Friday, October 28, 2022


I'm glad to see that the art of illustrators is increasingly showing up in serious museums and galleries.  At the Yale University Art Gallery, whose collection includes Rothko, Koons and Jasper Johns, you can also see paintings by N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish and Edwin Austin Abbey.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art now displays the work of Norman Rockwell. 

The latest example of this trend is the retrospective exhibition of the work of illustrator Daniel Schwartz at Bowling Green State University.  

I'm a fan of Schwartz and the University was kind enough to invite me to contribute an essay for the catalog, alongside an essay by Charles Kanwischer,  Director of their School of Art.

The exhibition is centered around Schwartz's magnum opus, Portrait of the Artist, Running. While meeting tight deadlines for clients such as Life, Esquire, CBS, Fortune and Playboy, Schwartz spent 15 years working on his epic masterpiece, making dozens of handsome studies and sketches:

Portrait of the Artist, Running, 78" x 100"
Schwartz is the man in the middle, caught up in a pack of aggressive, determined racers, struggling to break free while dogs obstruct his path and nip at his heels.

I always wondered if his painting meant that Schwartz felt trapped in his career as a commercial artist.

The exhibition space is large enough to accommodate other paintings by Schwartz as well.

If you are in the vicinity of Bowling Green I recommend that you stop by.

In recent years, thoughtful museums and galleries have been reconsidering the value of traditional skills and talents that were hastily abandoned during the 20th century scramble for the new.  I suspect one reason for this re-evaluation is because many of the post-modern paths are beginning to show all the signs of dead ends.

Sunday, October 23, 2022


Mary Richardson, an early 20th century suffragette, believed that for a painting to be beautiful, it also had to reflect justice. "Justice," she said, "is an element of beauty as much as colour and outline on canvas."  Richardson felt that this painting of Venus by the great Spanish artist Diego Velazquez lacked justice.  

She didn't like "the way men visitors gaped at it all day long." To make the picture more just, she attacked it with a meat cleaver.

Richardson was upset because her fellow suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst,  who used arson and explosives to win women's rights in England, had been arrested the day before. Richardson published her explanation for slashing the painting:
I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history as a protest against the Government for destroying Mrs Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful character in modern history....  If there is an outcry against my deed, let everyone remember that such an outcry is an hypocrisy so long as they allow the destruction of Mrs Pankhurst and other beautiful living women, and that until the public cease to countenance human destruction the stones cast against me for the destruction of this picture are each an evidence against them of artistic as well as moral and political humbug and hypocrisy."

 Richardson was imprisoned for six months, which was the maximum penalty under British law for destruction of an artwork.

Fed up with sexual inequality under the British government, Richardson turned to fascism as the “only path to a Greater Britain.” She joined the British Union of Fascists and demonstrated such commitment to authoritarian government that she was quickly promoted to a high level management position prior to World War II. 

As we've previously discussed on this blog, the ability to create great art is very rare, yet any moron has the ability to destroy it.  Perhaps that's why accountants never make good artists: art's odds are so terrible, a career in art would make no sense to anyone who understands math. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2022


 The Australian artist Norman Lindsay may have been the most randy illustrator of the 20th century.  

His hundreds of drawings of nymphs and satyrs frolicking in bacchanalian orgies repeatedly got him in trouble with church officials.

During World War II Lindsay traveled from Australia to the United States with his wife (and model) Rose.

Norman and Rose Lindsay

Fearful that they would never return to Australia, Rose brought all of her prized possessions with her, including 20 years worth of Norman's best work.  Her daughter Jane recalled, "Large crates were specially made and into them she packed everything which she cherished as beautiful and valuable-- hundreds of exquisite watercolours, pen drawings, etchings...."    

The couple docked in California and made their way across the country by train.  The crates with art were loaded onto a wooden freight car immediately behind the engine.  When the train reached Pennsylvania the freight car caught fire.  The train pulled off into the small town of Scranton where the good citizens helped put out the fire and saved as much of the art as they could on the train platform.  

However, when they saw the scandalous pictures they had saved, the citizens became so upset that they piled up the artwork and and set it back on fire again "before corruption could set."

Lindsay's artwork survived a world war and a fire, but it couldn't survive the morality of the citizens of Scranton.

Friday, October 07, 2022


In 2009 I wrote about the dramatic wartime experiences of Gilbert Bundy, the talented illustrator whose light and elegant watercolors appeared in most of the top magazines of his day.  

Bundy's style was deceptively free and loose, but his talent was recognized and highly respected by his peers.  He was elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.

In my previous post about Bundy, I remarked that his focus on feminine beauty and his sensitive, delicate style (note his treatment of the flowers in the detail below) made him ill suited to be a combat artist in the South Pacific during World War II, yet that's what he volunteered to do.

I'm returning to Bundy today because I recently had the great pleasure of speaking with Bundy's daughter who shared more details about his dramatic story.  Here is Bundy's own account of his disastrous landing with the marines on the Pacific island of Tarawa.  Many have reported on his tragedy, but this is what Bundy typed up after he got home.  "Arms, legs and hands, literally flew in every direction.  All were killed except me." 

 When a U.S. patrol boat encountered Bundy floating in shark infested waters, the sailors challenged him with sports questions to test whether he was truly an American.  Because Bundy wasn't a sports fan, he didn't know the correct answers and was nearly shot trying to return to his own side. 

For me, the most revelatory line in his harrowing account was, "I was given another chance next day at picture making."  Bundy took that opportunity and continued to work. That's an artist.

Even though Bundy returned to work, his experience had changed him.  He was asked to participate in a reconnaissance flight to take photographs of the Japanese city of Nagasaki.  Although he didn't know the military's plans for the city, he wanted no part of that mission and refused to go.  

After the war Bundy returned to his New York apartment where he struggled to rebuild a life painting his breezy, carefree illustrations.  Here he is with his wife and daughter.  

Bundy sketching his daughter at home, circa 1947

Bundy painted a large mural of his wife, daughter and their beloved dog going for a walk in New York.  This was obviously the domestic life he yearned for...

The dog in front of the mural was named Emmett Kelly.

 ... but it eluded his grasp.  Bundy began drinking heavily.  His daughter recalled hearing him weeping behind closed doors and threatening to commit suicide.  One day he held her close and said, "War is never worth it."  His marriage fell apart.  He moved out and his wife painted over his mural, sealing that chapter forever.  

Bundy would have no more "chances at picture making."  On the the anniversary of his ordeal at Tarawa he hung himself and rejoined his fallen comrades.