's 1940s tenure in the Columbia Records art department and rare newspaper and magazine illustrations spanning several decades.
However, Sweetly Diabolic breaks new ground with the first printing of an early, abandoned children's book concept, The X-Ray Eyes of Wallingford Hume, drafted in the mid-1940s. Equally fascinating, on the sweet side, are original, never-before-published roughs, color overlays, and rejected images from Flora's 1950s and '60s children's books. In the diabolic vein, a gallery of uncirculated pen and pencil sketches from the 1940s uncorks a devilishly experimental side of the artist. Sweetly Diabolic also collects, for the first time between covers, rarely seen cartoon-science illustrations from a short-lived, now-obscure mid-'50s magazine, Research and Engineering, for which Flora briefly served as Art Director.
The images are augmented by personal vignettes and mementos from the family archives, and includes a 1984 interview with award-winning graphic designer Robert M. Jones, who succeeded Flora as Art Director at Columbia in 1945. Jones was friends with Flora at every stage of the latter's career and offers priceless insights into his buddy's technique and personality.