Monday, June 01, 2020

THE ENERGY OF THE 1960s, part 1

In the 1960s illustration exploded with energy.

 The '60s were a decade of revolution and free love, of rock n' roll and civil rights protests.  After decades working on careful, skilled images, illustrators were unleashed to experiment with bolder,  more innovative styles.

Some tried an uncontrolled look, with spasmodic, convulsive lines and spattered, loose washes.

Bill Hofman

Bernie Fuchs

Another popular style was slashing, violent lines suitable for the dynamic times.

Neil Boyle

Neil Boyle (detail)

Austin Briggs

George Roth (detail)


John Gundelfinger


Cliff Condak

Cliff Condak (detail)

 Jim Jonson


Jim Jonson (detail)




I like this look for its aggressive energy, its spontaneity, and most of all for its very human fingerprint.  There were many other stylistic innovations in the 60s as well.  Advertising agencies would advertise for artists with hot new ideas.  This 1963 ad from Young & Rubicam made clear what kind of talent they were seeking:



I've previously told the story of Bernie Fuchs, whose innovative work in the early 60s for magazines such as McCall's made him the hottest illustrator in town. When art director Richard Gangel hired Fuchs for his first assignment for Sports Illustrated, he demanded that Fuchs push himself even further: "I don't want any of that shit you do for McCall's," he said.

With time, some of the innovations of the 60s became moderated and domesticated. They remain today as cliches of illustration, like the faint echo of the big bang. But I thought it would be fun to spend a few days looking at them in their original savage state, to see if they have anything interesting to offer. 

6 comments:

James Gurney said...

Of course that wasn't the only style. You could also do a post about the psychedelic style of Peter Max and his followers, the flamboyant geometry of people like Ted Coconis, and the disciplined realism of folks like James Bama. But you found superb examples of that fauvist spirit in '60s illustration. The slashy style is kind of strange because there's a clearly controlled draftsmanship behind all the manic mark-making. That gives a lot of those examples the feeling that the "wildness" is a carefully studied and self-conscious informality, like the guy who stops on his way into the party to untuck his own shirt and tousle his hair.

David Apatoff said...

I agree completely, James-- I devoted part 1 of the series to that slashy style because I personally like it and because its wildness exemplifies my message about casting off the old constraints in that era. I may even devote part 2 to a different aspect of the slashy style. But the 60s explosion went off in many different directions, and I hope people will enjoy those as well. I think your analogy about the guy who tousles his hair is both perfect and hilarious. Bob Peak once drew a wild scribble of a race horse in a mad dash to the finish line. It turns out he made about ten versions of it, trying to get that scribble looking absolutely spontaneous.

MORAN said...

I love this style.

Richard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cam Nhung Dinh said...

The slashy style is kind of strange because there's a clearly controlled draftsmanship behind all the manic mark-making. That gives a lot of those examples the feeling that the "wildness" is a carefully studied and self-conscious informality, like the guy who stops on his way into the party to untuck his own shirt and tousle his hair.

Robert said...

Curious about George Roth. Can't seem to find much about him other than the close up sketch you posted.