Monday, January 25, 2021



Daniel Bennett Schwartz had a dual career as a fine artist and an "artist-reporter." 

As a fine artist, he had over fifteen solo exhibitions at galleries and museums in New York, and his work resides in the permanent collections of the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, and several other important institutions. As an artist-reporter, he was given journalistic projects of national significance, such as covering the My Lai massacre trial for Life Magazine and the "New Wave" in Paris for Esquire Magazine.  

He lived with Mississippi river pilots for an article chronicling their lives.   


He was also assigned to chronicle the production of a television drama for CBS.


But much of what he did as an "artist-reporter" was to imagine and reconstruct crime scenes or political events for which there was no camera present.  The following are illustrations for a series about flawed drug busts in New York City:

Schwartz's illustrations about the Watergate scandal helped readers visualize and understand the complex web of events. 

He had a realistic drawing style in the tradition of Silverman and Dinerstein but his fine art orientation added an interesting extra flourish to even the most technical subjects. 

Friday, January 22, 2021


Most of the illustrators called upon to do reportorial pictures had the technical skills to capture many of the details that a photographer might have captured.  That was the whole point-- to help readers visualize a situation.  But Hank Virgona was different.  Many of his pictures were impressionistic clouds of nondescript businessmen in dark suits.

He illustrated articles about a jury's deliberations or about cocktail receptions where business executives discussed illegal price fixing schemes-- situations where a camera could not go, but where readers might benefit from images.  Virgona's images conveyed a tone or a mood, and broke up the text with designs, but no one would look to these illustrations for details of what occurred.


Virgona didn't need to interview witnesses and reconstruct the scene the way Burt Silverman, Harvey Dinnerstein and others in the this series did.  He could do many of these mood drawings without leaving his drawing board.  Still, they complemented the words in important ways and Virgona was employed by many of the important publications of his day.

His example highlights the range of roles that a reportorial illustrator might play.

In both subject matter and tone, many of Virgona's pictures seem to me to follow in the tradition of Daumier.


Virgona was fortunate among illustrators because at age 87, long after he retired, his grand nephew Matthew Kaplowitz made a prize winning documentary about Virgona's life and work, now available for viewing on Amazon Prime. The documentary interviews Virgona and his neighbors shortly before his death and shows how, without fame, fortune or good health, Virgona continued to commute to his studio in Manhattan to draw six days a week.  

Thursday, January 14, 2021


"What journalism is to literature, illustration is to fine art." 

"Form is the fire under the pot, and content is what's in it."

"A man without an opinion is dull company but an opinion without a man is duller still."

"Many illustrators of today are too little concerned with the actualities of their time."

Robert Weaver was probably the most verbal and self-conscious artist amongst his generation of journalist illustrators.  A highly articulate, socially aware and strongly opinionated artist, he became known for his bold graphic approaches in magazines such as Esquire, Fortune, Playboy and New York where he found art directors willing to give him a long leash.  Marshall Arisman reportedly called Weaver "the only pictorial genius I have ever met."  

The definitive History of Illustration describes Weaver's style this way: 

Inspired to find new approaches to visual storytelling that were reflective of the growing interest in psychological or ideological content, Weaver ruptured the picture plane and combined discontinuous actions or seemingly unrelated ideas on one page to invite interpretation.  

In the following series of drawings for Milton Glaser at New York magazine,  Weaver gave his impressions of a day in the life of New York City police.

Weaver's concepts call for an unconventional interaction with the viewer.  Sometimes his concepts couldn't possibly have been intelligible to his audience. For example, unlike Burt Silverman who we saw reconstruct a crime scene, Weaver took pride in drawing things he had actually witnessed, so when it came time to draw a robbery he hadn't seen, he left the face of the robber blank: 

A highly cerebral type but not a systematic thinker, Weaver has taken positions on all sides of an issue.  On one day, illustration qualifies as art but on another day it has nothing to do with art.  On Tuesdays Weaver speaks out against "amateurism" but on Thursdays he brags about being an amateur.  On weekends he says no self-respecting artist could work for "large-circulation magazines" but during the week he works for Life and Sports Illustrated.  

And if you happened to speak to Weaver on the wrong day, you might be in for a tongue lashing.  When a youthful Bernie Fuchs first visited the Society of Illustrators and said he wanted to become an illustrator, Weaver yelled at him, telling him that was a terrible ambition, that illustration had nothing to do with art and he should find something else to do.


I like some of Weaver's drawings very much. 

Like his contemporary Austin Briggs, Weaver loved using a thick black crayon with a bold, crude line.  

Briggs was the first to introduce the raw tool in finished illustrations, but Weaver, following in Briggs' footsteps, was willing to take Briggs' innovation further.

Much of Weaver's influence seems to stem from his persona as well as his pictures.  His boldness, his politics, his eloquence and his public handwringing about the social conscience of an illustrator attracted a huge following, even among "establishment" illustrators who he regularly disparaged.  When the Famous Artists School asked Weaver for permission to reproduce one of his drawings to train art students, he turned them down with a sniffy letter:

Weaver was the only artist to withhold permission to let his work be used to teach art students.  Al Dorne, the then-president of the Famous Artists School, had already seen far more of life than Weaver and was not intimidated by those "more soi-disant than thou" types:

Tuesday, January 12, 2021


Burton Silverman is one of the premier portrait painters in the world today.  

Silverman's beautiful, insightful paintings have all the qualities we look for in fine art.  However, for over 20 years Silverman was an illustrator best known for his reportorial work.  He first made a name for himself in 1956 when he traveled to Montgomery, Alabama to draw Dr. Martin Luther King's bus boycott.  That important series of drawings, now housed at the Delaware Art Museum, helped to open the eyes of art directors to the value of journalistic illustration.

After that, national publications called upon Silverman to draw a number of situations and events for national publications:

Silverman was sent to locations as far away as Asia to draw his impressions:

In addition to drawing what he had witnessed, Silverman received many assignments to reconstruct or imagine events that had taken place outside the range of cameras.

These were frequently crime scenes:

 In the 1960s and 70s photography decimated the field of illustration.  A large percentage of the assignments that once would've gone to illustrators were diverted to photographers.  But a small breed of journalistic illustrators, capable of drawing in factually accurate ways but also adding something special, proved their worth and recaptured some of the ground on reportorial assignments that normally would have gone to photography.