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Richard Merkin
posted: September 15, 2009
The wonderful artist Richard Merkin died  this week. I always admired the drawings he did for The New Yorker that showed his interest in jazz music, baseball, and celebrities that no one talks about anymore. A gentleman’s gentleman, Merkin was known for his personal style that included bespoke suits, custom hats, and walking sticks. We never met but he wrote a terribly kind review of my book Jazz ABZ for Vanity Fair in 2005.  A well-timed trip to London and a friendship with Peter Blake landed Merkin right next to Fred Astaire on the cover of Sgt. Pepper.
10 comments
Doug Fraser September 15, 2009
It's good to see the work of illustrators who've worked in a previous era. The work of today always stands in relation. Thank you Richard Merkin.
Laura Levine September 15, 2009
I've always been a big fan of his work. Many many years ago I photographed him for a magazine assignment (way before I started to paint) and he was simply lovely and charming and oh, so stylin'!
randy enos September 15, 2009
I never met him but the guy that introduced me to my wife (my roommate) went on to another college and became Merkin's roommate.
Mark Ulriksen September 15, 2009
I'm sorry to hear that Merkin passed away. I first became aware of his work in "Diamonds are Forever" the book about great baseball art. Nice trivia about his appearance on Sgt. Peppers cover. He also gets my nod for largest signature on his pieces.
Donald Kilpatrick September 16, 2009
I remember looking at his regular work in GQ before i really knew what an illustrator was. Rest in peace.
J.D. King September 16, 2009
Nice post, Paul. My Richard Merkin story: Circa 1972 at RISD, I was a student (we use the word loosely) in his painting class. However, since I'd been bit big time by the comic book bug I almost never showed up to class. Three times, as I recall. Instead, I stayed home and drew comix. At the end of the semester I was, to him, only a vague, rarely seen face for showed up with no paintings, only some pages of crude comix. At first he seemed a little steamed, but once he read the stuff he started laughing and gave me a (not deserved) passing grade. RIP, Mr. Merkin.
Robert Crawford September 16, 2009
He was a teacher of mine at RISD. Quite the bon vivant! A great guy and artist.
Robert Crawford September 16, 2009
oh, yes...and he did a cameo in the movie the Great Gatsby filmed in Newport with RISD student extras!
Cathleen Toelke September 16, 2009
I'm sorry to hear about Richard. He had a beautiful gallery show up this way a year or two ago. His work is very large by illustration standards and made an impressive presentation. I didn't know Richard, but met him at SI years ago. He had everyone cracking up over someone's numerous cat paintings--cats dressed up in historic European costume a la Henry VII, Blue Boy, etc. The room was silent until Richard started responding with a slow, rolling, infectious chuckle in the back of the room. Soon, we were all rolling over.
Michael Sloan September 24, 2009
How sad. I had no idea he had passed away. He taught at RISD when I was a student, and though I never took a class with him he was legendary. The last time I saw him was at the Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, a restaurant on University Place in Manhattan. I think Dave Goldin and I went up to him to introduce ourselves as he was eating; he was very nice about it. I always loved his work.
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