Monday, August 24, 2009

Bernie Fuchs... "revolutionized all the old concepts"

The other day Charlie Allen sent me a note that he had been perusing his reference file of Bernie Fuchs illustrations. "Hadn't looked at Fuchs in maybe years," wrote Charlie. "Large, very full...I have scads of examples... I could wear out a scanner sending them!"

"Occurs to me TI hasn't blogged Fuchs for a long time," he continued, "...can't remember when."

The truth is I've never really done any posts focusing on Bernie Fuchs - a gross oversight on my part.

Charlie put it beautifully in his note: "[Bernie Fuchs] was without exception the biggest force in illustration from the mid to late 50's on for maybe 15 years."

"His best work, in fact most of it, revolutionized all the old concepts of content, composition, technique, and even drama. He had more 'groupies', imitators, wanna be's, than any of the other greats that we've seen this year."

"They all had a style and talents of their own. But Fuchs had a following....he set a whole new style of illustrative work."

Charlie, who's illustrated more than a few ads for Gallo Wines, sent along one done by Fuchs. "One of two he did," Charlie explained.

"Don't know where he found time for it with his schedule."

And then this: "I'll start sending some scans if you'd like. I'd also like to know a bit more about him....and if he's still around. Have a hunch he's about four or five years younger than I."

With the promise of more scans, Charlie set the ball rolling for this week's topic. This won't be the only time we look at the work of Bernie Fuchs. As with some of the other giants of mid-century illustration like Parker, Briggs and Fawcett, his influence is just too important not to revisit again and again.

Many thanks to Charlie Allen, who's blog has just been updated with another great sampling of his own exceptional work. Now that you've reached the end of this post, head right over to Charlie Allen's Blog for more visual treats!

* My Bernie Fuchs Flickr set


  1. Thanks for this post. Fuchs early work and his designs on those pieces are great. Looking forward to more.

  2. that one issue of Illustratiopn wasne't enough. Oh for a big book on him.

  3. Oh dang - I forgot to mention David Apatoff's issue-long article on Bernie Fuchs in Illustration magazine #15... thanks for the reminder, Bill. Everyone really must get their hands on that issue. The link is in my sidebar.

  4. Mangnificent choice!

    Guess even if I had been a total abstainer I'd have bought lots of those drinks...just to stimulate demand to keep more of them ads coming.

  5. this is going to be a great week! wow.

    btw, any ideas how to get hands on a copy of illustration magazine #15? i don't think i've seen it even on ebay...

  6. Yikes! I'm sorry, Tonci; I assumed the issue was still available through Illustration magazine's website. I guess its now sold out. If anyone can direct us to copies for sale, please speak up - thanks :^)

  7. Chad Sterling3:07 PM

    No two ways about it Fuchs was an absolute magician in paint.It all looks so effortless and smooth- obviously a lot of prep went into it-but the finished work always looks amazing.Does anyone have any examples of his preliminary studies, I imagine they would look somewhat Briggs-ish.
    BTW thanks so much to Charlie for sharing his files.

  8. what a great blog!

  9. Great post, Fuchs is one of those illustrators to be discovered again and again. He was constantly reinventing himself to avoid becoming "just a style" or "technique" I think that's something we all work for.

    Thanks for this and so many other posts we all can sponge from.

  10. Anonymous3:37 AM

    One of my illustration teachers studied under Bernie Fuchs I believe. Whenever he had a comment about our work or someone had a question, he always came back to Bernie. It was pretty funny. It was for a good reason though.

    It just popped into my head that his technique reminds me of Toulouse-Lautrec, with the thinned paint and emphasis on graphic forms.

    According to this article Fuchs generally projects his own photographs onto canvas and goes from there. Interesting little read.

  11. I'd love to see more of this earlier Fuchs stuff. I think that most of us just think of his more famous drippy later stuff from the 70's and onward when we hear his name.

  12. caitlinvs10:46 PM

    I'm pretty sure Bernie is still around, still in Westport, CT. He was a dear friend of my grandfather Harold von Schmidt, & attended the wake of my father Eric in April 2007. I met Bernie & his wife Babe many times when I was a kid & teenager, and they were always very warm & friendly to me.

    And yes, his illustration is amazing!

  13. It sounds like you're creating problems yourself by trying to solve this issue instead of looking at why their is a problem in the first place.

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