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Richard Merkin

richard merkin middle school, richard merkin md
Richard Marshall Merkin 1938 – September 5, 2009 was an American painter, illustrator and arts educator Merkin's fascination with the 1920s and 1930s defined his art and shaped his identity as a professional dandy Merkin traveled back in time as an artist, to the time of the interwar years, creating narrative scenes in bright colors of jazz musicians, film stars, writers, and sports heroes Merkin was as well known for his painting and illustration work as he was for his eccentric collecting habits and his outré fashion sense


  • 1 Biography
  • 2 Related quotes
  • 3 Death and legacy
  • 4 Works
    • 41 Bibliography
    • 42 Notable Exhibitions
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


Merkin was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1938, and held an undergraduate degree in fine art from Syracuse University in 1960, a Master's Degree in art from Michigan State University in 1961, and a master's degree in Painting MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1963 In 1962–63 he received a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Fellowship in Painting and, in 1975, The Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from The National Institute of Arts and Letters

Merkin began teaching at the Rhode Island School of Design RISD in 1963 and remained there for 42 years, during which time he built his reputation in New York He commuted every week to RISD to teach painting and drawing, after he moved back to New York in 1967 At RISD, Merkin was loved and revered One RISD alum described him as “fearless beyond measure” Some notable students Merkin taught at RISD include Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of the band Talking Heads and Martin Mull

Richard Merkin embodied RISD He was regularly seen on campus wearing his trademark scarf and ballet slippers In 1974, when the film "The Great Gatsby" was being filmed in Newport, RI Merkin appeared as an extra in one of the lawn party scenes

Merkin had been a contributing editor for Vanity Fair since 1986 and a regular contributor of illustrations to The New Yorker since 1988, as well as Harper's and The New York Times' Sunday Magazine From 1988–1991, he wrote a monthly style column called "Merkin on Style" for Gentlemen's Quarterly In 1986, Merkin told The Daily News Record, a fashion publication: "Dressing, like painting, should have a residual stability, plus punctuation and surpriseSomewhere, like in Krazy Kat, you've got to throw the brick"

Merkin also designed several album covers for the Jazz record label Chiaroscuro Records for artists such as Mary Lou Williams, Ruby Braff, and Ellis Larkins

Related quotes

Merkin's friend, the writer Tom Wolfe wrote in an email to the New York Times upon Merkin's death:

"He was the greatest of that breed, the Artist Dandy, since Sargent, Whistler and DaliLike Dali, he had one of the few remaining Great Mustaches in the art world"

Wolfe also wrote:

"What made Merkin so sought after as an illustrator was his eccentric approach to modernist art He used Modernism's all-over flat designs--that is, every square inch of the canvas was covered by flat, unmodulated blocs of color of equal value, creating not three but two dimensions--but his works were full of people, rendered in the same fashion, in comic poses and situations and extravagantly caricatured"

The New Yorker noted that Merkin

“loved and evoked the great spirit of the nineteen-twenties, thirties, and forties in his work – he was, moreover, “a connoisseur of the good life”

Merkin's career at The New Yorker spanned twenty years, three covers, and nearly three hundred illustrations

Death and legacy

Merkin died on September 5, 2009 at his home in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, after a long illness He was 70 years old He was survived by his wife Heather Merkin

Merkin is represented in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Smithsonian Institution, Brooklyn Museum and the Whitney Museum, among others

He appears on the cover of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, back row, right of center, in between Fred Astaire and a Vargas Girl



  • 1968 – Jazz Age: As Seen Through the Eyes of Ralph Barton, Miguel Covarrubias & John Held, Jr, RISD art exhibition catalog with introduction by Richard Merkin featuring writing and works Ralph Barton, Miguel Covarrubias, John Held Jr
  • 1969 – On Art and Perfume or Did Mondrian Use Masking Tape MIT Office of Publications, 1969 Exhibition catalog, Hayden Gallery, MIT, November 7 to December 2, 1969
  • 1979 – Velvet Eden - The Richard Merkin Collection of Erotic Photography, by Richard Merkin and Bruce McCall Merkin was also an avid collector of vintage pornography, and part of his collection was published in this book
  • 1992 – Better Days Recent Paintings By Richard Merkin, written by Tom Wolfe and Richard Merkin published by Helander Gallery
  • 1993 – Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, written by John Cleland and cover illustration By Richard Merkin
  • 1995 – Leagues Apart: The Men and Times of the Negro Baseball Leagues, by Larry Ritter and illustrated by Richard Merkin
  • 1997 – Tijuana Bibles: Art and Wit in America's Forbidden Funnies, 1930s-1950s, written by Bob Adelman, Richard Merkin and Art Spiegelman

