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 Gilbert Leonard Stone  (1940 - 1984)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: illustrator-mod imagery

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Gilbert Leonard Stone
An example of work by Gilbert Leonard Stone
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from a biography of the artist by Joel Weishaus, who published it on

Gilbert Leonard Stone was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 9, 1940. He was raised in an apartment house at 701 Empire Boulevard. In 1954 he entered the High School of Art and Design. Upon graduation, he attended the Parsons School of Design on a scholarship, furthering his education at New York University, graduating with honors.

What I remember most vividly about Gilbert during his teenage years is that he always knew he'd be an artist, and worked diligently at preparing himself. While I and our friends were downstairs playing ball, Gilbert would be home painting--his room suffused with the smell of turpentine--, along with copying Old Master drawings. But the physical was always also important to him, and he was known in the neighborhood more for his accomplishments as a weight lifter than an artist.

In 1965, he was awarded the distinguished Prix de Rome for painting, which was renewed in 1966, affording him a two-year residency in Rome, and a studio at the American Academy in Rome. When the fellowship was fulfilled, he and his family returned to Brooklyn, living at 572 First Street.

During the next years, Stone's work was exhibited around the world, and was purchased for many public and private collections, including the Joseph H. Hirshhorn collection at the Smithsonian Institution, and the Brooklyn Museum.

His work as a media artist appeared in publications such as Esquire, The London Times, Sports Illustrated, New York Magazine, and Playboy, National Geographic and Art Voices, also as album covers and books, for which he received three Gold Medals from the Society of Illustrators, three Art Directors Awards and the Chicago Art Directors Club.

"He made an illustration career out of presenting a unique, sidewise compressed vision of the world. The optical illusion conferred itself to the picture content as well, adding an element of mystery and forcing the viewer to interpret its meaning. The effect was intriguing and very successful in attracting the attention of the reader." (Walt and Roger Reed, The Illustrator in America 1880-1980.)

After teaching for many years at The School for Visual Arts, becoming a legend among his students, Stone, his artist wife Carol, and their two children, moved to property in Patterson, NY, where he converted an old barn into a studio.

In late 1974, I phoned Gilbert from San Francisco and spoke with his wife. (I had been on the East Coast the year before, and had visited them in Patterson, NY). Carol informed me that "Gilbert has a patron, and he's hard at work on a series of paintings." We lost touch after that. It was many years later, while I was living in New Mexico, that I realized I hadn't seen Gilbert's work anywhere for a long time. Upon inquiring, I was shocked to learn that, in 1984, he had died from AIDS, and that Carol was suffering from Muscular Dystrophy, which would eventually take her life.

Gilbert lost his father at a young age. In addition, a friend of ours, Selwyn Cohen, a would-be painter and musician--many of our friends were artists, poets, or musicians--died at age 20 from a overdose of heroin, the same drug that would be instrumental in Gilbert's death. These two loses, I suspect, pushed him to overachieve, while raising a family tilted his career toward commercial work. He became one of the best illustrators in the world, which also wounded his soul. Although he was having shows around the world, and was in major collections, he received no serious recognition from New York art critics, as he was seen only as an illustrator.

By the late 1970s, Gilbert was beginning to move away from illustration. In an interview in Graphis (1981/1982), he said, "I dropped out of illustration because I felt I was repeating myself. People say, 'You're making lots of money. Milk a good thing.' I couldn't accept that. I had to move to more challenging, more frightening areas of visual exploration." Two years later he was dead. Was it too late? Could he no longer face a blank canvas without a contract? Did this, along with watching his wife's body waste away, turn him to abusing drugs? And to make him say, "I got one up on the devil."

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