Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Robert Fawcett: Failure

Robert Fawcett once said, "I have a horror of ever becoming a 'name' illustrator. I have seen too many examples of a fickle public dropping such a one like a hot coal when his work becomes too familiar."

If Fawcett can ever be accused of failure, it would be at remaining an unknown illustrator. Very few artists in the last hundred years of our profession have become more of a "name" than Robert Fawcett. In time he has been bestowed the title of "the illustrator's illustrator" and you could hardly find anyone more deserving.

Whether these early examples of Fawcett's work (courtesy of Chuck Pyle) hint at the greatness that was to come is for each of you to decide. I like them because they are from a period about ten years previous to the quote above. Fawcett's style is already evident...

... but these pieces are far from the seemingly flawless later work we so admire and see most often -- reassuring us that Robert Fawcett didn't spring fully formed into the illustration business. Even "the illustrator's illustrator" had to work at learning his craft.

I return to Robert Fawcett as a topic for the umpteenth time this week because I wanted to help promote a show opening on Saturday, May 22nd at Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra, CA. Those fortunate enough to live in the vicinity will be treated to the rare sight of 25 original Robert Fawcett illustrations, from the private collections of Mike Vosburg and Howard Chaykin "and a couple of other collectors in the area," according to Mike.

As well, I decided that this was the right time to check in with Manuel Auad, who has been editing a labour of love and one of the most highly anticipated projects in the community of mid-century illustration afficionados: The Robert Fawcett book.

Manuel kindly sent along the cover scan above and this first spread below and asks that I mention the book is now tentatively scheduled for Fall 2010 release.

"The illustrator's illustrator" failed to remain anonymous during his long and storied career.... but the fickle public did, for a time, forget - not just Robert Fawcett - but just about every illustrator of that "last golden age." Its immensely gratifying to see such worthy talent finally returning to the spotlight to be studied and celebrated by a new generation.

This week, a few more examples and some though-provoking quotes.

* My Robert Fawcett Flickr set.

* Many thanks to Chuck Pyle, Mike Vosburg, Howard Chaykin, and Manuel Auad for contributing art and information to this post!

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