Notable Exhibitions

  • 1962 – Boston Arts Festival
  • 1963 – DeCordova Museum
  • 1964 – Rhode Island Arts Festival
  • 1964 – DeCordova Museum
  • 1965 – DeCordova Museum
  • 1965 – Obelisk Gallery, Boston
  • 1967–1968 – Whitney Museum of American Art
  • 1979 – Gallery Camino Real, Florida
  • 2004 – Solo exhibition, Gallery 444, San Francisco
  • 2010 – Solo exhibition, Garrison Art Center
  • 2010 – Big Paper Winter, group exhibition, Woodward Gallery


  1. ^ "Richard Marshall Merkin 1938 - 2009" AskArt Retrieved December 16, 2014 
  2. ^ "Richard Merkin, RIP" GQ Magazine 2009-09-22 Retrieved 2016-01-07 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Grimes, William September 13, 2009 "Richard Merkin, Painter, Illustrator and Fashion Plate, Dies at 70" The New York Times 
  4. ^ Curry, Chris September 9, 2009 "Richard Merkin, 1938-2009" The New Yorker Condé Nast Retrieved December 16, 2014 
  5. ^ Haynes, Kevin 1993 "Merkin's World, and Welcome To It" Surface Syracuse University Magazine Retrieved December 16, 2014 
  6. ^ Our and Your RISD » Blog Archive » Richard Merkin, 1938-2009
  7. ^ Boldfaced : The New Yorker
  8. ^ Grimes, William September 13, 2009 "Richard Merkin, 70, Painter, Illustrator and Fashion Plate" New York Times Retrieved September 16, 2009 
  9. ^ "Collections: Richard Merkin" Brooklyn Museum Retrieved December 16, 2014 
  10. ^ "Richard Merkin" Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery Retrieved December 16, 2014 
  11. ^ a b "Richard Merkin" Gallery 444 Gallery 444 2014 Retrieved December 16, 2014 
  12. ^ Updike, John February 20, 1989 "A Case of Melancholia" The New Yorker Condé Nast Retrieved December 16, 2014 
  13. ^ "Better Days Recent Paintings By Richard Merkin" AbeBooks Retrieved December 16, 2014 
  14. ^ "Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure" Biblio Biblio, Inc Retrieved December 16, 2014 
  15. ^ a b c d e f "Richard Merkin, American" Ro Gallery Retrieved December 16, 2014 
  16. ^ "1967 Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Painting December 13, 1967 - February 4, 1968" Internet Archive Whitney Museum of American Art Retrieved December 16, 2014 
  17. ^ ""Early Halloween", Merkin Exhibition Opening Tuesday" Boca Raton News January 15, 1979 Retrieved December 16, 2014 
  18. ^ Rooney, Alison October 27, 2010 "Works by Richard Merkin on Display at Garrison Art Center" Philipstowninfo Retrieved December 16, 2014 
  19. ^ "Big Paper Winter" Woodward Gallery 2010 Archived from the original on December 17, 2014 Retrieved December 16, 2014 

External links

  • "Remembering Richard Merkin" article from the RISD Museum
  • Carrie Haddad Gallery - Biography and images of Merkin's works
  • "Richard Merkin, Painter, Illustrator and Fashion Plate, Dies at 70" an obituary in the NY Times by William Grimes
  • "Richard Merkin, 1938-2009" New Yorker Article written by Chris Curry
  • "Merkin's World, and Welcome To It" from 1993, Surface a Syracuse University Magazine

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