Friday, September 18, 2009

A GIANT: BERNARD FUCHS (1932-2009)



Bernie Fuchs started out in a most unlikely place and time.

Born in a tiny rural town in the heart of the Great Depression, he grew up with no father, no assets or connections, no art training, and no prospects. He was even missing three fingers on his drawing hand (the result of an accident in his youth).



Yet, Fuchs was quickly swept to the top of his profession on a wave of talent and personal quality. The New York Artists Guild named him "Artist of the Year" by the time he was thirty; he became the youngest illustrator ever elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame; and for over forty years, his sleek, sophisticated, beautifully designed work was selected by one jury after another at the Society as among the best of the year. (Try to think of another illustrator who has been as influential to the field in the latter half of the 20th century.) As Walt Reed wrote, Fuchs' pictures "are probably more admired-- and imitated-- than those of any other current illustrator."

I met Bernie Fuchs a few years ago when he reluctantly agreed to be interviewed for
an article I wrote about him. As much as I admired his work, I grew to admire him as a person even more. I never heard him utter an unkind word about anyone; he was humble and sincere to a fault, always quick to give credit to his colleagues, or to anyone who extended a helping hand along the way. But as generous as he was to others, he held his own work to the toughest standards, decade after decade, right up to the end.

I recently made a pilgrimage to Bernie's hospital bed. He was pale, gaunt and under heavy sedation. He could no longer eat or breathe except through tubes. He had lost the ability to speak so he used a little notebook for scribbling short messages to his family, who had gathered around him for the end. I looked down at his notebook and saw he had been sketching a human ear. I said, "Wow-- still drawing? You don't give up easily, do you?" He gave me a tight lipped smile and with a tough, defiant look in his eye shook his head no, he didn't give up easy and he was damn proud of it. That attitude, which was the core of his greatness, was still inside him then and would be the last part to leave.


The expression in his eyes alone was worth the trip to Connecticut.

Last night, Bernie's work was done. The wave that took him to the pinnacle of success in his field swept him onward to another shore.


From The Wolves, 1996

76 Comments:

Anonymous Chad Sterling said...

The passing of a giant.Condolences to Mr Fuchs' family.An indomitable spirit that will stay with us forever through his graet work.

9/18/2009 10:35 AM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

That's a shame. He was a brilliant artist. His light was like Degas.

9/18/2009 11:29 AM  
Anonymous dave said...

Woke up early and decided to start the day off with your blog. Oh why did I get up?!
David, it was through your article in Illustration Magazine that I became really acquainted with Bernie's work. Going through it again this morning I noticed he partially covered up his right hand in every photograph.
From this gesture alone it seems he didn't want to be reminded of his disfigurement and defeat his resilient spirit. He carried that spirit to the very end.
RIP, Mr. Fuchs, even though we've never met you've been an inspiration and a teacher to me.

9/18/2009 11:48 AM  
Blogger kenmeyerjr said...

Bernie Fuchs was a giant...his work loomed large over most of his contemporaries. Very few equaled his output or his quality...maybe Peak, possibly Sharpe and English. I didn't know much of his backstory...what I did know was he was able to capture sunlight like no other. He worked in an era of great illustration...and he was one of the greatest of that incredible group of illustrators. We are lucky to have seen such greatness.

9/18/2009 12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just received the call about Bernie this morning. It was a call I was expecting, and dreading, for quite a while now.
He was not only one of the greatest illustrators ever, but one of the kindest, most generous people I've ever known. Years ago, I was a student at Art Center, and already a friend of Bernie's, when he took me to lunch. I make silly books for children and, at the time, I was overwhelmed with the competition at school and my place in that crowd. Bernie told me to stay on my own path and do what I do best and things would work out. He encouraged my little character drawings and getting encouragement from a giant like Bernie Fuchs was more than enough to set me on the right path. As much as I tried, I was never able to express my thanks enough. Whenever he was in L.A., my wife Ann and I would have lunch with Bernie and Babe and listen to the stories of his remarkable life and career. It's hard to imagine this world without any more of his drawings or paintings. I don't think we'll ever see another combination of talent and humility to match his.
Rest in peace, Bernie. You are my hero.

