Sunday, March 29, 2009

BERNIE FUCHS

In 1958, a staff artist worked patiently in a back room at the famed Cooper Studio in New York, retouching the Pepsi Cola logo on a stack of illustrations. He came to an illustration by a new, unknown artist and stopped dead in his tracks.

Illustrator Murray Tinkelman, who also worked at Coopers, remembers receiving the call: "Hey Murray, come take a look at this." Tinkelman went over to see the new picture. "It was gorgeous" he recalls. The two decided to call in the superstars of Cooper Studios, Joe Bowler and Coby Whitmore. Bowler and Whitmore arrived together to inspect the new painting. Whitmore was "speechless." Bowler said, "I don't know who the hell did this, but the business is never going to be the same."

Bowler was right.



Young Bernie Fuchs arrived in New York and quickly set the field on fire. By the time he was 30, the Artists Guild of New York had voted him "Artist of the Year"-- an unprecedented achievement. His dynamic illustrations for magazines such as McCalls made him famous and attracted dozens of imitators.



So Fuchs was feeling pretty cocky by the time Sports Illustrated called him in the early 1960s to ask him to illustrate an article. Fuchs met with the legendary art director of Sports Illustrated, Richard Gangel. A tough minded visionary, Gangel gave Fuchs an assignment, but as Fuchs was leaving, added-- "Oh-- and I don't want that shit you do for McCalls."

Fuchs could have walked off in a huff. It would have been easy for him to continue working for other clients in the successful style he had already developed. Instead, he rose to Gangel's challenge and became even bolder and more innovative:


Image courtesy of Illustration House gallery


For a later issue of Sports Illustrated, Fuchs turned a portrait of the rather dumpy looking Branch Rickey into poetry.



Fuchs left behind all the imitators who continued to exploit the formula for Fuchs' earlier approach, and instead moved forward to grapple with new challenges. As illustration styles came and went, Fuchs' work was selected each and every year for more than 40 years by different juries from the Society of Illustrators as among the very best work produced that year. No other illustrator can claim such a record.

I am convinced that in order to accomplish what Fuchs has, you need both of the qualities demonstrated in the two stories above. You have to begin with great talent, sure, but perhaps even more important, you have to be prepared to take your initial success and re-invest it in new challenges. There is no guarantee that such a gamble will pay off, but if you are really, really good, that's what artistic success is for.


50 Comments:

Blogger Rob Howard said...

Fuchs was truly a phenomenon in an era of towering and original talents. In the studio where i worked, we'd anxiously await the postman delivering the day's haul of magazines to see who was doing what. Invariably, Bernie was the big dog in an era of big dogs.

Sadly, that era has faded and the fans have taken on the mantel of illustrations. It seems to go in cycles...golden ages followed by mediocrity and artists with nothing original to say. Most of the time we endure long periods of mediocrity whilst waiting for those flashes...a Golden Age...a Renaissance. It appears that they can't be forced or fanned into existence.

3/30/2009 7:25 AM  
Blogger avery said...

Oh yeah, now we are getting somewhere! I have loved Fuchs work for such a long time...no one does atmospheric sunny afternoons like he does. Along with Peak, Sparks, English, et al, they epitomized that great stylish work of the 70's. What a group of amazing talents.

3/30/2009 8:15 AM  
Blogger kenmeyerjr said...

Oops, looked like I left that last comment as my 8 year old daughter, Avery...boy, she has good taste!

3/30/2009 8:17 AM  
Blogger kenmeyerjr said...

Oh, and just remembered, one of my illustration classes here at SCAD in Savannah had the pleasure of visiting Joe Bowler's studio nearby...Hilton Head, I think...and he was such a great guy...maybe you should do a feature on him next. He was very forthcoming and fascinating to watch. He's still producing great work, though in the portrait field.

3/30/2009 8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuchs is a genius. Who is like him today? Only Frazetta approaches his staying power and influence, and Frazetta appeals to one core group of fans. Fuchs has incredible range and breadth. Thanks for sharing.

3/30/2009 9:18 AM  
Blogger Kenn said...

Great post David - Fuchs manages to convey so much with his images. A perfect example of illustration/art trumping photography while still being realistic

3/30/2009 1:30 PM  
Blogger chris said...

