Drawing Lines: Robert Weaver’s Innovative Illustration

Be sure to visit our latest exhibition featuring the work of Robert Weaver.  It opens next Wednesday, June 8th, in Olin Library, and will be on view through September.  Here is a description of the project:

“In recording the literal image as it already appears in life, what line can you draw between art and illustration?”

Robert Weaver in Esquire, December, 1956.


In the 1960s, advertisers began to abandon traditional magazines for the allure of television. As a result, illustration experienced a decrease in popularity. In an effort to compete, illustrators were encouraged to become more original and avant-garde in their styles.

Often referred to as the “godfather of the new illustration,” Robert Weaver was among the few illustrators who continued to innovate throughout this challenging decade.  Weaver developed a new approach to visual storytelling that both conveyed information and evoked emotion.  Prior to his influence, illustrators were known for using traditional techniques.  In contrast, Weaver’s visionary style more resembled the expressionist manner of contemporary fine artists.

In addition to his progressive style, Weaver’s work reflects a social awareness lacking in the idealized scenes of earlier popular illustration.  His work depicts the changing social and political climate of the 1960s, explicitly portraying poverty, crime, activism, race, and youth culture.

The original artwork and tear sheets featured in this exhibition not only highlight Weaver’s unique style and social consciousness, but also represent his significant impact on this pivotal period in illustration history.

Visitors to Olin Library this summer can view Weaver’s work on display in the Ginkgo Reading Room and Grand Staircase Lobby starting Wednesday, June 8, 2011. Titled “Drawing Lines: Robert Weaver’s Innovative Illustration,” the exhibition showcases the Robert Weaver Collection held by Washington University’s Modern Graphic History Library. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

About the author

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