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 Jean-Claude Suares  (1942 - 2103)

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Lived/Active: New York/New Jersey / Egypt      Known for: cartoon illustration, op-ed art

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Ad Code: 4
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is The New York Times obituary of the artist, August 8, 2013.

Jean-Claude Suares, 71, a Daring Times Op-Ed Artist
By STEVEN HELLER

Jean-Claude Suares, an illustrator who radically altered the way editorial illustration was used at The New York Times as the first art director of its Op-Ed page, died on July 30 in Engelwood, N.J. He was 71.

The cause was a bacterial infection, said his wife, Nina Duran.

For decades The Times refused to hire an editorial cartoonist or have art on the editorial page. But when the Op-Ed page was introduced in 1970, Mr. Suares — with the blessings of the page’s editor, Harrison Salisbury, and The Times’s design director, Louis Silverstein — adopted a daring idea: Rather than restrict artists to illustrating only specific passages of text, give them license to interpret an entire article.

The approach helped guide the paper into a new visual era and influenced other newspapers and magazines.

“It was time for a big change,” he said in a video history commemorating the Op-Ed page’s 40th anniversary. “I wanted the art to be well drawn, and I wanted to create some kind of emotional reaction.”

Mr. Suares spoke several languages, and he used them to recruit “a small posse of artists from around the world,” said Brad Holland, an illustrator whom Mr. Suares helped achieve prominence. Mr. Suares, he said, “gave us an opportunity to redefine what graphic art could be and do.”

The graphic designer Milton Glaser said Mr. Suares “made you feel you were working on something really important when he called you.”

Many of the artists he called were from Soviet bloc countries and fluent in surreal symbolism, which offered thought-provoking concepts instead of editorial cartoon clichés like Uncle Sam and John Q. Public. Captions were rejected. It was a form of visual commentary rarely found in other publications.

The “Op-Ed style,” as it came to be known, was characterized by black and white crosshatching and moody imagery, which some Times editors called lugubrious. Nonetheless, Op-Ed art was celebrated at galleries and museums.

In 1973, Mr. Suares arranged an exhibition of Op-Ed art from The Times at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. He also edited the catalog, The Art of the Times. But the show was his undoing. Because he had failed to obtain permission for the exhibition from his superiors, he was fired, though he continued to provide illustrations for the newspaper for many years.

Mr. Suares was born on March 30, 1942, in Alexandria, Egypt, to a Sephardic father and a German mother. The family later left Egypt for Italy, where Mr. Suares spent some of his teenage years. After moving to New York, he briefly attended Pratt Institute, joined the Army paratroopers and was sent to Vietnam, where a stint on Stars and Stripes, the Army newspaper, left him wanting to pursue graphic design.

His subsequent career was cobbled together from alternative and mainstream publishing ventures. Early on he was art director of underground papers like The New York Free Press and Screw. His early illustrations resembled 19th-century caricatures. He was later a design consultant for Scanlan’s Monthly, a short-lived muckraking magazine; founder and creative director of 7 Days and Poz magazines, and design director of New York Magazine, Columbia College Today and Connoisseur. He also oversaw redesigns for Variety, Publishers Weekly, Broadcasting & Cable and Military History.

Over the last 30 years his comic drawings have appeared in The Times, on the covers of The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly, and in other periodicals and books. He wrote, edited or designed scores of illustrated books. He was also involved in book publishing. Working with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at Doubleday, he designed Michael Jackson’s autobiography, Moonwalk.”With J. Spencer Beck, he wrote Uncommon Grace: Reminiscences and Photographs of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

In 1976, the release of The Illustrated Cat: A Poster Book”by Mr. Suares and Seymour Chwast started a craze for cat-themed books. Mr. Suares produced several more, including Cats in Love, Hollywood Cats, City Cats and Sexy Cats.

“His timing was great,” Mr. Chwast said, “He always knew what was going to be big.”
Beside his wife of 33 years, who is also an artist, Mr. Suares is survived by a sister, Josee Bauman.


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