Sunday Mailbag: Visiting Museums?

December 24th, 2017 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: How often do you get to a museum or gallery, if at all, for inspiration or simply to reacquaint with the Old Masters? Do you try to go when overseas, or another American city, when doing your workshops? Who among the “greats” have influenced you — from Rembrandt to Rockwell..?

A: My wife The Lovely Anna is the fine art connoisseur, but I also enjoy visiting art museums when we travel. When is comes to “being inspired” by the works of the Old Masters I guess I am inspired only in the way that anyone is when looking at incredible pieces of art. I am awestruck at the beauty of the work and skill of the artists, but very little about it is something I incorporate into the kind of work I do.

As far as the work I like to look at, I am actually more fascinated with the history of the artist and the stories behind the pieces than I am with the art itself. I read the placards and/or listen to the audio tours. Modern art leaves me cold, I would rather spend time looking at work that depicts the real world and captures moments in time… in other words the “illustrators” of that period. I particularly like artists whose work is very lush with light and form, with exceptional figure and portrait work. Some of my favorites are the old standbys like Michelangelo, da Vinci, Titian, Caravaggio, Rubens and Rembrandt. They are common answers to the question “who are some of your favorite historical artists?” because their work was truly transcendental. I also really like the work of Jacques-Louis David, whose “Coronation of Napoleon” kept me mesmerized for over an hour when I saw it in the Louvre when we visited in 2006. In fact on that visit to the Louvre I bought a sketchbook and did a few studies:

I can appreciate the work of more adventurous artists and schools of art, like the Impressionists, Picasso, Matisse and such, but I always go back to artists like Courbet, Vermeer, or Degas, who’s main focus was more illustrative and representational of moments in time.

Closer to modern day I really like the work of Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth, John Singer Sargent, J.C. Leyendecker, Edward Hopper, etc. You’ll notice most of those names are ones many fine art snobs would classify as “illustrators” as opposed to fine artists. Whatever. I like narrative in the art I look at, and I appreciate technical skill and mastery of form and figure.

How much all this this has influenced me as an artist is negligible. This work is way past my pay grade. The only artists named above that directly influenced my work was probably Rockwell, as his exaggerated use of posture and expression is something I try and incorporate into my illustrations. Everyone else I just admire and wish I could paint like that.

Thanks to Joel Kweskin for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


  1. Soph and I took the in-laws to the Michelangelo exhibition at The Met yesterday (then popped into the Breuer for the Munch exhibition!)

    So talented…


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