Tuesday, September 17, 2019


The artist Bernie Fuchs passed away ten years ago today.  I was fortunate to get to know him; I interviewed him for weeks and listened to his reflections on life and art before he passed away. 

I never met anyone with a greater gift for color and design.  He was a truly humble man, but he understood the nature of his gift-- how could he not?-- and always tried his best to respect and protect it.   A generous spirit, he never resented the legions of artists who imitated-- or copied-- his work.  He simply hunkered down and moved on to something new.  He died with his astonishing strengths undiminished.

Surveying the art scene ten years after his death, Bernie's artistic strengths are no longer as fashionable.  The oversized, glossy magazines which showcased his art died long before he did. "Concept art" and "idea illustration" arose in an effort to make content more relevant and thought-provoking than the corny romantic fiction sometimes illustrated by Bernie's generation.  But as content took center stage, visual skill, and even talent itself, became suspect. Polished images were viewed as a distraction from the message. The stature of visual form shrank as simpler images and deliberately careless drawings served as vehicles for thought.  Meanwhile, "photo illustration" proliferated in response to economic demand, and computer gaming art arose in a symbiotic relationship with viewers with short attention spans.

Audiences eager to avoid being accused of narrow mindedness concluded that the safest path was to abandon all standards. 

No one can be certain where art will be in a hundred years, or how visual quality will be valued in the rectifying mirror of time.  But as I take stock after the first ten years, Bernie's radiant images still stand out for me across a carnival yard cluttered with weak, shoddy and sensational quasi-art.  On the tenth anniversary of his death, his status as a giant in his field remains secure.


Paul Sullivan said...

Amen. I compliment you on an eloquent commentary.

Katarina said...

Thank you for writing & updating your blog and sharing your views. I discovered it some weeks ago and since then I have greedily read it all. Thank you for introducing me to many artists I didn’t know before. It brings me so much joy to read your posts.

comicstripfan said...

Recommended: A rather handsome Mr. Apatoff presenting “Against All Odds: An Inspirational Story About the Amazing Illustrator Bernie Fuchs” on the web at: https://tv.creativetalentnetwork.com

David Apatoff said...

Paul Sullivan-- Many thanks. I thought a tenth anniversary should not slip by unobserved.

Katarina-- I'm so happy to hear that. There are many under-appreciated artists who paid a heavy price to achieve excellence in their day, but who've now been forgotten for reasons unrelated to quality (while charlatans and self-promoters pump out press releases). It's most gratifying to hear that you appreciate such work. That's why I do this.

comicstripfan-- Hmmmm, I had no idea they taped my little talk. Obviously I'd better watch my step. (PS: Despite your inaccuracy-- or perhaps because of it-- your comment could well be my favorite in the history of this blog.)

chris bennett said...

Thanks to comicstripfan for that link to David's talk. I thoroughly enjoyed it and somehow, through David's personal knowledge of the artist felt I was closer to understanding Fuchs' aesthetic dynamo.

Although reliance on photography was generally a professional necessity of the time and circumstance in which Fuchs was working, I believe his long term use of it to have been the key which unlocked his particular gifts; such that he devloped a way to use photography as the essential springboard for his poetry, so potently realised in his later work.

kenmeyerjr said...

watching the film now...david, you succeed in every venue!