Friday, February 22, 2013


This post is the last in a series on the artists featured in the exhibition at the Delaware Art Museum,  State of the Art: Illustration 100 Years After Howard Pyle. 

Comic strips were still new when Howard Pyle passed away.  In the century that followed, comic strips evolved into a major part of modern illustration.  Comic books, graphic novels, webcomix and other forms of sequential art now attract serious art reviews and win cultural prizes.

So when it came to selecting a living artist to represent sequential art in the Delaware Art Museum show, there was no shortage of artists to choose from.  There are sequential artists who are innovative designers or Pulitzer prize winners or web pioneers, there are sequential artists who have written poignant personal memoirs or witty observations of the human condition.  But ultimately, for me the choice became easy.  If we focus on the actual drawing (whether with pen or stylus),  I don't know of any current sequential artist to compare with the remarkable Mort Drucker, whose 50 year career drawing parodies for MAD and covers for TIME is an astonishing accomplishment.

Drucker's uncanny ability to capture a likeness from any angle, in any lighting, with any facial expression, is enough to make him a legend in the industry.

Furthermore, the high standards that he maintained, decade after prolific decade, drawing with fresh enthusiasm and humor, is an example to us all.

But mostly, I am damn impressed with the drawing of it all-- how Drucker designed and constructed thousands of panels, the distinctive style with which his eyes and fingers embraced his subject, his sensitive, descriptive line which could be so exhausting in some panels and yet so incisive and selective when necessary.

Because some "high art" types tend to look down on MAD as slapstick, I wondered how some of the more serious gallery painters in the exhibition would react to Drucker's inclusion. But when I spoke with Phil Hale, whose large and powerful oil paintings are the opposite of slapstick, he responded "when I was younger, my dream was to work for MAD, alongside Mort Drucker."

These and other original works by Drucker are on display at the exhibition.


Chuck Pyle said...

Mort Drucker, more than any other artist on the planet, is THE reason I went to art school, and for all the reasons you mention, faces, expressions, SHOES hands, body types, gesture, nuanced line work, wicked visual humor. He should be in the Hall of Fame, but that is another story. Thanks for these juicy examples. I am sitting in the backseat of the car, and fighting little brother over 'Mad' all over again.

James Gurney said...

I saw the Drucker / Siegel /DeBartolo satires before I saw a lot of the movies they were based on. When I finally got around to seeing the movies, it was hard to take them seriously. Same thing happened from hearing the Stan Freberg music satires before the real things. It's incredible that Drucker got such great likenesses without the cooperation of the movie studios most of the time, and he had to get the movie stills from the "black market."

Paulo Gonçalves said...

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Paulo Gonçalves

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Anonymous said...

I bought the new Mort Drucker book. These pictures look ten times better than the copies in the book. Thank you for the good reproductions.


David Apatoff said...

Chuck Pyle-- Thanks, Chuck, always a pleasure to hear from another Mort Drucker fan. I gave the first few tours of the Delaware show, and in every group there was at least one distinguished, aristocratic gentleman whose eyes would light up when we came to the Drucker section: "Mort Drucker????? I LOVE Mort Drucker! He changed my whole life!" These were bankers, lawyers, architects-- people who hadn't seen or thought about Drucker's work for 30 years, but they were immediately transported back to their childhood when they saw Mort's work.

James Gurney-- Thanks, James. I knew you were an artist of taste and distinction. And while we're talking about museum exhibitions, I hope everyone makes it to see your great Dinotopia exhibition before the show closes on March 13.

Paulo Goncalves-- welcome!

JSL-- Yes, the disparity between Drucker's originals and the published versions can be quite dramatic. Come to Delaware and see.

Anne said...

In a crowded field, Mort Drucker stood alone. No one like him or close. Thanks for posting