Classic illustration

3/30/2009 4:40 PM  
Anonymous Tanya said...

This image, and many others like it, on your blog, just are amazing. Especially that one scene with the tall trees, it just grabbed me by the heart and said, "LOOK."

Hard to explain, but I think a lot of illustrators know what I mean.

PS: You've got a great blog, and I've been following it for years. I look forward to following it for many more.

3/30/2009 9:39 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Rob, I agree with you about that era-- a lot of white hot talent with a license to explore almost anything. And some of the art directors (such as Gangel) were brilliant, too.

Ken, it's never too early for your 8 year old daughter to start learning about Bernie Fuchs. I'm glad that Joe Bowler is still working. Murray Tinkelman just filled me in on Bowler's recent work.

Thanks, Kenn. Fuchs was really at the front lines of the struggle between photography and illustration for space in magazines in the 1960s. There are some great stories about the warfare between photographers and illustrators. But I agree with your assessment of Fuchs' accomplishment.

3/30/2009 11:00 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Chris-- agreed!

Tanya, I'm so glad these pictures resonate with you. That one with the trees makes me weak in the knees too! I really appreciate your writing in.

3/30/2009 11:05 PM  
Anonymous Derrick said...

...my fav, ever,
his illustrations shaped the aesthetics of my childhood,
great post,
Derrick H.

3/31/2009 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob Howard is right. There were lots of great talents back then such as Bob Peak, Peter Max, Seymour Chwast, Mark English and lots of others. In the 60s, Peak was my favorite. But when you look back over the last 50 years Peak came and went but Fuchs stands tall above them all. He turned out to be "the big dog in an era of big dogs."

3/31/2009 11:46 AM  
Anonymous tania said...

Hi my dear renegade, here is another tania who likes the one with the trees! Don't you confuse y with i!

3/31/2009 1:54 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Tania, I have not heard from you in a very long time. I assumed you had stopped reading long ago (possibly because you had become domesticated and were spending all your time in a rocking chair knitting sweaters for your 5 children). I am glad that you still have a thing for trees. I agree that these ones are particularly nice.

I could tell that Tanya with a "y" was different from Tania with an "i" because nowhere did she call me a counter-revolutionary running dog lacky for the establishment.

3/31/2009 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to live there....
~cp

3/31/2009 10:06 PM  
Anonymous Jack Ruttan said...

Great post: uncovering a corner of the illustration world overlooked by the Juxtapoz crowd. Fuchs was someone whose work I'd always seen, but never had a chance to find out much about.

4/01/2009 6:56 AM  
Anonymous JC-Artist Ads said...

Looking at these illustrations, I was happily entertained:-)

4/01/2009 10:47 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

David, please excuse the thread drift but apercu an ongoing quandary -- how does one justify the enormous amounts of money spent on contemporary art when it doesn't adhere to what we have traditionally considered to be worthwhile art -- let me recommend the book The $12 Million Stuffed Shark -- the curious economics of contemporary art, by Don Thompson. The author approaches the contemporary art scene as an economist with a background in marketing (which strikes me as a wonderful combination of skills for the job).

Where, I think, most people go wrong is in implying everything from Aesthetics (capital A) and even morality (quite a lot of that going around on the peripheries of the art world) to what is essentially business and marketing strategy.

Thompson takes you behind the scenes to what is, essentially, an economics version of the Wild West where they are making up the rules as they go along. Although the conclusions will not make you feel any better, at least you'll have a better idea into how this high-stakes game of three-card monte is being played.

Is it corrupt...ask yourself, is there money involved, and that will answer it for you.

4/01/2009 1:27 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Its really easy to explain the huge amounts of money spent on crap disguised as "art".

The market is rigged.

In a real market, things go in and out of style, values drop and then rise--in other words, there is volatility to the downside as well as upside.

But this modernist garbage never has gone out of style, unlike the movements of Impressionism, Art Noveau, the Ash Can School, The Academic School, etc. Even Vermeer and Rembrandt went out of favor for many decades.

Everybody who has predicted the final exposure of modernist garbage and its demise has been wrong. And that's not because everybody can't see that the emperor has no clothes, its because the market is rigged.

And its rigged because talent is power, and the power shall all be in the hands of the galleries and big-time collectors. If you don't need any talent to create a "masterpiece" you're infinitely replaceable and a commodity.

