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But Is It Art?

According to the artist, Milton Glaser, this image of Dylan with wild free-flowing hair was not inspired by psychedelics.

Milton Glaser Dies

Overnight, Milton Glaser, the renown commercial artist and illustrator passed away at age 91. Not only does he live behind a wife and many family members, but also a huge collection of graphic designs and posters that have on occasion been displayed and purchased by major museums and galleries.

Perhaps, Milton is best known for this memorable 60s portrait of Bob Dylan. Nonetheless, the NYC artist also gave the Rolling Stones, their signature tongue and lips image and furthermore, he created the I heart NY icon that both the city and state have adopted.

A retrospective of Glaser’s work can be found in this book, along with a bit of his philosophy.





A Simple Philosophy

Milton Glaser’s attitude can be simply summed up in three words. Art Is Work. This also happens to be the title for a coffee table-sized picture book that the artist put out in the year 2000. Whether you are a commercial or fine artist, this is wonderfully functional sentence describes just how any visual imagist should approach their craft.

Over the years, Milton worked on numerous art projects, mostly in the graphic design field. In no way should this diminish or reflect poorly on the man’s accomplishments. They are many and widely distributed in our visual world.

Besides his illustrations, Glaser made landscape prints specifically for the fine art market



Fine Art vs Commercial Art

When I was much younger, I often distinguished between commercial and fine art. My thinking, which was and still is quite prevalent, went something like this. Serious art work was considered to be fine art, while pictures made for commercial endeavors, like album covers, posters and book covers, were not considered as important.

The painting that freed me from this way of thinking was The Giant by N.C. Wyeth. Up until viewing this huge painting in person, I considered N.C. to be strictly a commercial artist, while his son, Andrew, and his grandson, Jamie, fell into the fine art category. However, after standing in front of the Giant, a very large oil painting, which was actually created to be a book illustration, I quickly realized that these distinctions were superfluous. For in the art world, there were images, created in a commercial vein, that were extraordinary in their presence. And on the other hand, there were many works of so-called fine art that seemed ill-conceived and poorly executed.

This 1975 likeness of Hermann Hesse is often viewed as one of Glaser’s standout pieces.



Illustrators Today

Thanks to the Pop art and especially Pop surrealism or Lowbrow Art, the illustrator or commercial artist is held in much higher esteem than in the days when Milton Glaser and associates first began their businesses in New York City. Today, many of our bestselling artists, like Mark Ryden or Todd Schorr got their start as illustrators.

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