Friday, September 25, 2009

Bernie Fuchs: "an important moment in his life"

In reference to Tom Watson's guest post a few days ago, David Apatoff wrote, "For [those] who are curious about that "truck ad," I believe you can find it in the Society of Illustrators Annual for 1959." And not long after, Tom Watson himself sent the scan below from that SI annual.

David also provided the following quote about that truck ad from Bernie Fuchs:

"I was 26 or 27 when I painted this, and yes, I painted the truck and everything else in this picture. I'm trying to remember whether they had one of the older guys in the studio touch up some of the chrome on the fender after I was done. Chrome was pretty hard to get right. But I don't think so. It was a long time ago. Later I specialized in people and backgrounds, and the cars themselves would be painted by artists who were more capable than I was. My art director submitted this painting to the Society of Illustrators competition without even telling me. I had no idea there was such a thing until he came to me and told me that the jury had picked my painting to be in the show."

Speaking of Bernie Fuchs' automotive art, here are a few scans, courtesy of Charlie Allen...

Charlie writes, "The Edsel ads especially good....though didn't help the ill fated car down the line."

He continues, "Head honcho art director for Foote Cone on those ads.....Fred Ludekins, no less!"

Having done his fair share of auto advertising art during the same period when Bernie Fuchs did these pieces, Charlie gives us the benefit of his vast personal experience: "on Fuchs and photos. Even, or maybe especially, on cars....the artist can't 'trace' or Lucy the just doesn't work. Autos need, or needed back in those days, an amazing amount of tweaking, stretching, tucking, changing reflection patterns, etc. etc. If 'photo copying' were easy, everybody and his uncle would have been successful artists and illustrators in my time."

Charlie adds, "I like his ads and the more conservative techniques. But you have to admit, his loose editorial style [was] brilliant. Far out for the times....and so well designed, drawn, and painted."

Next comes this note from Bryn Havord in England:

"I was very saddened to learn that Bernie Fuchs had died. I've had a privileged life, and one of those privileges was to publish a lot of his work when I was a women's magazine art director in 1960s London and, of course, I consider that I have been privileged to continue to see his beautiful work develop over the years. Not an easy task as I live in the United Kingdom and have not been to the States since the mid 60s."

Bryn continues, "Bernie's work had a profound effect and influence on the English women's magazine illustrators working at that time: in particular when he was working in pencil with Liquitex acrylic washes. Liquitex wasn't available in England at the time, and a large trade developed when the artists had friends in America sending tubes and jars of the paint over the Atlantic so they could try and emulated Bernie's work."

Bryn elaborates on the anecdote Tom Watson described on Wednesday about how Bernie Fuchs' painting style changed because "he was trying to find a method of creating the effect of a still life illustration of a glass of beer on a shiny bar top." Bryn provided us with several scans from the issue of Lithopinion, the magazine that sent bernie to England to paint scenes from London pubs.

Bryn writes, "That visit to England proved to be a catalyst in Bernie's career; he never used acrylics ever again."

"Bernie was quoted in the catalogue of his recent 50 year retrospective at the Telluride Gallery thus: "I started working in oils because I was inspired by the rich glow of sunlight passing through an amber mug of ale in London. I wanted to be able to capture that feeling in a painting..."

Bryn continues, "I also attach a scan of a recent painting by Bernie of a couple of wine glasses painted for the Telluride Wine Festival in 2008. It's interesting to compare the wine glasses to the beer mug, forty years has seen a development in sophistication, not only in technique, but in the choice of drink!"

Regarding that experience in England while on assignment for Lithopinion, Bryn concludes, "I think it was an important moment in his life which needs illustrating."

* Many thanks to Bryn Havord and all the other contributors who made this week possible: Charlie Allen, Harold Henriksen and Tom Watson, as well as everyone who contributed comments.

* My Bernie Fuchs Flicks set


  1. Charlie Allen5:32 PM

    They say....'You get an education every's schooling that's expensive!' I got an education today on the scans from England. What a treat....and what amazing, inspiring work. I had no idea Bernie Fuchs worked in oils for a time. Not sure he gave up acrylics and gouache after that time. Thanks, Leif....great blog.

  2. Shockingly amazing work. From the glow on those wine glasses to the vastness and detail of the narrative in the first car ad... really astounding.

    Thanks for sharing these.

  3. Thanks to Bryn, we now have the complete story on that beer mug assignment. As so eloquently pointed out, Bernie Fuchs' exceptional talent covered such an amazing span of over 50 years, that I personally cannot say I particularly liked one period better than another. Simply put, they each have their unique great qualities, and I can't think of another illustrator I can make that statement about.

    A wonderful tribute to Bernie Fuchs this week Leif. I'm sure it has been appreciated by far more than we'll ever know.

    Tom Watson

  4. Bernie Fuchs' evocative automotive paintings sell the Detroit dream more eloquently than any photos or clever copywriting I've seen.His cars are portrayed in all their pristine beauty, the backgounds so real you could almost step into them and the people,living and breathing,'paused' as it were for a split second before resuming their glamorous lifestyles.That's advertising at its best-selling the sizzle-and that was where Mr Fuchs came in, like an illustration alchemist creating dreams right there on the pages of magazines and journals.Who could ever calculate how much his work earned for the U.S car industry?

  5. Bernie Fuchs cannot do wrong by me

  6. Just saw Fuchs' race car prints for the 75th (?) Indianapolis 500 this past week, posted in an office building lobby. Great stuff, wonderful use of color.

  7. Great artwork, it's got everything, artistic skill,complete control of perspective, figure drawing, composition, color, light, atmosphere... can't ask for more.
    As I was going through your blog I was thinking of Tom Adams, I figure you are familiar with his work, he did a lot of Agatha Christie's novel covers, so beautiful and intriguing.

  8. I guess you answered my question that I posted on 9/22 here. Thanks for these educational posts.

    I have just seen "Flash of Genius" (2008) based on real story about a man who invented the intermittent windshield wiper.

    I wonder if that was the time when Fuchs did illustrations for Ford. It is fun to learn about the people and culture of that time through Fuchs's illustrations and the movies like "Flash of Genius".

  9. Nice post! Keep the excellent content like this coming!

    - JO
    Window Tinting La Jolla CA