If Jack Potter's illustrations stand on the edge of the avant-garde, then Robert Weaver's work must surely represent the leap over the precipice.
Considering what was the typical, broadly accepted style of illustration in the 50's, its hard to imagine work like this finding a home in any major magazine of the day.
But Robert Weaver began his career in 1952 and according to his biography at the Norman Rockwell Museum, he "produced powerful illustrations for such noteworthy clients as Esquire, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, Life, Look, The New York Times and Columbia Records" during the 50's (as well as the 60's and 70's).
The article there confirms what I was saying yesterday about this new breed of illustrators having one foot in the commercial art studio and the other in the fine arts gallery when it states, "Weaver was among the first to wed fine art to applied illustration" and goes so far as to call him "the godfather of the new illustration."
Weaver taught at Syracuse University and the School of Visual Arts for some 30 years, and these illustrations from the January 1960 issue of Fortune magazine are likely a good example of what he meant when he told his students, "stop being conceptual and get back to looking at things, at the details...to observe light and color and pattern."
Personally, while I can honestly say I respect Robert Weaver's philosophy and can appreciate the artistic merit in his work, I can't really say I "like" a lot of what I've seen so far (which I admit is not that much). Yesterday, an anonymous reader left a comment that, when Bernie Fuchs came on the scene, many art directors considered his work representative of the transition in illustrative style. In his article on Fuchs in Illustration #15, David Apatoff talks about how some art directors would not use the artist because his experimental techniques looked "a little too modern."
But now that we can look back and see a broader view of the landscape from a greater distance, one has to wonder; if Bernie Fuchs encountered resistance because his work was too experimental, how in the world did the likes of Robert Weaver fit into the scene at all?
Fuchs' work seems so much more accessible and yes, likeable, to me. I would guess the general public felt the same way since he became so widely imitated and so successful.
Robert Weaver on the other hand created work that I find kind of impenetrable and difficult to like. Perhaps that was his intention. I really don't know...
In spite of my confusion I suspect that what Robert Weaver did by leaping into mid-air was show others that it could - and should be done. Someone must take the daring plunge - and survive - to give others the courage to follow.
Illustrators needed to find a way out of the box that photography had trapped them in, and it was avant-garde pioneers like Robert Weaver who showed them the way.
* My thanks to Tom Watson and Dan Zalkus, who both provided art and information for today's post. Dan also made me aware of this facinating Robert Weaver slideshow of sketches from a 1962 Sports Illustrated assignment.
My Robert Weaver Flickr set.