Sure, you can swim around on the bottom and sell some good paintings for a few thousand dollars. But that's pocket change to the guys who really move the painting market.

If the market isn't rigged, then why do you think that the most highly-paid realist artists paint American Indian and Chinese art? Where's the regular Joe America art, and why isn't that getting big bucks thrown at it? Because its all about pushing an anti-western agenda. In fact, its all about pushing anti-populist agendas through art.

The markets are rigged at the top, and all the ambitious artists just imitate the trend hoping to make money off of it. That's how you control the art world, and why no more Bernie Fuchs are around anymore.

And never will be, because the popular American art forum of illustration is gone gone gone, and why illustrators who painted the joys and dreams of regular American life will never be classified as fine artists.

4/01/2009 9:17 PM  
Anonymous kev ferrara said...

Brian, modernism and postmodernism are populist in their own way. They just pander to the unhappy, bookish, and cynical, rather than to the relatively contented, socially normative, and heartfelt. It is the measure of the political populism surrounding post/modernism that equates unhappiness, bookishness, and cynicism with elite sophistication. Which, of course, is nonsense.

I don't share your pessimism about the future. I think Modernism and Postmodernism are bubbles kept inflated by quasi-religious belief only. The church cannot hold power forever. And already, across the world, artists are looking back before World War One for information and inspiration and seeing the culture glutting self-regarding postmodern babblers squatting in high academic perches for what they are.

kev

4/01/2009 9:44 PM  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

Bernie fuchs is another great illustrator I had all but forgotten about. Thanks for the reminder.

4/01/2009 9:53 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Well, I suppose using terms like "garbage" and "rigged" are purgative but they don't get into the nitty gritty of how the art market works. What you speak of is some Star Chamber of shadowy figures doing something (always an ill-defined something) to make buyers (through some magical hold on their purse strings) part with money that "the Average Joe" can't conceive of...and the truth is when Average Joe wins the lottery, the last thing he considers in his plunge back to poverty, is buying art that appeals to him. Yeah, that Nagel is pretty but spend money on art...fuggetaboutit.

That's why nobody paints for Mr. Average Joe. All of his taste is munching a Big Mac.

Far more interesting is really understanding how the dynamics of branding, the art of pricing and a variety of marketing skills that allow Aston-Martin cars, Audemars Piquet watches and Louis Vuitton luggage to sell for considerably more than good ol' Average Joe's Chevy, Timex and Samsonite. Hey, the Chevy goes forward, reverse, right and left, the Timex keeps good time and the Samsonite holds your clothes on that trip to DisneyWorld.

But the reality is mind-boggling. There are actually people who are not anything like Mr. Average Joe...really, they have nothing in common with him and his Bud Lite. In the case of the famous $12 million shark, 14 years previous, wealthy advertising exec (and this is an important thing to bear in mind...his business is advertising and PR), Charles Saatchi commissioned Damien Hirst to put a shark in formaldehyde and display it in three vitrines. The idea was to create the feeling that it was swimming across the gallery and right at you. For this Saatchi paid Hirst 50,000 pounds. The press had a field day with "50 grand for a fish with no chips."

Things did not go well for the shark. It did not preserve well and after 14 years the skin wrinkled, turned green, a fin fell off and the water got murky. Yecch! Now here's the genius...at that point, Saatchi put it on the market.

Larry Gagosian began flogging it and the Tate offered $2 million. It was turned down (this is where it gets interesting). That got a lot of press. That's when Steve Cohen agreed to buy it for $12 million and move it to MoMA (Cohen was offered a position on the board). TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS!!!

Okay, let's put that in perspective. Cohen is a financial genius with a net worth of over $4 billion (with a B) and an annual income of $500 million. At an annual rate of return of 10% (far less than he earns from his managed funds) his total income is about $16 million a week or $90,000 an hour. The shark cost five days pay.

Your fuming about "garbage" and "rigged" seem like petulant foot-stamping compared to what really happens in selling a work of contemporary art. This is the Wild West of financial instruments and it comes with societal clout and acclaim attached. It's like a trophy wife that increases in value.

You're making moral judgments and, if you'll permit, it's Joe Six-Packs morality. What's afoot is a game of which you can scarcely conceive and one which you are using the wrong yardstick as a measure.