9/18/2009 1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, forgot to add, thanks so much to you, David, for all your recognition of Bernie. The Illustraton issue devoted to his work is always on my studio table. I know how grateful he was (although humble as always), for that tribute. Hope we get a chance to meet someday and talk about the indelible mark he left on this earth.
Tim Egan

9/18/2009 2:19 PM  
Blogger Harry Borgman said...

Very sorry to hear this, Bernie was a great artist and a wonderful person. His work is always a joy to look at. I knew him from his early days in Detroit. His work will be an inspiration to artists for years to come.
Harry

9/18/2009 2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with what others here have said. Giant is a good term for him. We were honored to be illustrators at the same time as the great Bernie Fuchs.

9/18/2009 2:22 PM  
Blogger kenmeyerjr said...

Also, David...that last line was just incredibly beautiful. Yet another amazing post.

9/18/2009 3:46 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Ave atque vale.

9/18/2009 4:41 PM  
Anonymous Blake said...

I have to thank you for introducing me to Mr. Fuchs. I've been reading your blog for several months now, and haven't commented, but Bernie Fuchs has quickly become my favorite illustrator.

9/18/2009 4:55 PM  
Anonymous JSL said...

A loss to the art world. Who is like him today? Thanks for letting us know he was a great person too.

9/18/2009 5:10 PM  
Anonymous Charlie Allen said...

Such sad news. Can't add to the eloquent expressions and comments already posted. Will say that to a west coast illustrator at that time, Bernie Fuchs was both intimidating and inspiring....truly awe inspiring! What a gift to all who were, and are, aware of the great illustration being done in the mid twentieth century.

9/18/2009 5:19 PM  
Blogger Francis Vallejo said...

deeply saddened, Bernie is a pillar of illustration. RIP

9/18/2009 5:32 PM  
Blogger Raul Allen said...

Beautiful post David, Bernard Fuchs will continue to inspire us for as long as we are here.

9/18/2009 5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this David. Bernie deserves so much more recognition than today's world will grant him. He was a great who inspired the greats.

9/18/2009 6:36 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Like my friend Charlie Allen commented, "can't add to the eloquent expressions and comments".. but I would also like to take my hat off to a great illustrator, and a great influence to me and many students and working illustrators that I knew in the last 50 years. He was a giant among giants, and I followed his rise from a GMC Truck ad he illustrated, which was accepted into the first N.Y. Society of Illustrators annual show in 1959. I was a young illustration student at the Academy of Art in S.F., and the buzz in the class room was "Who is this guy!?" We had never heard of him, but just knew in our gut, he was really special. Thanks Bernie Fuchs, for being a major guiding light to generations of aspiring illustrators, and those that appreciate great illustration.

Tom Watson

9/18/2009 6:44 PM  
Blogger Louise Smythe said...

beautifully written - Bernie was truly a master. RIP.

9/18/2009 7:13 PM  
Anonymous John Philip Hagen said...

Very sad to learn of Bernie's passing. He was one of the strongest influence for my decision to pursue an artistic career. Thank you Bernie, thanks for holding my intension. You have steered so many in a positive direction. Godspeed.

9/18/2009 8:49 PM  
Anonymous Nell said...

I was privileged to meet Bernie and to have a sketch he did of me. He had extraordinary grace as an artist and as a man. He took his work seriously but he was modest and open-hearted and generous. Like me, he married his high school sweetheart and they remained devoted to one another. I will miss him very much.

9/18/2009 9:09 PM  
Anonymous Alice said...

Amen, John. Mr. Fuchs was my inspiration too. Everyone in my art class was blown away by what he did, including the teacher. God bless Mr. Fuchs for all the beautiful work he did for people. It will live forever.

