Vintage Heller: You Must Know Michael Mathias Prechtl

Posted inThe Daily Heller
Thumbnail for Vintage Heller: You Must Know Michael Mathias Prechtl

Editor’s Note: Over the years, Steven Heller has written thousands of installments of his blog, The Daily Heller. With Vintage Heller, we’re exploring entries from the archives. This post first appeared in April 2016.

Michael Mathias Prechtl (1926–2003) was one of the most original illustrators to publish regularly on The New York Times Op-Ed Page during the late 1960s and ’70s. Discovered by JC Suares (who gave me my first job), he was the Albrecht Durer of his time. Known for his portraits of politicians, artists and public figures (from Richard Nixon to Idi Amin, Golda Meir to Charles Manson, Anton Chekhov to Buffalo Bill), his fine line was disrupted by the frequent inclusion of fingerprints and other graphic devices. He had a remarkable sense of wit and absurdity. His artistic patience was sublime. In addition, he frequently illustrated books for the Gutenberg Buchergilde as well as his own monographs of paintings, drawings and sketches.


I never met Prechtl. But I admit that one of the reasons I was so happy to be employed as Op-Ed art director from 1973–1975 was to personally work with or at least be able to use some of his art (sadly, I had only two opportunities).

The other day I received word from Wolfgang Dersch, head of the cultural department of the city of Amberg, Bavaria, that “soon we will open a brand-new Michael Mathias Prechtl exhibition here in Amberg, his native city. It will be an outstanding presentation of his unique artwork. It took us a long time to ensure his artistic heritage. But now, together with the Bavarian government, we have a very representative show.”

An active group in Germany recently founded the Friends of MMP, dedicated to establishing a Prechtl museum in Amberg. [Editor's Note: For the latest, click here.]