4/01/2009 10:19 PM  
Anonymous kev ferrara said...

Who is this Joe Average? Joe Average taste, sophistication, education, cash flow, income, Democrat, Republican, Independant?... what? Or do you mean the average sports fan?

Aren't there wealthy people who don't collect art, and lots of them? They aren't joe average.

A financial genius does not qualify anybody for good taste nor aesthetic sophistication. Modern art is a form of cartooning and it is often just as enjoyable to look at. It seems absurd that Picasso's work is pulling in that much more than Kirby's.

This is not to say that bad victorian art is in any better taste or is any more intrinsically valuable than your average bad modernist or postmodernist work.

Mr. Cohen, his money and whoever his advisors are, amount to a star chamber. Regarding that cultural bubble effect, particularly revealing is the presence of Nora Ephron at Steve Wynn's coming through party. Money feeds hip, hip coaches money in hipness.

4/01/2009 11:42 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

That was a great collection of cliches and inappropriate means of measuring the worth of art past the taste that has never been developed since junior high school. All the wrong yardsticks are being employed and never once did you look at either Aesthetics or marketing. You were looking in all the wrong places, and finding no sensible answers resorted to name-calling and name-dropping.

Not getting much accomplished, are we? And we wonder why so few artists are successful.

4/02/2009 12:13 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Matthew, people tend to take the work of Bernie Fuchs for granted because he is like a face on Mt. Rushmore. He has always been there, and you factor that in to any assessment of the illustration field. But if you step back and actually focus on what he has done over the years, the cumulative effect is quite extraordinary.

4/02/2009 12:43 PM  
Anonymous kev ferrara said...

Rob, this clearly isn't the place for this discussion.

David, my apologies for taking the bait.

Great post as usual. Fuchs is such an elegaic artist. There's something sort of "Inness" about him. Fuchs could almost have "occurred" in 1910. There is this Tonalist Whistler's Mom-Degas-Vouillard-persian carpet school aspect to his work. And the integrity is fantastic of course.

The only thing that sets him in the 1960s is the unabashed use of photography as the source of his images, and the use of surface patterns as a tonality.

Of all the illustrators of the last 50 years, he most fully demolishes the divide between illustration and fine art.

Thanks for the great blog as usual.

kev

4/02/2009 1:41 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

That's why nobody paints for Mr. Average Joe. All of his taste is munching a Big Mac.

Sorry guy. Sargent, Sorolla, Arkhipov, Zorn, etc. all painted the average Joe, not to mention Leyendecker, Rockwell, Fuchs, etc. It's nice to see you think that average people are dunces. Most of them can do stuff you can't eve dream of, but I bet a lot of them can copy photography if properly trained.

Far more interesting is really understanding how the dynamics of branding, the art of pricing and a variety of marketing skills that allow Aston-Martin cars, Audemars Piquet watches and Louis Vuitton luggage to sell for considerably more than good ol' Average Joe's Chevy, Timex and Samsonite. Hey, the Chevy goes forward, reverse, right and left, the Timex keeps good time and the Samsonite holds your clothes on that trip to DisneyWorld.

Wow, you're so full of venom for real people its amazing! For somebody so "accomplished", you seem to have a fragile ego that needs to be inflated by deriding others. Now I see your angle--"Don't disagree with me, or I'll tell you all about how I am more wonderful than thou". What a waste of time.

You need to explain to me how collectors went from outbidding one another for Sargents and Sorollas to outbidding one another for modernist crap. How did the aesthetics change almost overnight? Or are the rich and elite you so fondly want to lump yourself in with just apish dopes susceptible to branding, ala the Big Mac or Disneyworld?

Your fuming about "garbage" and "rigged" seem like petulant foot-stamping compared to what really happens in selling a work of contemporary art. This is the Wild West of financial instruments and it comes with societal clout and acclaim attached. It's like a trophy wife that increases in value.

You're making moral judgments and, if you'll permit, it's Joe Six-Packs morality. What's afoot is a game of which you can scarcely conceive and one which you are using the wrong yardstick as a measure.


It is gargbage and it is rigged. You've said nothing to refute my claim that the top 5% of the market controls and sways 90% of the rest. And if you're going to tell me that the big money doesn't collude together to control the markets, you know nothing about cartel capitalism or economic history. That's what the big boys do and always have done.

