Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Marvin Friedman: "Illustration became my passion"

In his book Marvin Friedman writes, "The only art I had access to when I was a child were in the thick, thriving magazines that came in the mail. Each magazine had five or six pieces of fiction that needed paintings, so illustration became my passion."

Friedman studied at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art under Henry C. Pitz, Ben Eisenstat and Albert Gold. "I was Norman Rockwell up until I got into school. And I saw the paintings the teachers hung up in the classroom. Ben Eisenstat was very loose and free... very impressionistic. The trees were orange and green and the faces were purple."

"We (students) had never seen anything like that in our lives, you know? I mean, these were all just kids who had come to see all the naked women!"

"But I just came in and studied those things at lunch time and after school... and I just looked at it and looked at it and looked at it... and no other kids did."

"Slowly it ocurred to me that Norman Rockwell - that creating paintings like that - was outré. It just threw a fog in my eyes... that's when I started working very loose and very sketchy."

What Friedman was aiming for was a career doing double page spreads in The Saturday Evening Post and Ladies' Home Journal but as he describes, it would not be an easy task to reach that goal. "When I got out of art school the first place I could get work was the Westminster Publishing House - a Christian publisher of Sunday School pamphlets," says Marvin. "I got 12 dollars and 12 cents or something like that. Everybody who graduated went after these twelve dollar pictures because there was nothing else to get in Philadelphia."

"So I just did what I was doing - the same way - but people just didn't understand. The people at the Westminster Press would say, "What are you doing? What is this? Why is this street... this house so... loose and sketchy?"

"So I had to re-adjust a little... pull it in a little."

* my Marvin Friedman Flickr set.

* Many thanks to Brian Postman and Harold Henriksen for providing all of today's scans!


  1. Anonymous3:47 PM

    i only wish someone would do a marvin friedman book!...

  2. Anonymous6:35 PM

    Draughtsmanship of the highest order.

  3. Brian; I couldn't agree more - that would be fantastic.

    Bandito; Interesting isn't it, that we can see that now, but consider the challenges faced by Marvin Friedman and other young illustrators trying to push the envelope at the time. How frustrating it must have been!