A Look at the Innovative Bernie Fuchs

Acclaimed illustrator Bernie Fuchs would have been 82 years old today.  The artist only lived to be 76, but influenced mid-century illustration like few other artists have.

McCall’s, July 1964

Fuchs was born in O’Fallon, Illinois, a city less than 30 minutes east of St. Louis.  The artist would end up studying in St. Louis at Washington University’s art school.  Fuchs had enjoyed drawing during his childhood.  However, he only considered a career in art after an accident in a machine shop caused the loss of three fingers, which ended his pursuit of playing jazz on the trumpet.

for I Love Galesburg In The Springtime, McCall’s, April 1960

Fuchs would end up being a force to be reckoned with in the art world.  After graduating, he worked in Detroit and found work drawing cars for magazines and billboards.  Fuchs found his own style in car illustration by showing the vehicles admist everyday people in everyday situations — not a glamorous couple just looking at a car.  Sometimes, Fuchs even had people stand in front of the car, which up until then, was not done, since the car was supposed to be the main focus.

Oldsmobile advertisement, 1962

Fuchs’ unique perspective on illustration, plus his modern, impressionistic-inspired style, caught the attention of art directors.   Fuchs ended up with the lucrative Seagram’s account in 1959, which had only recently been given to Austin Briggs.  Briggs had finished his first painting for the client when he learned that Seagrams changed its mind and was giving the account to an unknown but talked-about new artist.  Nevertheless, Fuchs and Briggs ended up being life-long friends.

Seagram’s advertisement, 1959

At age 30, Fuchs was named the Artist Guild of New York’s Artist of the Year.  He was also the youngest artist to be inducted to the Society of Illustrator’s Hall of Fame.  The artist was also becoming one of the most imitated illustrators of his time, similar to the way Al Parker was always being copied.  Fuchs’ art was also repeatedly selected by Society of Illustrators’ jurors as the best work of the year.

Sports Illustrated, August 23, 1976

Fuchs illustrated for most of the major magazines, including Look, McCall’s, New Yorker, TV Guide, and Sports Illustrated.   When Fuchs received his first Sports Illustrated assignment, he was told to make it different than his work for McCall’s.  This caused the artist to develop new innovations and styles.

Sports Illustrated, June 15, 1964

Fuchs typically photographed his subjects and then illustrated them in his studio.  During his career he did actually meet President John F. Kennedy, Jackie Robinson, and Frank Sinatra.

TV Guide, May 14, 1966

He illustrated several pieces on Kennedy during the politican’s presidency and after his assassination.

Look, September 7, 1965

Happy Birthday, Bernie Fuchs.


The images are from the Walt Reed Illustration Archive.

Informatation about the artist is from:

Apatoff, David. Bernie Fuchs. Illustration Art, March 20, 2009.

FAS Guiding Faculty: Bernard Fuchs. Famous Artist School, no date.

Peng, Leif. Bernie Fuchs: “more admired- and more imitated-than…any other current illustrator.” Today’s Inspiration, August 28, 2009.

Peng, Leif. More Summer Fun: Five Fuchs and a Fawcett. Today’s Inspiration, June 27, 2012.

About the author

Andrea Degener is the Visual Materials Processing Archivist in the department of Special Collections at Washington University Libraries.