Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Bernie Fuchs

Bernie Fuchs.

Not really sure what to say about him that would be different from anybody else’s point of view.
The man was THE man. The legend AND the stuff legends are made of.
The enfant terrible of illustration in the late 50’s, all throughout the 60’s and till the slow death of print illustration in the 70’s. I know, Illustration is not dead, far from it, but THIS format of magazine art, the way it was done, commissioned, paid for, the world that went with it is a piece of history now. For better or for worse.

When I discovered the first image in this post I was blown away. I was instantly charmed.
The longer I looked at it the longer I was mesmerized. Fuchs had started in the 50’s, working in car ads in Detroit. The job was very specific. There were strict rules. Someone usually did the car and another artist would do the characters. The poses were clear, clean, behind the car.
It was all very staged, all very efficient.
Fuchs was probably drinking beer or something at the time and asked someone to hold It for him while he went about to completely dismantle this system, going into the streets to capture everyday life, placing people in Front of the cars, overall stepping all over the established codes of the time.
He was both admired for it and called a prima Dona for it.
He didn’t last in Detroit.
Moved to New York and started getting jobs for Mc Call and other well known magazines at the time. The bigger leagues. He was the kid who started taking jobs away from the older, more established artists, and he did it with a smile from what I read.

His work was new, different. It felt alive. The characters weren’t as stiff as they used to be in previous illustrations, there was a looseness to the brush work. Everybody wanted to have him work on their campaigns and every illustrator wanted to be him.

I look at his work. Not as often as I used to when I was younger.
I look at it to remind myself that people can draw and paint like this, can tell such strong stories in one images and can push themselves constantly to come up with new ideas, new themes, new compositions
Toward the later part of his career, after being incredibly well established, Bernie started experimenting with new techniques, new approaches. This body of work is not often the one that people remember the most but I love seeing his brain at work. Having the courage to leave behind what is a sure success to try something new, untested, unproven, knowing that it could very well be rejected is inspiring.
That is the other thing about Bernie Fuchs.
He was inspiring. He still is.