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 Stanley Meltzoff  (1917 - 2006)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: saltwater game fish painting, illustration

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Stanley Meltzoff (1917-2006)

Born in New York, his father Nathan was a cantor at a Manhattan synagogue and instilled in his son a keen appreciation for the arts.  Stanley was educated at CCNY, graduating with a Phi Beta Kappa key and falling into an instructorship at the famed Pratt Institute of Art before the advent of World War II.  During the war, he was a correspondent for Stars and Stripes, honing his illustration skills to formidable proportions alongside such luminaries as Bill Mauldin and Ed Vebel.  In addition to his work on the army newspaper, he created he visuals for Puptent Poets, a small paperback of soldiers' verse that struck a nerve with every serviceman who opened its pages.

Returning to NY after the war, he spent five years alternating between teaching and art, finally gaining the artistic courage to go out on his own.  The 1950s were spent creating dozens of pulp fiction paperback covers for the likes of Agatha Christie and Robert Heinlein (among many others) and rendering iconic imagery for a number of high-profile Madison Avenue advertisers.  Along the way, he painted covers and interior spreads for Life, National Geographic, Saturday Evening Post, The Atlantic, and dozens more.  His record 65 covers for Scientific American was indicative of the good company that repeatedly demanded his work.  In 1975, Meltzoff's art was chosen to grace the cover of AT&T's nationally distributed bicentennial phone book, a scene that instantly became one of the most famous commercial images of all time.  Today his art hangs in the National Gallery (Smithsonian), National Geographic Society, Getty Museum, and many other world-class institutions.

Flush with mid-career success, however, Meltzoff was caught flat-footed by the advent of low-cost color photography and reproduction in the early 1960s.   All of a sudden, classically versed illustrators found their finely honed skills less in demand.  Bowing to the times, he switched gears and began painting saltwater game fish in their undersea environments.  He was the first to do so, initially securing a commission from Sports Illustrated and later ornamenting the entire spectrum of outdoor media.  He painted virtually all the major salt water game species, dismissing fresh water varieties as being too easy to see and thus less interesting to paint.  For decades, Meltzoff's art appeared regularly in virtually every major outdoor publication, including Field and Stream, Gray's Sporting Journal, Outdoor Life, Sporting Classics, Sports Afield, Wildlife Art, and others. Widely celebrated throughout his career, today it is not too much to say that virtually every fish painter of any stature still regards Stanley Meltzoff as not only the father of the genre but still its unchallenged master.  Meltzoff died in 2006 at age 89.  A book on his life and work was published in late 2009, and his art is currently undergoing a well-deserved rediscovery by art institutions and collectors.

New York Times Obituary Retrieved October 23, 2008

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Illustrator Stanley Meltzoff was noted for his paintings of saltwater gamefish, something he began in 1960 when he had a commission from Sports Illustrated.  However, his first diving activity was in 1932, and in 1949, he took up underwater photography.  Of this involvement he said:  "An illustrator by craft, I tried to paint the strange inhabitants illuminated by the light running in the bands and sheets through the dense atmosphere which swallows all colors by blue in a space without ground or horizons. In a painter's terms it was as if the creatures of Hieronymus Bosch were to be seen flying about in the Venetian skies of Tiepolo at dusk.  I am not a painter of fish as such but a fishpainter, trying to be an underwater creature portraying what I see." (Illustration, 2007, p. 3)

Reflected in the above quote is the fact that his interests were wide ranging and embraced Renaissance art and iconocraphy as well as wildlife.

He was a soldier-journalist during World War II and a teacher of painting and art history at City College of New York in the late 1930s, 1940s and 1950s and also a teacher at Pratt Institute. 

His illustration activities were prolific and included conservation stamps and prints for the Isaac Walton League, artwork for the books, Art In Science I and II; and a series of fish paintings for National Geographic and Field and Stream.  His illustrations were published in The Saturday Evening Post, Fortune, Life, Sports Illustrated, The National Geographic, True and Field and Stream.  He created over sixty covers for Scientific American.

From the Society of Animal Artists and the Society of Illustrators, he earned many awards.

Meltzoff was born in New York City on March 27, 1917. He earned a bachelor's degree from Townsend Harris, City College of New York and a master's degree from New York University Institute of Fine Arts.  Meltzoff was also a member of the Art Student's League in New York City.

He began his professional career during War World II when he served in Italy and Africa as an art editor for Stars and Stripes.

In 1999 Stanley Meltzoff was elected into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.

Sources include:
Illustration magazines, Issue Number Four, 2002, and Issue Number Eighteen, 2007

Biography from Jackson Hole Art Auction:
Stanley Meltzoff (1917-2006)

Born in 1917, in New York, Stanley Meltzoff strove to make pictures from the moment he could hold a pen. Meltzoff attended the City College of New York at fifteen, where he studied science, but nightly attended Meyer Schapiro’s art history lectures. Following graduation, Meltzoff worked as a teaching assistant.

With the newly founded art history program at NYU, Meltzoff discovered an outlet to further his artistic education. He received his Master’s degree in art history and studied under Erwin Panofsky, Walter Friedlander and Meyer Schapiro. Throughout his education and continued teaching of science, anatomy, and the like, Meltzoff persisted in drawing and painting on his own.

Meltzoff was then drafted in WWII and sent to North Africa, where fortuitously the Army Newspaper Stars & Stripes began. Meltzoff spent the remainder of the war working as an illustrator and war correspondent. Following the war, Meltzoff taught at the City College of New York and then at Pratt. He spent the subsequent years working as an illustrator for magazines, newspapers, and even book covers. His clients included Saturday Evening Post, Life and National Geographic.

Despite this commercial success, it was not until the 1960’s that Meltzoff found his true and career defining muse. Meltzoff had been traveling to the Jersey shore for the summers throughout his life. It was there beneath the waves that a lifelong hobby of diving and fishing met with his passion for picture making, and led him to create the marine paintings he is most famous for today.

Stanley Meltzoff: Picture Maker,
by Stanley Meltzoff and Mike Rivkin, Forward by Sir Ernst H. Gombrich, Silverfish Press, Korea, 2010.

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