Friday, November 02, 2007

Gustav Rehberger: Tough Guys and Manly Men

In a 1988 interview in Southwest Art magazine, Gustav Rehberger's long-time friend Ben Stahl called Rehberger "one of the two or three greatest draughtsmen of [the 20th] century."

"After seeing so many incompetent artists touted in all the magazines," lamented Stahl, "it seems damned unfair and short-sighted that a talent like his goes unheralded and unsung."

The public may not have known Gustav Rehberger as well as some other illustrators of the 40's, 50's and 60's, but clients in the magazine, advertising and film industries were certainly well aware of the artist.

In 1959 he illustrated a campaign for Marlboro consisting of six ads. I can't imagine any other artist who could have portrayed the look of the tough guy more emphatically.

Rehberger had already worked on ad campaigns for a great variety of national clients by that time, including Abbot Labs and Amoco, Dupont Textiles, Sheraton Hotels and the United States Treasury, among others.

All the while, Rehberger was also working for Hollywood. Between 1953 and 1976, Gustav Rehberger created advertising and promotional art for films like "Helen of Troy"...

"Moby Dick"...

"The Defiant Ones"...

and the NBC Television series, "I Spy".

In all Rehberger worked on 29 film and television productions. Pamela Demme, Rehberger's widow, graciously supplied the photos below of an unused painting from the 1961 production, "One-Eyed Jacks", starring Marlon Brando.

Beginning in 1972, Gustav Rehberger began teaching at The Art Students League in New York City. One of his former students who contacted me wrote, "his hair was long and wild (in the back)and gray, and he always smiled... I never saw him angry or down."

Speaking about her late husband's 21-year-long teaching career at Art Students League, Pamela says, "His students adored him. I agree. He was a master draughtsman and a great teacher. He could teach a lamp post to draw! "

And in an interview in the summer 1975 issue of The Illustrator magazine, Rehberger offered this advice to the aspiring young artist:

"Learn the basic truths thoroughly in order to become strong and able to express yourself in any direction. Many young artists want to be free too soon, before building up reservoirs of knowledge to tap. This kind of unequipped freedom will lead, sooner or later, into an artistic nothingness and make the artist wish he had learned his lessons well."

"I find there is all the freedom in the world within the laws of artistic truth."

* You'll find all of today's images in my Gustav Rehberger Flickr set.


  1. After all these years of TI I just came to the question of why is it that many of the color illustrations that I've seen tend to have cool highlights and warm shadows?


  2. An excellent week of postings, Leif, with a lot of interesting information about a strong and colorful personality in the arts. Once again, we are in your debt for the work you do.

  3. Anonymous11:07 AM

    Great choice with the Gustav postings. I am so glad to have seen his work. Thank you!

  4. Wowwww! He did that legendary painting for "The Defiant Ones" movie poster as well as the "I Spy" promo art?? Fantastic!!

    And is that really a stick going through that guy's butt?? Quite an unusual approach to teaching anatomy but one I guess I'd better heed.

  5. Thank you all for your comments!

    Shane; could it be that my scanner is poorly calibrated...? I have no idea.

    David; I really appreciate hearing that. As for being in my debt, don't worry about it for now. One day I may ask you to help me dispose of a body. I hope I can count on you.

    Matt; you're welcome :-)

    Les; Yes. And yes.

  6. Dude, in thanks for these illustrations, I'll bring the sack for the body....

  7. I was honored to have been his monitor at the Art Student's League. for a year in the 80 and study with him for 5 years. A great and under appreciated artist.

  8. When my mother (1912 - 2001) was in third grade in Chicago, Illinois, she and Gustav were the shining "artists" in the class. The teacher would award 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize each week for the best artwork, and he and she (Lucille Larson) would alternately receive the 1st and/or 2nd place prizes. So, I have always followed his work. He also did a beautiful series of "Sacred" illustrations that appeared in Family Circle Magazine in the 1960's. I love his ability to convey the muscles and movement! Thanks for this blog, but when I try to sign up, it says "Website not available."

  9. I took his class at the Art Students League way back I think after I had graduated from High School. I remember a demonstration he did, I didn't understand everything he was saying back then but I was amazed at the results on the paper and the memory staid with me many years latter- I understand it now. He also had a great sense of humor.

  10. a fantastic teacher and talent