I also don't need your condescension regarding my intellect. I can tell very well what is going on, and I'm probably smarter than some high school graduate with some trade school skills. If you think that you're wonderful because you can paint from photos, then join the other 10,000 people who can do that as well.

The top of the art market is rigged, and the fact that it doesn't follow the trends of a truly free market is the proof of that. Modernism never falls out of favor, the values never drop, and there is absolutely no transparency in this market at all.

Thanks for the silly response, Mr. Howard. Not only did you manage to avoid answering the economics that point to a rigged market, but you also managed to insult me and other regular people in order to stroke your ridiculous and fragile ego.

There's plenty of talent out there--nobody needs to wait for a Golden Age. The young lads simply need a way to get it going. And that is almost completely gone today, because the illustration market is gone, portraiture is governed by photo-copying hacks, and the top of the realist and modernist markets are RIGGED! People are buying not the good stuff, but what is rigged to inflate in value, like the internet stocks of yesteryear. And the mass of artists and galleries just trying to make a living simply follow the trend, as do financially circumspect collectors. Its easy to rig a market. The question is what does a rigged market do to quality and the real talent.

David, you want a good artist to profile, look at Rose Frantzen at www.oldcitygallery.com. Now there's somebody who can paint fabulously and makes far less than she should because of the RIGGED art market.

4/02/2009 3:58 PM  
Blogger S.M.Vidaurri said...

Thanks for the post, I love his work. I will always remember his Kennedy portrait, its brilliant.

4/03/2009 5:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuchs is great. Does anyone know where that picture of the trees is now, and whether it is for sale?

4/03/2009 8:02 AM  
Blogger Robert Cook said...

I'm actually not such a fan of Fuchs. I cannot deny his great talent, and I bought the recent issue of ILLUSTRATION magazine that was devoted to his work. His early stuff I quite like, but it was his later development that turns me off. As someone here said, it seems (too obviously) based on photos, and the soft-focus hazy blurry quality of it doesn't appeal to me. It seems mannered. I like more angular, hard edged stuff. Two of my favorite classic illustrators are Mitchell Hooks and Sanford Kossin. Also, Richard Powers, whose science fiction illustration I love, did great covers for Ballantine Books' paperback reissue of the Tarzan novels back in the 60s.

As for talk of "modernist garbage," what is being referred to? There's much modern art that is wonderful and exciting, and much that is dross...as in any era of art.

4/03/2009 10:28 AM  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

I remember looking at Fuchs at collage and not really taking too much notice, but at that time most of us (students) were looking and gushing over those illustrators whose work matched with our own particular style, maybe in some sort of attempt to justify our own work. Ah, the insecurities of youth... Wish i could go back to that time, with the knowledge I've gained since (not that I am now all knowledgable and wise).

4/03/2009 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Robert Cook that I generally like the early works with thick paint and visible strokes more than the later, softer work but that painting of Branch Rickey is wonderful. So is the painting of the trees. What a talented artist!

Alice

4/03/2009 10:52 AM  
Anonymous Kyle said...

Can I just ask what has Fuchs go to do with the Modern Art market? Fuchs was an illustrator in an illustration industry that periodically renewed itself.He's still working and selling and contemporary illustration has moved on. Fashions change. The Art market is similar, influenced by collectors and dealers in the same way that illustration was influenced by publishers and advertising. A lot of really talented people that would have been illustrators 50 years ago are working in animation, concept design and special fx, what's the big deal? There are some very reactionary views being presented here."Modernist garbage"? Such a lazy observation.

4/03/2009 1:28 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kyle, I don't think that the modern art market stream has to do with Fuchs; I think it is the proverbial brick from the other joke.

4/03/2009 3:32 PM  
Blogger kecg said...

Thanks David! I just loved this post, the illustrations are beautiful and the story and your insights are inspiring, as always!

4/04/2009 3:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post,
i always love the artists list presented...
does anyone know if this artist http://thomasfuchs.com/index.php
bears any relation to bernie fuchs?

looks like he is filling large shoes with digital feet,
D.H.

4/07/2009 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Karen Gangel said...

