Saturday, November 04, 2006


In 1963, Life Magazine commissioned artist Stanley Meltzoff to illustrate an article about ancient Greece. The result was a set of glowing masterpieces that brought ancient Greece vividly to life.

In addition to the beauty of the images, Meltzoff labored long and hard to make his paintings historically accurate. A meticulous craftsman, he even distinguished the uniforms of the Persians from the uniforms of the Scythians and the Medes.

His illustrations conveyed everything from the pathos of an a individual dying in the streets from the plague... the grand sweep of the world's largest army storming across the Hellespont to invade Greece.

These are works of enduring value. They appeared for one brief moment in a 25 cent weekly magazine, then disappeared as Life moved on to a different topic the following week. They aren't displayed in a museum or gallery for the public to admire.

And yet, having appeared once, they are not gone. I can personally attest that these dramatic images were seared permanently into the memories and imaginations of ten year old boys of that time. I am reproducing them here in the hope that there is another generation out there watching.


Blogger Shawn said...

The style Reminds me of Craig Mullins work.

11/04/2006 6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, how could this work not be permenantly displayed somewhere? The light in the first piece is remarkable. The battle around the man with the shield is reflected solely in his face. The later one of the battle on the ocean makes me think I'm there, on the Agean. I could touch it... cp

11/04/2006 8:50 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Shawny, I agree with you. I don't know if Mullins was influenced directly by Meltzoff, but I wouldn't be surprised. Before he painted these illustrations for Life magazine, Meltzoff was widely admired by science fiction fans for revolutionizing science fiction covers. At the Art Director Blog ( illustrator Vincent Di Fate recently said, "I wish I could have painted Meltzoff's original cover art for The Puppet Masters--in my opinion, the genre's one true masterpiece."

11/05/2006 2:09 AM  
Anonymous Mike Marinos said...

And heres another with memories of lying on his bedroom floor looking at these images and "feeling" rather then seeing Greece alive. This is tremendous work that directly affected my life.

11/05/2006 2:11 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Anonymous (cp), boy do I agree with you. last week I mentioned that many NY galleries feature the work of artists such as Sherrie Lansing whose "appropriation art" involves photographing the work of others and presenting the copies as her own work "to question what labels like 'original' and 'classic' meant."

If there were more intellectual integrity in the marketing of art, the owners of such galleries would pull a dump truck around back to get rid of such puerile musings in order to create space for the serious work of talented artists. I would love to see Meltzoff's paintings of Greece displayed together.

11/05/2006 4:33 AM  
Anonymous catherine said...

Speaking of puerile musings, my husband and a friend and I were discussing last night, your blog that included a picture done by Thomas Kincaid. They told me he supervises Art students who produce "his" work for him (!). These are then reproduced en mass. Once they are sent out to the galleries, the staff are "specially trained" and approved, to add "points of light" (sorry for all the quotes, this just galls me) to the pieces to make them more authentic; ie, appear like real oils.

Can this be true? It's bad enough that they are horrid pieces of work, works than velvet paintings because they actually pretend to be art. Perhaps this is the true sign of the fall of our nation. cp

11/06/2006 12:04 AM  
Anonymous catherine said...

(my apologies for the typo, my proofing skills start to fail this time of night)

11/06/2006 12:06 AM  
Blogger TheWrist said...

Man thanks for posting these...sigh....beautiful work. How did he paint these? I'd love to know his technique. Thanks!

11/06/2006 8:57 PM  
Blogger Irene Gallo said...

Thewrist - Illustration Magazine did an article on Meltzoff a while back. (Issue 4, maybe?) If you can find that, it may have some info on his process.

I know that Donald Grant Books is publishing an art book on Meltzoff. It doesn't have a release date yet...but I'm soooo looking forward to it.(They published a great book on James Avati last year.)

David - Another awesome post! These paintings are heart stopping...And MUST be kept in the public's eye.

11/07/2006 2:36 PM  
Anonymous Gregory Manchess said...

Fantastic, David! Please keep paintings of this stature comin'...can't get enough! But make them large if you can. I have to SEE that paint! There's so much more out there that's been lost...
BTW, Catherine, it's far worse than you think about Ol' Kinkade...try to check out the 60 Minutes report on him. Ouch.

11/07/2006 2:54 PM  
Blogger Robert Hunt said...

These are fantastic. I only knew this artist from many undersea paintings I had seen in illustration annuals...I had no idea, but these are great. Your site is a fabulous resource.

11/08/2006 4:16 PM  
Anonymous el coro said...

you never fail to please..thanks so much for posting these. i had never seen them, but i have admired his work for a long time. what a crusher!
Irene: YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!! thats great news.

11/10/2006 1:54 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Many thanks, thewrist, Greg, Robert and el coro. I'm glad to have your comments and to track back to your own art. Greg, I wish I had better images of these works. The reproductions in Life magazine are much bigger but fuzzier. That's why paintings like these should be displayed for the public to see.

Irene, special thanks to you. I am grateful.

11/10/2006 3:53 AM  
Anonymous Keith said...

Yes, we are watching. Thank you so much for posting these.

10/05/2008 5:18 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Thank you, Keith!

10/05/2008 10:42 PM  
Blogger cruais235 said...

I was still a young girl when the series on Greece came out. Great pictures and ideas were etched into my mind and finding your site has been a great joy. Thank you for posting these great paintings. Now I have to find the photo of the child's gravestone with the words "Here lies his fathers only hope" or something to that effect. It was in that same series-I think there were 6 weeks worth of this wonderful series --Thank you so much. Happy in Springfield

6/16/2009 3:28 PM  
Blogger JoryG said...

Me too!! I was 9 at the time, living with my family in Winnipeg, Canada on my dad's sabbatical, away from our home in Israel. I've been searching the web for those startling images, the ones that made me fall in love with the Greece's Golden age, and essentially, all things greek. Thank you so very much for finding them at last, and as a bonus, viewing your other fascinating items. Jory Kenneth

12/19/2012 2:03 PM  

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