Gerry Gersten: 1927-2017

January 27th, 2017 | Posted in MAD Magazine

MAD lost yet another long-time contributor with the passing of Gerry Gersten at age 89 on January 12th, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. From MAD:

We’re sorry to report that 2017 is picking up where 2016 left off, with the passing of yet another MAD contributor. Gerry Gersten, one of MAD’s most talented caricaturists, passed away over the weekend. With his pencil on vellum technique, Gerry produced many full-page impact pieces of art for MAD, including memorable drawings of Ronald Reagan, Dr. Ruth and Elvis Presley. Our condolences go out to Gerry’s family. We will have more on Gerry’s career in MAD #545.

Gerry was a highly acclaimed caricaturist that for some reason still flew a little under the radar to the general public. His work appeared in hundreds of issues of major publications like The New York Times, New York Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Time, Newsweek, Esquire, Playboy, Rolling Stone and of course MAD. His crosshatch style of drawing, working in pencil on vellum, was looser and more whimsical than contemporary caricaturist David Levine, whom he was often (and unjustly) compared with. Gerry’s work was all his own. The one of Elvis above was one of my favorites he did, although he had some other terrific pieces over the years, particularity of Reagan.

I never met Gerry. He started with MAD in 1986, and his last full article (not counting some spots in the 500th anniversary issue) was in 2001. That was issue #410, and the only one where we both appeared (except that 500th issue). I have to add him to my (sadly long) list of classic MAD artists and writers I never got to meet.


  1. Don Wimmer says:

    In college (1982) I had an independent study in illustration and caricature. My professor was friends with Mr. Gersten and set up a meeting.
    I spent an afternoon with him. I showed some of my work and he was very encouraging.
    He showed me how he worked out likeness and expressions on a pad of thin vellum. He drew quickly and effortlessly. His hand gracefully flowed all around the page and then he’d flip to the next sheet and he’d redraw just as quickly, making subtle changes. He did this for five or six pages. He then went through each stage for me, explaining his thought process. I also got to see quite a few of his originals.

    Remarkable talent and true gentleman.

    Don Wimmer

  2. Tom Stemmle says:

    Thanks, Don for your reply. Gersten was always one of my favorite artists. Esp. loved his ad work. Glad to see you had a personal working experience with him. -Tom Stemmle


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