The Daily Heller: The Machine Art of Rosemary Lewandowski-Lois

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I mourn the passing of a cherished friend, Rosemary Lewandowski-Lois, who died on Sept. 20. She was 92 years old.

Married to George Lois for 72 years, it was a whirlwind love affair that began on the first day of their first year at Pratt Institute. They eloped after their second year, and a short while later George was drafted and sent to fight in the Korean War. Rosemary took a job as an advertising designer for Reba Sochis, then worked as art director for Fairchild Publications, and later, promotion art director for Mademoiselle magazine. When George returned from the war, they moved to Greenwich Village, where they lived for 71 years and, together, raised their children, Harry Joe and Luke.

I wrote this in 2017 after admiring Rosemary’s paintings that revealed her sublime fascination with machines. I wrote the story below, meanwhile, following the publication of a brief monograph.

I reprise the latter as a tribute to Rosie’s long and beautiful life.

George and Rosemary, 1949.

George Lois’ latest book, Lewandowski-Lois Paints Machines, is a heartwarming account and visionary overview of the life and work of his partner in love and art, Rosemary Lewandowski-Lois.

This project is close to George’s heart, and it will be a feast for your mind’s eye. Prepare to enjoy the true story of a beloved dynamic artist by a beloved dynamic artist—with a “‘soul’ bringing to life the inanimate,” writes George.

The subjects of Rosemary’s portraits do not pose for her. She paints them from memory, because she “knows” them so intimately, prompting the painter Raphael Soyer to say that her portraits “tell too much.”

After her first show in 1967, the critic John Canaday wrote in The New York Times, “Her paintings leave you wondering why [Fernand] Léger bothered to simplify machines as he did. … Léger’s simplification even begins to seem more like emasculation.”

The renowned photographer Irving Penn wrote, “Her images are magical … each painting goes far beyond what the camera can do.”

Volkswagens, 1961–1965. Oil on canvas.
Precious Wagons, 1967. Oil on canvas.
Ford V-8 Engine: Pistons, Crankshaft and Camshaft, 1962. Oil on canvas.
National Cash Register, 1978. Oil on canvas.
Dental X-Ray Machine, 1968. Oil on canvas.