“Nathan Gluck was a classic cosmopolitan New Yorker,” says
designer Art Chantry. “He was a graphic designer/artist in the old
school traditions and a mentor to dozens associated with the design
and advertising fields.”
Promotional poster for Nathan Gluck's speaking tour, AIGA
Chicago, 1993 (art director: Nancy Denny Essex).
“It's hard for me to separate Nathan, the person, from the
Nathan, the artist—the two were inextricably bound,” says Luis De
Jesus, director of Luis De Jesus Seminal Projects, San Diego, who
was Nathan's best friend and was with him when he died. “Anyone who
knew him personally can see his quirky, yet elegant sense of style,
sharp wit, all-encompassing knowledge, refined appreciation of the
classics and, above all, his oddball sense of humor reflected
throughout his work. This is most apparent in the collages that he
created beginning in 1995, in his retirement period. It is in these
works that Nathan finally found his unique voice, as if everything
that he had ever collected over the years—all of the thoughts and
ideas, competing influences and styles, tidbits of trivia and
nonsense, recipes and scraps of ephemera—could no longer be
contained and compartmentalized and simply exploded in a remarkable
output of creativity. He flattened the field and everything became
equal. It says so much about him as a person and an artist—honest,
warm, down to earth—and a true original.”
Nathan Gluck died at sunset on Saturday, September 27, 2008, in
San Diego, where he had been living since relocating there from New
York City last February. He was 90.
He was born Nathan Joseph Gluck on June 24, 1918, in Perth
Amboy, New Jersey. His mother was Julia Margaretten, a housewife,
then secretary, and member of the Horowitz-Margaretten family,
famous for matzohs and other Passover products. His father was
Morris Gluck, a prominent businessman at a real estate company
owned by his brother-in-law, who lost the business during the Great
(from left): Nathan Gluck (at left) with Andy Warhol in the
early 1950s (photo: Edward Wallowitch); and in 2005, in front of
the building where Warhol shot the movie Sleep (photo: Gerard
He graduated in 1935 from Perth Amboy High School, then attended
Cooper Union (1935–'36) and Pratt Institute (1936–'39), taking
courses in industrial and textiles design, advertising and fine
art. In 1941, he studied at the Arts Students League in New York,
under the modernist Vaclav Vytlacil.
After college Nathan served in Europe and the Pacific during
World War II. It wasn't until his return in 1945 that Nathan began
his career in advertising.
Andy Warhol, “Happy Flower Gathering Days,” promotional folder
for Vanity Fair Lingerie, mid-1950s. Flower stamps created by
Nathan worked for Andy Warhol as his in-house graphic designer,
illustrator and studio assistant when Warhol was still a
“commercial artist.” They met through mutual friends in 1950—both
had been employed in the world of window design that also fueled
Warhol's early reputation—and Nathan began assisting Warhol with
freelance projects. Nathan introduced Warhol to many traditional
design crafts and assisted in the creation of Warhol's distinctive
design work for I. Miller—encouraging Warhol to try his hand at
shoe illustrations, which resulted in a famous series of ads—as
well as for other clients. Together they designed wrapping paper,
posters and promotional pieces.
Nathan became his full-time assistant in 1955. As Warhol evolved
from designer/illustrator to artist—in fact, both men showed their
work at the Loft Gallery during that time—Nathan took charge of the
design studio while Warhol made art at his storied Factory,
beginning in 1962. Eventually, the design studio was dissolved and
Nathan left the Warholian universe in 1965.
“Nathan was too conservative a voice to fit into the Factory
crowd,” explains Chantry. “He felt strongly adverse to active drug
use and didn't want Andy to be associated with 'that crowd.'”
Still, he continued to be friends with Warhol.
Nathan followed a conventional trajectory into the commercial
art-hood of his day. He had a string of freelance assignments
starting with L. Bamberger department store in New Jersey, which
included designing a poster that's now in the Museum of Modern Art
Poster Collection. He worked as art director and illustrator for
the George N. Kahn Agency, New York. He also worked for a brief
period at the Rockmore Company, an advertising agency where Warhol
Nathan Gluck, cover for Fortune magazine, April 1954
In 1953, Nathan designed windows for Gene Moore at Bonwit Teller
and Tiffany. He designed greeting cards for Tiffany, the Museum of
Modern Art, Bergdorf Goodman, Georg Jensen and Nelson Rockefeller,
among others. He designed the April 1954 cover for Fortune
magazine. In 1965, he returned to advertising as art director at
the Peter Mehlich Agency, New York, and directed ads for The
Cattleman, Steak and Brew, and other Longchamps restaurants.