Thank you, David, for writing about Bernie's greatness as an artist. He is in a class by himself!!! Even though the Golden Age of illustration may be a memory, Bernie's work continues to be brilliant and relevant. He's created so much: ground-breaking illustration, exquisite fine art (Italy never looked more seductive), and now even children's books (which I read over and over for the art). And he plays the trumpet!!

My husband, Dick Gangel, loved working with him, especially sending him on wonderful assignments and then waiting to see what magic Bernie would bring back. He never disappointed!! The paintings were always awe-inspiring in their light and beauty. (There are many wonderful stories about Bernie's Sports Illustrated assignments.) I've heard rumors (all baseless, of course) that Dick could be somewhat difficult at times, but working with Mr. B was always a pleasure for him. Dick admired him so, both as artist and friend.

Knowing Bernie over the years has been very special. After all the success and adulation, he remains so modest about his matchless talent.

There exists on certain afternoons what I call "Bernie's light"--that gorgeous dappling of the sun's rays falling in just such a way. In fact, Bernie does it even BETTER than Mother Nature, I think!!

Keep writing!!! Thanks, Karen Gangel

4/21/2009 1:24 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Karen, I am honored and flattered that you stopped by my little blog. I am a great admirer of your husband's work. He was famous for his innovation, and he partnered with all the best illustrators in meaningful ways to make Sports Illustrated an artistic showcase.

I agree with you 100% about the work of Bernie Fuchs, of course. It was Bernie himself who told me that story about your husband saying, "I don't want that shit you do for McCalls." Thinking back on that moment, Bernie had a great big smile. I gather he has gotten over the blow by now, but it was pretty clear that your husband's message shook him up at the time. I can only guess that in Bernie's view, it was for the better.

I think the "golden age of illustration" is just undergoing a necessary metamorphosis. Just as with Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and NC Wyeth, who are now exhibited regularly in museums, the illustrators of the 1940s - 1960s and later will graduate into fine art when enough time has elapsed that people stop getting distracted by the commercial origins of their work.

5/01/2009 6:09 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

I was very impressed by Bernie Fuchs when i first saw his work as an art student aged 18, in illustration annuals of the 1970s. I even tried painting like that for a while. Seeing them again though after so many years, i just think... it's not that hard to trace over a photograph. and they are obviously traced over photographs (or slides projected onto the art surface). His loose rendering style is very pretty, but is basically taken from Whistler/Degas (as Kev has already noted above). The compositions with large areas of emptiness and lots of detail huddled together (usually near the top) is basically taken from the photo-secessionists, a brief period of soft-focus painterly-affected photographers from the turn of the century headed by Edward Steichen and Clarence White. In a way he was quite postmodern (and therefore ahead of his time) by his canny use of earlier sources. I'm not saying his images aren't appealing. they are. but when you know how they're done (tracing photographs) and when you check all of the original sources, they seem a bit facile.

5/18/2009 5:32 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Laurence, I used to share some of your concerns but as I delved into it I found myself coming out in a very different position. Since the invention of photography, it is hard to find many significant artists who did not make use of the new tool. Most realistic painters like Eakins and Bellows and Rockwell and Maxfield Parrish used photography a lot. Rockwell (like Fuchs) had the technical skill to paint quite accurately from scratch without photographs, but found photography convenient, and wrote a very persuasive chapter on his thought process in his autobiography.

Putting aside realistic art, artists such as Toulouse Lautrec, Degas, Bonnard, Picasso and Duchamp also found photography useful as well. In hindsight, it's hard to see how an artist with any intellectual curiosity could resist picking up the new tool, examining it, playing with it, and deciding what it was useful for. The great Austin Briggs also wrote an excellent essay on the ways photography enhanced art and how it served as a crutch for the less talented. A later generation of artists such as Warhol and Rauschenberg put photography center stage in their artwork.

While all this was going on, photography graduated to the status of an art form by itself. If you think that Steichen or Ansel Adams make art, then artists who take their own photographs and paint, such as Fuchs or Ben Shahn, should be no less artists.

I do think one has to subtract points for the technical skill of a particular painting where photography was used as an aid, just as you have to subtract points for technical skill where computer programs are used (which today is almost everything). But people began attaching less weight to technical skill ever since the camera began competing with the painting. The question is really what Fuchs has to offer besides mere technical skill. I think the answer is "plenty."

5/18/2009 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeez, Rob Howard...what an ass!

