The Glaser Nobody Knows: Milton’s Hidden Bob Dylans
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 There are countless projects by the master, both produced and unpublished, that are unfamiliar even to design aficionados.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’s 1996 poster of Bob Dylan, only the third or fourth poster he’d ever produced, became one of his most iconic works and represented peak Push Pin style. But Glaser later produced two more portraits of Dylan, 20 years apart, that sharply diverged from the thin curvilinear lines and flat color of his best-known work.
Glaser’s second Dylan-in-profile was produced on newsprint for Rolling Stone in 1972. Even though Push Pin’s pop-psych style was still very much in demand at that time, this portrait is closer in technique and spirit to his work of the early 1960s and late 1950s—detailed pen-and-ink drawings that drew upon his study of etching with Giorgio Morandi.
In 1991, Glaser depicted Dylan for an unflattering interview in the irreverent Spy magazine. A sketch in our collection features a fully realized portrait in blue with the lyrics to “Gotta Serve Somebody” in Glaser’s handwriting over Dylan’s face.
The disappearing portrait that was ultimately used in the magazine is more critical—Dylan’s eyes are erased, matching interviewer Joe Queenan’s scathing tone.
In Glaser’s biographical note for Spy, he says that this was his first portrait of Dylan since his 1966 poster, but he must have forgotten about the Rolling Stone cover. “It was strange to compete with an image that had become so established in my own oeuvre,” he wrote. “I had to do something completely different.”
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.