Nathan's design was “classic” in the sense that it was European
in inspiration—he had spent six months in 1952–'53 traveling around
the continent and, in Spain, visited the artists Antoni Tapies and
Joan Miro—yet it was totally functional to the point of near
invisibility. The work he did with Warhol looked like Warhol's—or,
perhaps, Warhol's looked like Nathan's. According to Chantry,
“Nathan's work followed the mode. His best work spoke the language
of the client.”
His small New York apartment was a veritable museum; walls were
completely covered with tribal masks, badly faded doodles by Miro,
early test prints he did with Warhol, a (poorly) framed cover of
the April 1954 Fortune of his design. Chantry recalls, “It
was difficult to converse because you kept getting distracted to
some amazing artifact laying about somewhere. He'd notice your
sight line and then excitedly tell all about the history of some
peculiar object. It was marvelous. One Christmas he sent me a gift
of one of Gene Federico's old neckties; I had no idea what to do
with it, but I never threw it away— it was GENE FEDERICO'S
Nathan Gluck, Seconda Gratinata, collage on paper, 1997.
One day he answered an advertisement that would have him, among
other duties, become the “front desk” person at the small, but busy
AIGA national headquarters, then on Third Avenue. For over 30
years, he answered the phone, replied to mail and handled the
competitions, as competitions coordinator under director Caroline
Hightower. He invented the “lasagna” method of judging work whereby
all submitted pieces were placed on long sheets of layered craft
paper; when one layer was done it was removed, revealing the next
layer. In 1990, he became AIGA's archivist, helping to document and
order the organization's collection of design books and ephemera.
“His was the first voice anyone heard when calling the AIGA,” notes
Chantry. “As a result, he was the guy to give you assistance and
answer questions. He helped everyone and was everybody's pal. He
was a special friend to me because he actually communicated with me
and encouraged me and my work, gave me contacts and suggested paths
I could attempt to travel. He became a great friend.”
Nathan retired in 1995, at the age of 76.
During the past 70 years, Nathan produced hundreds of surreal
collages—some while working at his AIGA desk—combining a wide
assortment of techniques and materials. His earliest collages,
created in the 1930s, pay homage to Max Ernst and Picasso, while
those produced since the early 1990s display the finely honed
sensibility, originality and confidence of an artist completely at
ease with his skills and knowledge. A consummate collector, Nathan
worked matchbook covers, beer labels, sheet music, ticket stubs and
various clippings, from anyone and any place, into his collages,
making unique visual connections.
Collages by Nathan Gluck (from left): Claim at Gate,
collage on paper, 2007; Slibowitz Seranade, collage on
Many were exhibited at the show titled “Ephemeral Musings” at
Reinhold Brown Gallery, New York, in 1997. In 2001, “Nathan Gluck:
Collages,” a solo exhibition, was mounted at The Warhol Museum, in
Pittsburgh. (As one of the last “living links” to Warhol's pre-Pop
studio, Nathan became a consultant who was often called upon by the
Warhol Foundation to help identify and verify work from that
Earlier this year, “Limited Time Offer,” a solo exhibition of 48
collages, was mounted at La Jolla Athenaeum of
Music and Arts Library, Rotunda Gallery, in La Jolla,
California (it remains on view through November 8, 2008).
Nathan may not have influenced designers' styles or methods; he
did not make the kind of inroads that earned him professional
accolades. Nonetheless, he made innumerable art directors,
designers, illustrators and photographers new to—and possibly lost
in—New York feel at home. He was the AIGA docent and the smile on
the institutional face.
Our gratitude and sympathies go to
Luis De Jesus, who also contributed to this article.
What was it like to be an aspiring commercial artist in New York after World War II? Heller finds out from Paul Vjecsner, a Holocaust survivor, and his very detailed website.
Section: Inspiration -
print design, interview, Voice
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Video: Recognizing the 2009–2010 Worldstudio AIGA Scholarship recipients
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