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February 06, 2006

Unbelievable Bernie (Fuchs)

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

It was nearly three months late, but I didn't complain. I grabbed a copy and, cash in hand, practically ran to the cashier.

Originally scheduled for November, Issue 15 of Illustration magazine finally appeared on a news stand.

So what's the big deal?

It is an entire issue devoted to Bernie Fuchs, who is my candidate for the title of greatest illustrator in the second half of the Twentieth Century.

The Web site for Illustration is here. And here is a page with thumbnail page views from the issue (caution: this downloaded slowly on a computer attached to a fast line).

David Apatoff did the write-up and claims (correctly, as best I can tell) that this is the first real biography of Fuchs. Apatoff has a nice blog on illustration and related art here; please give it a test-drive.

I was astounded the first time I saw Fuchs' work back in the days I was a commercial art student. He was only seven years older than me but already unapproachably more advanced. (Moreover, Apatoff tells us that Fuchs lost three fingers from his drawing hand before he had gotten very far in his already belated art training. I doubt his work would have been better had he the use of all five.)

Some artists I respect. Others I study. Bernie Fuchs is just about the only one whose work I worship.

By all means get a copy of the magazine and see why.


Unfortunately, most of Fuchs' really good stuff can't be found on the Internet: that's why I urge you to buy the magazine. Below are some examples that, I hope, will give you a hint as to why I'm raving.

Fuchs - JFK sketch.jpg
Sketch of John F. Kennedy.

Fuchs - Ferrara.jpg

Fuchs - Ship in Green Water.jpg
"Ship in Green Water"

Fuchs - Dancing at the Wheel.jpg
"Dancing at the Wheel"

Fuchs - Pensive Moment - book illust 1981.jpg
"Pensive Moment" illustration, 1981.

I have my private collection of Fuchs' illustrations. It's comprised of pages I ripped out of magazines in the late 1950s and mid-1960s. They're getting a bit yellowed and faded, but I never threw them away. Nor do I plan to.

UPDATE: I should mention that Illustration has spotty news stand distribution, so you might consider ordering a copy directly from the publisher. The Web site has a mailing address if you prefer to sent a check; otherwise, you can order on-line.



posted by Donald at February 6, 2006



Another great find. I picked up the new issue of Illustration Magazine too. I know Fuchs relied heavily on photos, but his compostion, color, and creative ideas were terrific. A lot of his contemporaries turned to the western cowboy/indian fine art market when the illustration market went downhill in the 60's and 70's. I gotta give him great credit for sticking it out. By the way, the same magazine did a whole issue a couple of years back on another great illustrator, Bob Peak.

P.S. There's a nice Leyendecker painting in an ad for the upcoming exhibition of works from the Kelly Collection of American Illustration. I don't know if you are on the east coast, but that show's worth a look. In the second half of the 20th century, I like Al Hirschfeld and Gary Kelley as being contenders for the top spot too.

Posted by: Brian Minder on February 7, 2006 1:41 AM

Just so happens I ran across a couple of items folks reading Donald's post might be interested in.

The first is Fantastic Realms by V Shane. While the focus is fantasy illustration/art, the advice and guidelines are good for other genres.

The second is an illustration known as Horned Beast. A sepia tone work showing the titular beast in full bellow. It does have a rating of two stars (out of five), but I suspect that's because the rater did not understand what he rated. It is a well crafted piece, a well balanced piece. And it is an animated piece. It speaks well of the sort of creature the Horned Beast is. And speaks of the sort of world such a creature would inhabit. You see before you a monster, and somebody touched his beer.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg on February 7, 2006 1:48 AM

Fuchs is an amazing talent, isn't he? I wonder how fast he worked. I'm often amazed how quickly pro illustrators get their work on its feet. I'm gonna go out and buy the issue of the magazine. Thanks for the alert!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 7, 2006 2:12 AM

Michael & all -- I forgot to mention in the post that the magazine can be tricky to find, as it's basically a one-man shop with spotty distribution.

The surest way to get one is via the Web site.

Otherwise, go to Borders or B&N or a comprehensive news stand and look in the Art section. Then repeat and repeat until you find 'em or give up.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on February 7, 2006 9:02 AM

Wow, I'd never heard of nor seen Fuchs. His stuff is fantastic. Thanks.

Posted by: the patriarch on February 7, 2006 5:07 PM

Brian -- I liked Peak a lot too, but missed the issue devoted to him -- and they have none in stock (sigh). I get the impression that Fuchs has done more easel painting and comissioned stuff than ads or story illustration in recent decades.

Actually, most artists dealing realistically with human figures rely on photos at least part of the time. This goes for fine-arts painters since the 1880s including, I think, Degas. If nothing else, it cuts down the cost of models.

Alan -- Thank you for the links.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on February 8, 2006 9:57 AM

I just received your website from David (Apatoff). Thanks a lot, guys. You are too kind. Bernie

Posted by: Bernie Fuchs on February 17, 2006 9:07 PM

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