Record Cover Deja Vu

If these albums remind you of Alex Steinweiss, they are not his. The designer, Curt J. Witt, who died on Feb 3, was born in Brooklyn and raised in the Bronx.

“In his childhood he haunted the public library and listened to ‘Sunrise Serenade’ on his radio, becoming enamored of classical music at an early age,” wrote Judy Boyle in the Milford Cabinet (1985). “Inspired by his high school art teacher, he started his career in commercial art as an artist’s helper, then was a cartoonist of the Pepsi and Pete cups. By 19 he was designing book jackets for Doubleday publishers. He lived in Greenwich Village in New York City in the 40s when it was Bohemian.”

 

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I had no idea of Witt’s work until the other day when Paul Morris, a designer, blogger and record enthusiast from Portland. Oregon, wrote to inform me of his passing and shared his own web memorial.

Little has been documented about his life and work, short of Morris’ efforts.  For some time he lived in Greenwich, Conn. with his wife Rosa and their daughters, Monique and Alida. In the early 1950s he formed a company called Design House and designed LP record covers for RCA, Remington, Plymouth, and other budget record companies. His proudest career accomplishment was as the designer of literature and materials for all of the pavilions at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. He found a job with an ad agency in Bedford, NH and moved to Milford. For a while he was the author of “Notebook,” an illustrated column of poetry and philosophy published weekly in the Cabinet. He started his own magazine on humanistic philosophy, Renewal.

His work was of its time—Morris calls him a “journeyman” designer—which meant leaning toward Steinweiss as a mode,l even down to a script reminiscent of the Steinweiss Scrawl. Still, there is a charm to be seen.

 

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