9/18/2009 9:22 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Thanks to all who have written in to share their reactions to Bernie's work. I hope others will feel free to do so, as I believe some members of Bernie's family may be reading these comments, and may find some consolation in the fact that he meant so much to so many people.

I feel very fortunate for the time I was able to spend with Bernie. He was a gracious, classy guy through and through-- truly one of god's songbirds.

9/18/2009 9:39 PM  
Blogger stephen bach said...

I'm sorry to hear of his passing. He will be remembered as one of the greats. One of my first memorable art experiences as a first year art student at Pratt Institute was going to the Society of Illustrators and seeing an original Bernie Fuchs illustration. I have tried to capture that sense of light and color in my paintings ever since.

9/18/2009 10:11 PM  
Blogger LCG said...

The world is a richer place for your having been here, Bernie. You will be missed.

9/18/2009 10:58 PM  
Anonymous Mark Nelson said...

My art school roommate's father (he was a New York art director) worked with Bernie Fuchs on a regular basis for 30 years and insisted that Bernie was the most professional and talented illustrator of our time.

Thanks for the years of inspiration, Bernie. God bless you.

9/18/2009 11:17 PM  
Blogger ev said...

Moving and inspirational. Thankyou.

9/18/2009 11:54 PM  
Blogger Jerry Ordway said...

So sorry to hear of this. I became aware of Mr Fuch's work when I was an apprentice artist at an ad art studio in the late 70's. I attended one of the workshops he did in Manhattan in 1980 and came away with an admiration for him as an individual. He was an original, and will be missed. My condolences to the family.

9/19/2009 12:36 AM  
Blogger Nick Name said...

I just heard about this through your blog. I feel exactly the same way as I did when I heard that Andrew Wyeth had died--kicked in the stomach. I always thought they'd live as long as their works.

9/19/2009 1:15 AM  
Anonymous Jonathan Wilson said...

I had no Idea about this guy. Thanks for posting this blog! I not only admire your art, but also your reach to inform and enlighten about your heroes and influences...

J

9/19/2009 1:21 AM  
Blogger . said...

This guy was amazing.. we will learn from him forever.. But speaking of illustrators.. has anyone seen the work of Fred Freeman? Esp his submarine series? He did 100s of illustrations for LOOOK, COLLIERS, LIFE, in the 40s and 50s. I used to draw in his studio in the woods when I was a little boy. I suspect HE is the reason why I am painting! Thank you Fred!

9/19/2009 8:19 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Norwell said...

Mr Fuchs is now immortal.....a huge influence and I dare say a giant of our industry.
Godspeed.

9/19/2009 8:51 AM  
Blogger René Milot said...

I had the privilege of meeting Mr Fuchs, twice as a student: as he was presenting his portfolio: it had a huge influence on me and tons of other illustrators.He had such an impact on so many illustrators, he'll be sadly missed.

9/19/2009 9:08 AM  
Blogger Kpeters said...

I grew up seeing his work and loving it...and can't but believe that his work has touches me in some way!
Another bright star is shining in the night sky.... for him.

9/19/2009 10:22 AM  
Blogger FATİH KARAKAŞ said...

BÜYÜK USTAYDI!...ÇOK ÜZÜLDÜM...

9/19/2009 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Marian Fortunati said...

A part of us always lives on through those who loved him.
And of course through his art...

Thanks for sharing this.. I didn't know of his work, but will recognize his name and work when I see it in the future.

9/19/2009 11:41 AM  
Blogger Harvey Chan said...

I never forget the moment when Mr.Fuchs unrolled his canvases as all those gorgeous and powerful images in oil were in front of our eyes...1980,Ontario College of Art,Canada. This magic moment has stayed in my heart since then and kept me inspired for the last 29 years.
So long Mr.Fuchs, my hero and a legend of our time.

9/19/2009 5:27 PM  
Blogger colin said...

