Eugène Mihaesco’s uber intelligence

Eugène Mihaesco’s uber intelligence

Eugène Mihaesco’s art is brutally honest.

He is an intellectual. But he also has a softer side, which one sees in his oil paintings, particularly his landscapes and paintings of flowers, and a lovely bowls of fruit. Or, in the witty and delightful covers for The New Yorker.

When I met Eugène, it was in the Art Department of Time magazine circa 1982 when Rudy Hoglund was at the helm. Eugène produced over 15 covers and innumerable illustrations for Time in the 1980s. (Interesting, there are many Time covers he created that are apropos today).

He also has painted over 3 dozen covers for The New Yorker.

Eugène was kind, and intense, and intelligent, and laser-focused on his art.

Both Time and New Yorker remain among the most coveted illustration jobs to this day.

J.C. Suares wrote a testimonial about Eugène in Print magazine, November, 1973: “Eugène Mihaesco arrived in the U.S. in January 1971 to try his luck for the third time in his career. The first time was in Romania, the second in Switzerland. He came here at age 34, without any working knowledge of English, let alone any money. Today, 200 published drawings later, his influence on magazine and newspaper illustration is unquestioned. Mihaesco’s style in drawing is reminiscent of the work of 19th-century illustrators. Like Grandville, Doré, and Tenniel, he is an absolute master of the pen. He uses it like a third hand, and sometimes his work is so tightly executed that he has a hard time convincing people that he didn’t merely paste together some old steel engravings. Salvador Dali christened Mihaesco a ‘surrrrrrrrrrealist’ and I suppose that suites him fine.”

And John Russell wrote the following in The New York Times, March 13, 1981: “Over the last decade, the drawings of Eugène Mihaesco have operated as a benign virus in the bloodstream of more than one of our most distinguished publications. Not so much ‘an illustrator’ as a conversationalist in pen and ink, he has consistently had something to say that is at once witty, oblique and poignant.”

Steven Heller wrote the following about Eugène in the Summer 1984 issue of Arts Magazine: “Romanian born and a spiritual New Yorker, Mihaesco, best known for his drawings, cartoons and collages in The New York Times, Time magazine, The New Yorker and other major periodicals, is an exponent of his homeland’s innate absurdist sensitivity and Dada sensibility, as well as a proponent of a classical European mode of satirical illustration. Multilingual in the literal and metaphoric senses, he is conversant in the language of Dadaism, Surrealism and Symbolism, applying all to his imaginative lexicon of images and ideas. Mihaesco exemplifies a form called conceptual illustration, whereby the artist is not slave to a text. Rather, by interpreting and transforming the author’s reportage or commentary into personal metaphor and symbol, and by reacting to the essence of an article, a supplementary, thought-provoking image is created, which when successful offers another level of understanding. These are sometimes lyrical and other times acerbic; sometimes they are symbolic distillations and other times narrative continuities. But rarely are they literal in the traditional sense.”

Finally, no one says it better than Eugène himself in ARTnews magazine, March 1981: “I try to plant a stick of dynamite in the very small space between pen and paper. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to call it a time bomb, because the effect is more insidious. I like my pen and ink drawings to have that kind of delayed reaction — to affect people a day or two after they see them, in sudden unexpected ways.”

There is so much more to see and learn about him here

Here below are some of my favorite works of his.

—Traci Churchill, October 31, 2018

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The enduring power of Brad Holland's images

The enduring power of Brad Holland's images