Thursday, November 09, 2006


A few days ago I posted a segment on Stanley Meltzoff's paintings of ancient Greece. I always wanted to meet the artist behind those glorious paintings, but now I never will. As I was posting my blog, Mr. Meltzoff was lying ill in a hospital. Today he passed away.

Diver's farewell to Blue Marlin by Stanley Meltzoff

Meltzoff was a gifted author, teacher and artist who painted images from science for Scientific American, historical illustrations for National Geographic and Life, and science fiction covers for a host of publishers.

Like thousands of others, I was enriched by his beautiful work. But I was most inspired by his astonishing intellectual curiosity and his deep artistic purpose. Meltzoff wrote about surviving in the years when the bottom dropped out of the illustration market:
My wife was ill, my children needed college money and I was almost 60 years old. I stood on the corner of 56th and Lexington Avenue in the rain with a soggy portfolio in my hands and improvised a sad little song about defeat, flat feet and flat broke while I tried to think of something to do.
Meltzoff responded to adversity with great artistic potency. He single handedly created a new market for paintings of seascapes and gamefish, which enabled him to combine his expertise in diving with his passion for art. In his spare time he compiled an art reliquarium and wrote a major scholarly treatise, Botticelli, Signorelli and Savanorola, Theologica Poetica from Boccacio to Poliziano. The book is a marvelous work of history, written with great lucidity, insight and humor-- the kind of epic accomplishment that would have capped an entire career for most historians. I recommend it to you.

Please join me in sending thoughts and prayers to Mr. Meltzoff's family. Irene Gallo of the Art Department blog tells me that we can look forward to a book about Meltzoff from publisher Donald Grant books. I will be first in line.

Most people who gamble on earning a living from their creativity have those moments of standing in the rain with a soggy portfolio. William Hazlitt wrote that, "In the end, all that is worth remembering of life is the poetry of it." Whatever else happened in his life, Mr. Meltzoff's gamble paid off royally. One only has to look at his art to know that his life was rich with poetry.


John Picacio said...

Great piece, David. Loved your Ancient Greece entry as well. Meltzoff was a giant. Very sad to hear the news of his passing. I look forward to the Grant book. In the meantime, I'll celebrate his work by re-reading, for the umpteenth time, the great Meltzoff feature in Dan Zimmer's ILLUSTRATION MAGAZINE #4, August 2002.

Love this blog, by the way.

Anonymous said...

I only came across your blog a few days ago, and bookmarked it mainly because of your entry regarding Meltzoff, whom I'd never heard of but was inspired when I saw his artwork. I am amazed and saddened that he died soon thereafter. Thanks for introducing him to me.

Dale Stephanos said...

Great tribute to a great artist. As someone who's stood on that corner in the same kind of rainstorm singing the same tune, I appreciate it.

David Apatoff said...

Thank you John, John and Dale. I agree with you, John Picacio, about the Illustration Magazine article and I would also commend to you his book about Botticelli, available from his website. It is expensive but worth it.

Meltzoff was not the world's most famous illustrator, but you can tell that he was a lion of an individual. I don't know anyone like him around today.

Todd Harris said...

another great post david. thanks for sharing this amazing art. it's too cool for words.