Like at least one of the other posters, I believe I was introduced to Bernie Fuchs (the name, at least) by this blog. He was a favorite of mine from the moment I first saw his work. Magnificent work it is, too. I regret his passing, but it did help a little to hear that he never stopped drawing.

9/19/2009 10:15 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9/19/2009 11:00 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

He had a great gift, a dream-world vision, and left us so many beautiful, sad songs about sunlight.

I am thankful that there are still many, many pictures by him that I haven't yet seen.

9/19/2009 11:10 PM  
Blogger Montalvo Machado said...

I was struck by a message from a friend, telling me about Bernie Fuchs' passing.

As for most - if not all - of us, he was a hero for me during at least 2 decades, probably more.

A legendary artist, who will never be forgotten.

My condolences to his family, and to the ones close to Bernie Fuchs.

Congratulations David, for such a touching and truthful text. I can only imagine how hard it was for you to put these words together, and I'm grateful you did so, even blurring my sight with tears at the end.

9/20/2009 1:05 AM  
Blogger Gopal Nandurkar said...

Mr. Fuchs, I was told by a friend about your passing away and was struck by immense grief. You have been a GURU - Great Master, to me for the last so many years. I greatly admire you and your work. Your absence henceforth will mean a loss of gigantic proportions to me and numerous other artists and people who love you. But, you will always remain in our hearts and will continue to inspire through your amazing work!!!

May your soul rest in peace, Mr. Fuchs and a hundred salutations to you!!!

9/20/2009 3:35 AM  
Blogger william wray said...

Always have your great issue of Illustration on BF close at hand and was hoping a coffee table book would be in the works by now. I fell in love with his work as a kid in the sixties and seventies keeping a little clip file on him and Peak that got lost somehow. Not that he ever "went away" but it seems like he was experiencing a comeback in the form of today's generation discovering him. To be honest, I kind of took him for granted for may years and your magazine reminded me of his greatness... How could I forget?

9/20/2009 2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what an outpouring of good wishes - this alone is a testament to the man. Thank you for your tribute and creating a space for all of us to come together. - Mary Minow

9/20/2009 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew him really only as my sister's father-in-law, not so much the famed illustrator. To me, Bernie, Babe and their son Derek have been a more wonderful family and husband than I ever could have hoped for my sister to marry into. For them, his daughters and grandchildren the void will be great, but what a wonderful man to hang out with during the holidays. I was obviously aware of his stature and accomplishments in his profession, but I can not explain what a kind, wonderful, funny, gentle and interesting man he was to spend time with. I'm certain Heaven has cold duck, golf and paint brushes

9/20/2009 6:30 PM  
Blogger Jorge Mascarenhas said...

Bernie Fuchs was my first influence during my art school days. Ever since, his work never stopped inspiring me. The passing of a legend.

9/21/2009 12:51 AM  
Blogger Jeff Love said...

I'll never forget the first time I saw one of his illustrations. There aren't words enough to describe his art and influence. The world is poorer for his loss.

9/21/2009 1:54 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

It's good to read that so many artists who I respect and admire but don't know personally turn out to be fans of Bernie's work. His influence was truly extraordinary.

Thanks, too, to family members and people who knew him for sharing their recollections.

9/21/2009 6:27 AM  
Blogger Perry Brown said...

He was an original and extraordinary talent with a very unique vision. His way of applying and lifting paint has greatly influenced many painters to this day. He will be greatly missed by all those he touched through his work.

9/21/2009 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Myron said...

Man, first Andrew Wyeth, and now Bernie Fuchs.

I bought that issue "Illustration" for that article and Bernie's incredible work. I think I discovered your blog after and never made the connection between that wonderful article and your genuine affection for the arts in your writing. David, you articulate well, what many artists can only do with paint, pen and pencil.

As far as Mr. Fuchs, to young and old artists alike, each of his work was a lesson unto itself. His copy-cats were never able to copy the emotion and the sense that the scene in the paintings were just a little bit better than reality. I have many illustration annuals to pour though.

