Wednesday, June 27, 2012

More Summer Fun: Five Fuchs and a Fawcett

Imagine it's 1959 and you're one of the most highly regarded illustrators in America, with a long and storied career.

You've just landed a fabulous assignment: a series of paintings for a major national advertiser. Not only will this be a very high profile campaign, it'll also be extremely lucrative (I think I can conservatively estimate the payday was, in 1959 dollars, the equivalent of what would be at least $100,000 today).


You've just completed the first painting in the series when the client calls... telling you they're pulling the job from you and giving it to a hot new talent - a virtual unknown; a mere kid - who is suddenly the talk of the town.


That's exactly what happened to Austin Briggs when Bernie Fuchs scooped the 1959 Seagrams V.O. campaign out from under him (four illustrations from that series by Fuchs are shown here).


Considering the hit Briggs took, it's hard to believe that he and Bernie Fuchs subsequently became life-long friends, but in fact they did.


David Apatoff recounts this incredible story in his issue-length Bernie Fuchs article in Illustration magazine #15. David also describes how Robert Fawcett took great pleasure in surprising Briggs by bringing the young Bernie Fuchs to his house to meet the older artist, specifically to "twist the knife" in Briggs' wound.

Perhaps Fawcett realized what a force they were all dealing with in Fuchs, "a skinny kid who didn't look old enough to order a beer," as one person who was there described him. After all, that same year Fawcett had to share a major ad campaign of his own...


... with the kid from Detroit; Bernie Fuchs.


Below, a photo of Bernie Fuchs from Famous Artists magazine, 1967 - courtesy of Matt Dicke.



  1. I think Fawcett's work was a bit too dry to illustrate the idea of 'carefree hedonism', but I do think Briggs was a bit unlucky to be nix-ed for Fuchs.These are lovely pictures though.

  2. Always nice to see some Fuchs up here! THat Pan Am Ad is one of his best Ad pieces in my opinion.

  3. From the photo I notice Bernie had some terrific illustrations of Sinatra in progress. I wonder what they were used for - anybody know?

    1. 1967 photo, likely it was work for the album cover here: Also note that Discogs lets you search for any albums crediting Bernie Fuchs as illustrator.

  4. Leif

    In the third Fuchs illustration down in the blog today the man
    wearing a hat sued Bernie Fuchs for putting his likeness in a liquor
    ad. The man sent photos of himself and bernie settled.

  5. Leif, your readers may be happy to hear that a beautiful hardbound volume on the art and life of Bernie Fuchs is now in the works. It is being prepared with the full cooperation of the family, and in addition to a dazzling collection of Bernie's drawings and paintings it will also have an assortment of his early works and family photographs (including informal snapshots of Bernie hanging out with friends like Al Parker, Bob Peak, Bob Heindel, Coby Whitmore, and many others). People who missed my Illustration Magazine article won't have to wait too long. They are in for a real treat!

  6. Man! Thanks for reminding us how to be depressed, uh... I mean Inspired by The amazing B. Fuchs! ( That Fawcett guy is pretty good too...!)

  7. Leif, there's one other great story about Fawcett losing a campaign to Fuchs. Fawcett illustrated a series called "Statements of Greatness," for which he painted portraits of presidents Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson (and perhaps Franklin Roosevelt?)

    Finally, it came time to paint a current president, President Kennedy. The illustrator was going to go to the White House and meet the president in person, talk with him and take pictures for reference. Fawcett would have loved to do it but the client came to Fawcett and, in the words of Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront, said "Tonight's not your night." They brought in the new painter, Bernie Fuchs (whose portraits of Kennedy would later become world famous).

  8. David, After what Fawcett did to Briggs that first night, bringing Bernie over so he (Fawcett) could gloat, I believe this story you've just shared confirms that old saw, "Payback's a bitch." In this case, it sounds like Karma rose up and bit Fawcett right in the behind. Great story - thanks for sharing!

  9. Also, thanks for confirming for all us rabid Fuchs fans that we have something VERY special to put at the top of our Christmas wish list - exciting news! Thanks!

  10. Is it true that there's an Albert Dorne book in the works?

  11. Pete
    THe SInatra Cover was for a TV guide

    the other image is from look magazine.

    so it would date that photo of Bernie to 1966 i would say.

    Finally a Fuchs book! can't wait.


  12. Much thanks for that info, Matt! I figured the Sinatra piece was either for TV Guide or Time Magazine.

  13. great article, and great news. a fuchs book! this past few years have truly been great when it comes to books.

  14. I just discovered your blog, and this post is very interesting. I didnt know Fuchs and Fawcett's works. They are amazing. I ll look for the book David Apatoff mentionned.
    Thank you again for sharing.

  15. Anonymous12:36 AM

    I learned of Bernie Fuchs through his children's book illustrations. After a little convincing, he visited my class of 4th graders in Westport. Only after his visit did I learn how famous he was. He called to arrange a visit to my class for the next few years to share his latest book project. He was such a lovely man.