Any credibility or worth you had (at least for those who have heard of you) you managed to flush down the potty in just a few paragraphs.

9/25/2009 12:38 PM  
Blogger Don Coker said...

I was crushed to hear of the passing of Bernie Fuchs. As a young newspaper illustrator in the 70s I clipped every magazine that held a Fuchs piece. His work, along with that of Heindel, Peak, English and others defined an era and provided bucket loads of inspiration for the up-and-comers at that time, myself included. Bernie was my favorite of that famed group. I remember when I saw my first original Fuchs in a gallery in Atlanta. I had the same feelings as when I saw my first Monet and van Gogh. It was a thrill. I pored over every inch of the canvas. The illustration/fine art world has lost a great, original. Rest well, Mr. Fuchs.

10/06/2009 10:31 AM  
Blogger Stan said...

I'm searching for an illustrator who can carry off a series of illustrations that is closely reminiscent of the 60's car ads that Bernie Fuchs,Tom McNeely and their peers produced with such grace and flair. The project is ready to book so if anyone is applicable or have recommendations please let me know asap.

Best, StanO

1/19/2010 11:08 AM  
Anonymous John Takakura Palmersheim said...

He was one of the truly great illustrators and artists of our recent time, and will forever in my mind represent what great illustration was in the pre digital era. You simply do not see his kind of page stopping visuals anymore-it really was a golden age when illustrators of his caliber blanketed the covers of the great magazines of that era. I was an art director, and illustrator back in the back in the day, and whenever I would see a Fuchs piece on any number of the magazines he did, or any of the society of illustrators annuals that he won awards in. I would just be amazed at the mastery that Bernie Fuchs had. Bernie Fuchs was truly one of the greats artists of his time and set the bar for the rest of us.
R.I.P. Bernie, and thanks for the inspiration.

5/31/2010 9:50 PM  
Anonymous judi said...

I grew up shy, and I will always remember spending Christmas at Bernie and Babes. They where my mothers best friends, and I never told Ethel how much I would have rather stayed home with my new toys then go to Westport. Bernie always made me feel at home, it was almost like he knew that I didn't feel like I fit in with the other kids. Bernie Fuchs was by far one of the kindest, most talented people I have or will ever know. I will never forget him..I will always respect him.
JG

2/17/2011 11:48 PM  
Blogger Mark J. Stanczyk said...

1)Illustrations weren't merely works of art! Their purpose was to capture the casual page flippers attention, to lure him/her into reading that article, by distilling a moment created by an author! 2) < The compositions with large areas of emptiness and lots of detail huddled together> Illustrations needed to provide space for titles and text blocks. Bernie achieved this by using dynamic silhouette and positive space. 3)Photography was an essential tool for illustrators who were working on tight schedules with modeling agencies that charged the heavens!

Bernard Fuchs was a giant who, as all great artists have, absorbed styles, art techniques and philosophies from artists throughout history.

I believe Bernie drew and painted for me and you, as did Bob, Norman, and Michelangelo.

4/26/2011 10:01 PM  
Blogger sebastian said...

Hey David,
very profound commment, that last one. great post!

3/11/2013 12:53 PM  
Blogger Rick McCollum said...

I was reading some of the comments on using photography in art. Most all illustrators I knew used it, and still do. A lot of people don't know what an amazing photographer Bernie was. His compositions and point of view were amazing. He certainly did not just copy a photo. He did thumbnails, sketches, and some color comps, earlier in his career before photos or starting to paint. He might like the pose of a figure in one shot, but redraw the head and hands to fit what he was trying portray in the composition and sometimes redrawing the whole figure. His "finishs" were far removed from his photos.

3/14/2013 11:12 PM  
Blogger John Frye said...

Mr. Apatoff, I think I read somewhere that you were putting together a book on Bernie Fuchs. I just picked up a piece from 1963 at the recent Illustration House auction. If you want pictures for your book, let me know. Thanks!

-John A. Frye

7/30/2013 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bernie was an artists artist. For many years I was haunted by his work, starstruck by his talent and genius. The first time I saw his work I was in art school and and youknew that you would somehow never be the same again. Ive even had to reaccess everything Ive learned and knew in art. A towering talent. We miss you Greatly. knew

1/16/2014 9:24 PM  

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