Stanley Meltzoff

Armand Cabrera

Stanley Meltzoff was born in Harlem in New York City in 1917; At eight years old he enrolled in a cartoon mail order school. He was allowed to go through school at his own pace an was enrolled in college by the age of 15. He attended City College of New York graduating with a science degree. HE then attended the Institute Fine Arts at New York University. Meltzoff was drafted into the army and was in Italy WW II 1941-45. He worked for the Stars and Stripes, an independent newspaper published for the troops.

After the war Meltzoff taught painting and art history first at New York City College then at the Pratt Institute. In 1949 Meltzoff took the plunge and became a fulltime illustrator. Hi first assignments were for Scientific American, but he would go on to work for just about every major publisher of the time including the Saturday Evening Post, Life, Sports Illustrated, Field & Stream, Atlantic, Colliers, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, National Geographic and New American Library for pocket book covers.

At a time when most artists were emulating a flat poster like graphic style with as few elements as possible. Meltzoff worked in oils creating complex scenes filled with people and things all fully rendered with a loose realism that set him apart from the crowd.

His successful career as an illustrator came to an end with the demise of the major magazines. Slowly photography replaced illustration in what was left of the market and at almost sixty Meltzoff struggled to make ends meet.

His second career was born out of this struggle and he turned to his love of diving and fishing and began painting the fish he hunted in their natural habitats. His work was unique at the time for showing fish underwater in their natural settings. His training as an illustrator gave him the tools and skills he needed to paint these pictures convincingly, using his visual memory of his dives, photography and specimens brought into his studio to be used to paint from life.
Collectors and sportsmen responded to his honest depictions and Meltzoff successfully created a new career for himself. That career was still going strong at the time of his death and he was considered one of the premier painters of fish in their habitats in the world. While working on the book of his life and work, Stanley Meltzoff passed away in 2006, he was 89. There is a website dedicated to his work which sells prints and originals and you can also purchase a copy of his book.
Stanley Meltzoff Picture Maker
Stanley Meltzoff, Mike Rivkin
 Silverfish Press 2010


Visual Equivalence is not transcription but translation. You cannot make a copy of the real world in a picture or a photograph, but only mimic some of its visible qualities and the feelings it provokes.~Stanley Meltzoff

All images and copyright belong to Stanley Meltzoff estate

10 thoughts on “Stanley Meltzoff

  1. That it amazing, how he had to revamp his entire career at 60. But wow. Just …wow. Thanks for this profile, I'd never heard of Stanley Meltzoff before, but I'm sure I've seen his work.

  2. thanks for this great post, always inspiring to see a new name and see how impactful their work was.
    Are you aware if he worked from observation as well to enhance his illustration ability? I will look into his site as well thanks again.

  3. Delton,

    Meltzoff worked using reference and live models. There sre pictures in his book where he brought in big Marlin and suspend them from wires. As Meltzoff said the camera doesn't convey form so he would work from life when he could.

  4. Kessie,

    A lesson for us all; styles and media change, what guts he had to reinvent himself and carry on when most people would expect to just coast from there on out. A great painter that deserves more recognition.

  5. Great Post Armand. One of the greats of that era. You shed light on this great artist I never knew… even the "great ones" struggle!

  6. As a former illustrator myself, I was always amazed by the work of Stanley Meltzoff. It's his latter work that I was familiar with. I remember seeing a photo of him I will never forget. He was underwater with tank, mask and wetsuit standing at his easel, palette in hand, working on a painting of deep water life. It was a grest spoof. According to the letters the magazine received concerning that photo, many people believed that's how he actually did this underwater paintings.
    Enjoy your blogs Armand. Thank you for your postings. They are appreciated.

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