The Glaser Nobody Knows: A Pair of Milton’s ‘Esquire’ Covers Inspired By Félix Vallotton

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The Glaser Nobody Knows is a column featuring work by Milton Glaser that you may never have seen before. There are countless projects by the master, both produced and unpublished, that are unfamiliar even to design aficionados. All of the items in this column are part of The Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives at the School of Visual Arts, the chief repository of his legendary work.

Milton Glaser cited Félix Vallotton, an artist who did more with less, as one of his most important influences. Glaser drew upon Vallotton’s Japanese woodcut-influenced style to great expressive effect throughout his career. He wrote about Vallotton in Art is Work:

“Vallotton’s reductive woodcuts, in sharp black and white, contain an enormous amount of compressed visual and psychological energy. His use of limited means to suggest a narrative is unexcelled. In the arts, one has many mentors, including those one has never met. Thanks, Félix.”

Early in his career, Glaser created a cover and spot illustrations for two separate issues of Esquire, all of which share a debt to Vallotton. In August 1959, Glaser produced a full-page illustration and spot illustrations for an excerpt from François Mauriac’s “A Question of Precedence.”

In October, Glaser’s man in shadow graced the cover, his colorful wisps of cigarette smoke nearly taking on human forms.

In 1958, Henry Wolf, Glaser’s friend and later co-teacher at SVA, left the art directorship at Esquire to assume the same post at Harper’s Bazaar, taking over from Alexey Brodovitch. Robert Benton then came in as the new Esquire art director, maintaining Wolf’s witty and elegant design sensibility.

Beth Kleber is the founding archivist of the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives and the School of Visual Arts Archives in New York City. Kleber also curated the exhibition Primary Sources: Documenting SVA and the New York Art World 1966–1985.” She lectures on design history and research, and assists students and researchers with inquiries on everything from Push Pin Studios to the activities of the renowned artists who have taught at SVA. Kleber has also worked in trade publishing and began her librarian and archivist career at New York Public Library. For more from the Glaser/SVA Archives, head to Instagram.