Wednesday, June 06, 2012


To finish my (rather extended) week of Gruger, here is one more original with a slightly different approach.

In this ambitious composition of an ancient bacchanal, Gruger uses a thicker line for a bolder, more blocky effect:

Gruger put aside his sharpened pencils and sensitive line when he drew this arm.

Despite its flatter, simpler look, this approach required all of the subtlety, sophistication and knowledge of Gruger's drawings from the previous week.


Blogger Mellie said...

Thanks so much for posting these - I love working in carbon pencil and Gruger sets a high standard.

6/06/2012 3:02 PM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

I love this kind of drawing. Thank you for this series.

6/07/2012 8:57 AM  
Anonymous Norm said...

It just occured to me today...Iain McCaig could be the heir to Gruger's throne. He has a similar sensibility, talent level and a lot of his best stuff is done with just a pencil.

6/07/2012 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Urban Explorer said...

As Mellie said, thanks for these. This kind of art, as with any art that doesn't come with a pre-approved stamp of authority from a major art critic, is too often overlooked.

6/08/2012 4:05 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Mellie, Antonio Araujo, Urban Explorer-- I'm so glad you respond to these drawings the way that I did. Gruger has literally thousands of such drawings buried in old magazines whose reproduction technology never did him justice the first time around. An artist who does this kind of work deserves to have it seen in a form that is more true to the originals.

Norm-- I really like Ian McCaig's work, and understand what you mean about a similar sensibility. McCaig, like Peter de Seve and Carter Goodrich, knows how to wield a pencil and yet today we often experience their finished product in large, high resolution form. Gruger never had that luxury.

6/09/2012 7:11 AM  
Anonymous Anthony Zierhut said...

Thanks for posting Mr Gruger's work, David. I love it. This is one of the many amazing things about your blog: getting to know an artist I was completely unaware of, even after years of what I thought was a good understanding of early twentieth century illustration.

There are so many things I love about this man's work. Firstly, he draftsmanship is absolutely solid, his figures are lifelike, believable and yet don't look as if he were slavishly copying a model (like Flagg or, to a lesser extent Gibson). The source of light in every picture is always absolutely clear, never muddy. The looseness of his line is perfect: tight where he wants you to look and loose where he wants you to pass. The simplicity of his technique reminds me of Franklin Booth - who thought steel engravings were pen drawings and so developed his amazing technique - but in Gruger's case, making use of the cheapest cardboard he found lying around and making it work: there's a DIY attitude in both of those guys that's really inspiring to me. Also the minimalist use of watercolor gray washes under the Wolf pencil - such a deceptively brilliant way to tie the values of a drawing together simply and clearly. He never falls under the spell of the wash, but makes it subservient to the pencil in every case. And that photo of him at work in your first post, sitting in a bullpen in front of the drawing board by a well lit window, a crazy disarray of papers on his taboret, and dressed in a tuxedo (?!) with a smock over it. Hilarious, amazing, another era.

I want to find as many samples of his work as possible. Is there a book somewhere?

6/09/2012 7:44 PM  
Anonymous AJA said...

The variety of hands and faces is amazing. Gruger really knows how weight relates to body posture. Even some great artists often don't show the weight of objects.

6/10/2012 9:30 PM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

Crazy, this could be a double-pager from MAD.

Was hoping to see the art for a Gruen Watch ad!

6/12/2012 2:10 AM  
Blogger The Sanity Inspector said...


Please forgive the personal message in a comment thread, feel free to delete after reading. Would you be able to shed any light on who the artist of these pictures might be? No artist was credited in the book, that I could see. This is one post in a set, links in the sidebar. Thanks!

6/12/2012 5:32 PM  
Blogger samacleod said...

So glad I found your blog, this post is amazing. Glad you exposed me to his work. Very cool. I love working in pencil, and the way you mentioned painting with pencil is awesome. Great pieces. I especially enjoy those robed figure pieces too. Thanks.

6/15/2012 12:34 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Anthony Zierhut-- I am delighted that you have found so much in what Gruger has to offer. In my previous Gruger posts this week, some of the commenters discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the one book that focuses on Gruger. It has a lot of great work, but not with the kind of high res images that I am showing here.

AJA-- agreed!

अर्जुन-- I hadn't thought about it, but this crowded image does have a little of what Will Elder called "chicken fat" in it.

The sanity inspector-- Sorry, I don't recognize the work. Anyone else?

saramcleod-- Thanks very much for sharing. If you love working in pencil, I think you can learn a great deal from Gruger.

6/17/2012 11:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my god ive never heard of this guy! do people even know how to draw this good anymore? i consider myself fairly good but this blows me away. thanks so much for sharing this with us.

6/22/2012 12:47 AM  
Anonymous Nelida Emeri Nelson Lincht said...

your work is really cool

6/29/2012 2:38 PM  
Anonymous Roger Reed said...

There is a book: F. R. Gruger: The Golden Age of Illustration by Bennard Perlman; it came out in the 1970s. It's a well-written history which encompasses many of Gruger's peers (Gruger and Booth were friends and we know they traded originals) but unfortunately the printing is uneven -- again the blacks are often washed-out -- and the reproductions are fairly small. Thanks for posting these detail shots, David.

7/07/2012 10:55 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Roger Reed-- Your gallery Illustration House is the source of a number of these drawings, and your insights on Gruger certainly helped to shape my own thinking about the artist. Thanks, Roger.

7/07/2012 11:31 PM  
Blogger Josh Sheppard said...

Thanks so much to David for this amazing blog! I've been a huge fan of Gruger for years, and was so happy to find a copy of the only book available on him ( mentioned above ) at Stuart Ng's great bookstore. There really needs to be a new book devoted to this unsung master, with this level of detail. And while we're at it, why not my other two obscure favorites, Wallace Morgan and Henry Raleigh? Gruger was friends with Arthur William Brown, and I think it was "Brownie" who showed him how to use photography so well. Brown's work is wonderful, but feels much less artistic next to Gruger's.

7/19/2012 3:28 PM  

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