9/21/2009 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Fuchs...
my alltime fav,
Rest in Peace...
D.H.

9/21/2009 10:47 AM  
Blogger Robert Hunt said...

Bernie Fuchs probably influenced illustration more any other artist in the last 50 years. I went to the Illustrators Workshop in 1980 and I remember that the other big stars- English, Heindel, Peak, Cober, Otnes- all seemed to hold Bernie in a special level of esteem. He was the Maestro of his era.

9/21/2009 11:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm grateful to have seen these works in the blog, and am struck by their infinite freshness and sophistication. My best testament to his work is the fact that even now, it's as if it were only yesterday, that I first saw his work in the early 60's. It left a deep lasting impression and still today, his art inspires and lifts the spirit.

In this case it appears the quality of work was also equal to the quality of his being making it an even greater loss. My sincere condolences to Mr. Fuch's family and friends. The world is a lesser place today for his passing.

G. Rogers

9/21/2009 6:30 PM  
Blogger einbildungskraft said...

Your hurt is expressed through your words, and this post meant even more to me because I was exposed to his art not so long ago (a couple of weeks?), when I peered with charmed interest at the little doggie in the slum.
Beth

9/21/2009 7:23 PM  
Blogger Dustin d'Arnault said...

Mr. Fuchs was a master and an inspiration to all. May he rest in peace.

9/21/2009 10:15 PM  
Blogger robyn hyzy said...

Bernie Fuchs was an amazing illustrator and his work will continue to inspire artists everywhere. Thank you for writing such a lovely post.

9/22/2009 1:43 AM  
Anonymous Chad Sterling said...

Many tributes here to a great artist and loved one but remarkably little recognition of the physical hurdle Mr Fuchs had to overcome in the process of becoming a giant.We hear of Robert Fawcett's color blindness but BF had a real impediment, yet his artistic development was meteoric DESPITE his problems.Truly humbling, I think.

9/22/2009 3:03 AM  
Blogger Ricardo Betancourt said...

We lost a beautiful human. I'm only happy to have lived during his time, and happy to have him as an example.

9/22/2009 2:54 PM  
Blogger Bombproof said...

I had heard a few weeks ago that he wasn't doing so well, My stomach dropped when I heard he had passed. I can only second all of the comments written here. Thanks David,
-Will Godwin

9/23/2009 3:16 AM  
Blogger Dante B. said...

thanks from Barcelona...

9/23/2009 8:46 AM  
Blogger Kenn said...

Rest in peace Bernie - so awesome and also by the looks of it, an awesome person as well as artist. David might I suggest a mega-post about Bernie, I'd love to see it

9/23/2009 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Janice Ivory-Smith said...

The rediscovery of Bernie Fuchs revitalized my appreciation of our industry. What a delight, what a gift.

9/23/2009 4:37 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

David, I see the WaPo quoted you by name.

9/23/2009 8:32 PM  
Blogger Francisco Galárraga said...

RIP Bernie. You rocked and still rock.

9/23/2009 11:05 PM  
Blogger Ravi Paranjape said...

Why do I consider Pablo Picasso and his tribe the world over to be a buch of pigmies? The answer is clear & simple,as I always held Late Bernie Fuchs in the highest esteem.Although he took pride in being an illustrator, to me he always was like a contemporary GURU in the SANCTUM-SANTORUM of the Temple of Painterly creation. Although I never had a chance to meet him personally,I learned so many things from him. He taught me the true meaning of the word Tradition- especially the way the Tradition moves forword. He taught about the responsibility involved in being a complete artist. The distance of thousands of miles between us simply didn't exist. His unique breakthrough exploites kept on and will keep on inspiring me.
May his soul rest in peace.

9/24/2009 12:33 AM  
Anonymous Market Survey Companies said...

Interesting text. You have a nice blog. Keep it up!

