Happy Birthday Robert Weaver

Robert Weaver would have been 89 today.  Born in Pittsburgh, he lived until the age of 70, and was a pioneer in transforming illustration from the realistic to the expressive and abstract.


Undated Robert Weaver “3-D” artwork

Up until Weaver’s time, the typical illustration method was to draw a realistic depiction of a scene, often using models or photographs.  Landscapes or models’ features would then be altered to create an ideal, artistic image.  Weaver believed in drawing and sketching from real life, without modifications.  One example of this is his Spring Training sketches for a 1962 Sports Illustrated assignment : here Weaver draws the players and fans as he sees them.

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Undated Robert Weaver “3-D” artwork

By the 1950s, modern art such as expressionism and impressionism were influencing illustrators.  Illustration no longer was just for depicting a scene, but evoking emotional responses  Weaver used his drawings as a way to depict current culture on themes previously not illustrated, such as poverty, race, and crime.

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Undated Robert Weaver illustration

Weaver studied at various schools including the Carnegie Institute of Technology, the Art Students League in New York,  and the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Venice.  Weaver taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York for over 35 years, and created one of the subway posters that advertised the school.  Below is the artwork without the poster text.

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Artwork for School of Visual Arts subway poster, 1983.

In addition to his sketches and paintings, Weaver also would combine collage techniques with his paintings.  He even experimented with creating two-dimensional art that could be viewed three-dimensionally.  In order to see the image in 3-D, you will need to look at the same way you would look at a Magic Eye 3-D poster, popular in the 1990s.

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Undated Robert Weaver “3-D” artwork

If you would like to try out viewing the original 3-D artwork, stop by the Modern Graphic History Library. To learn more about Robert Weaver, check out the finding aid.


Heller, Steven and Chwast, Seymour. Illustration, A Visual History. New York: Abrams, 2008.

Heller, Steven, ed.  Innovators of American Illustration. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1986.

Reed, Walt.  The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000.  New York: Society of Illustrators, 2001.

About the author

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