9/24/2009 8:47 AM  
Blogger Jason Pruett said...

great post. thanks. . . . I've known his work but . . . missing 3 fingers on his drawing hand?!?! what?!?!? and that last bit about drawing to then end. . . thanks. very inspiring

9/25/2009 2:07 PM  
Blogger larsonsar said...

Too many of us have missed out on the gift of this man's lifetime. How do we begin a campaign for a coffee table book.... or at least a retrospective reprint of Illustration # 15?

9/25/2009 11:25 PM  
Anonymous Matt Dicke said...

Hi David
This is a great tribute to a great artist. May Bernie RIP. As an admirer of his art and obviously there are a lot of them, his work will never die.

On a side note I was wondering if you have a Fuchs book in the works? I have been wanting to ask ever since I saw the recent post on Bernie on Todays Inspiration.
Thank you again for all your scans and the article about Bernie in Illustration Mag. It was a great read.

9/27/2009 11:43 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

My deep thanks to all who have written in, both publicly and privately. I hope Bernie's family gets a hint from your words of the impact that he has had.

For Larsonsar and Matt Dicke and others who have inquired about a book collecting Bernie's work, I agree that it is long overdue. I would love to work on one(or to assist somebody else who wants to work on one) but so far no publisher has stepped forward, and my day job has prevented me from doing the kind of leg work necessary to track a publisher down.

9/28/2009 10:48 AM  
Blogger E.A. said...

Your remembrance was short and sharp, just as his drawings were.

9/28/2009 5:10 PM  
Anonymous John English said...

I apologize for my late reaction to this post, but every time I attempt to write about Bernie I am overwhelmed with emotion. Mr. Fuchs has had a tremendous impact on my life, in ways and places that I am still identifying.

Bernie’s artwork helped identify several decades of American Illustration. He was one of the founders of the Illustrators Workshop, which influenced hundreds of illustrators including myself. Bernie is truly one of the greats, hero and legend.

Today I am the director of The Illustration Academy and I will always be indebted to Mr. Fuchs.

My condolences to Babe, Cindy, Derek and Ellise.

10/01/2009 2:57 AM  
Blogger Sterling Hundley said...

Long, dark shadows are left when Giants fall. Bernie's legacy isn't the sorrow that we feel with his passing, but the light that he painted for all of us to so clearly see. My heartfelt condolences to Bernie's family, and to his closest friends.

10/10/2009 2:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was hoping you might be able to post a few other of Bernie's images. I am a great lover of illustration, but not historically knowledgeable. However, a few more would be very helpful for me to identify the many other of his works I've undoubtedly seen...I've probably been mistaking some for Pyle... Thanks for a wonderful site...

10/31/2009 8:07 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

HI David and other Fuchs fans-
I scanned in a bunch of Bernie Fuchs work and an interview from the 1967 famous artist course (FAC) and thought you and other Fuchs fans might be interested in it

everyone can download it here:
http://www.mattdicke.com/Fac-Fuchs.pdf

If you ever need hi-res scans for a potential Fuchs book let me know! I would be happy to share.
Enjoy
Matt

11/11/2009 11:33 AM  
Anonymous Morgan said...

I chanced upon to view your blog and found it very interesting. Great ... Keep it up!

7/22/2011 7:49 AM  
Blogger Suzanne Ciskowski said...

Though I never met Bernie Fuchs I found out that he was a genuine, giving & generous person. While I was at the Art Institute of Phoenix in Phoenix, Arizona 1998-1999 my class was given an assignments & for my group the assignment was on Bernie Fuchs, all the other groups the artist had passed-away. Mr. Fuchs was the only artist still alive. I suggested we call & try to talk to him so through research & phone calls I reached out & my group actually got to talk to him. He was very sweet, he answered all of our questions & I discovered what a very special, incredible & amazing artist & man. Though we all my group all gave our gave our names, addresses etc for some unknown reason he choose me to send some of his history, art etc. I will forever cherish these gifts & I wish I had the chance to have met him in person. RIP Bernie Fuchs.

2/19/2013 12:39 AM  

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