Jerome Snyder

Recognition

1976 AIGA Medal

Born

1916, New York, New York

Deceased

1976, New York, New York

Ed. note: Originally published October 12, 1976 in honor of Jerome Snyder on the occasion of The AIGA Medal, this essay was republished in the Journal of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, #29 (1976/1977). 

Recognized for his unrelenting demand for excellence as an eloquent writer, designer, and illustrator

The reverse side of Jerome Snyder’s stationery, a “table of contents” of sorts, is an instance where his natural sense of humor overcame his usual modesty. Jerome Snyder possessed an intellect and appetite for knowledge, which hungered for full nourishment. It was provided through the extraordinary scope of his many interests. This he pursued with determination and energy. His interest was not the perfunctory dalliance of the dilettante. He brought profundity, scholarship, and great good humor to all his concerns.

Not in evidence on the “Curriculum Vitae” of his stationery is the fact that for a period of approximately 10 years, beginning in the mid-’50s, Jerome Snyder was the head art director of two important publications. He was the first art director of the magazine Sports Illustrated and later, in the ’60s was retained as art director of the distinguished publication Scientific American.

He made major contribution to Sports Illustrated by introducing contemporary illustration and illustrators to editorial subject matter where previously it had been the more or less exclusive domain of the photographer. Scientific American, on the other hand, was a publication of a quite different order demanding deep understanding and erudition for the visual interpretation of its lofty editorial content, Jerome Snyder was well equipped for the job.

Although the visual and graphic aspects of Jerome’s many interests were given highest priority, his devotion to the literary and to the written word occupied a good deal of attention and time. His reviews and critiques of the work of other artists and designers appeared with some regularity in Graphis and CA magazines.

Jerome Snyder and artist designer Milton Glaser shared a strong mutual interest in food quality and its proper preparation (as well as its consumption). They created at “gourmet/literary” partnership and close collaboration. Their purpose was to uncover and reveal to the public the locations of rather obscure, reasonable priced restaurants in the New York City area which served good, well-prepared, innovative food. Under the appropriate heading of “The Underground Gourmet,” a book and a series of weekly magazine reviews and critiques appeared, created by and carrying the Snyder-Glaser byline. Delightfully and informatively written, their reports represent a useful service to New Yorkers.

Although Jerome was well known as a food writer and restaurant critic first and foremost, he was an innovative artist of uncommonly high order.

His achievements both in art and writing were accomplished without benefit of the formal training served up in art schools. Surprisingly, he was fully self-taught and self-made in all his pursuits. His extraordinary knowledge and his literary abilities became inexorably intertwined and inseparable from his art. Because of this unique combination of skills, many clients faced with solutions to complex subject matter that called for superior intellect in illustrative interpretation sought his services. He had the rare gift of distilling abstract concepts down to intelligent clarity.

Wit, wisdom, breadth and scope are the ingredients found throughout the body of his work. His artistry mirrored his personality as art invariably mirrors the artist. The multi-faceted skills and intelligence of Jerome Snyder are amply reflected in his whimsical, painstakingly careful paintings and drawings.

One sees in an earlier period of his work, drawings of rather abstract shapes and forms where the influence of Miro is visible. Invariably, they delineated humorous and decorative objects, figures, or both. Upon a closer look one notes larger forms are composed of a myriad mosaic of countless multi-colored smaller forms that are further made up of gemlike, multi-colored forms within multi-colored forms—a Snyder pointillism of sorts.

A delightfully squat shape is revealed as a figure with a face somewhat flesh-colored. But upon closer observation the skin tones turn out to be composed of triangular or square or rectangular shapes made up of bits of pink, yellow, red, probably green, purple and blue.

Jerome has invented a ruddy-faced (not quite cartoon-y) man. The sheer staggering effort of it all!

One notes that Jerome Snyder has not suffered the “flattery” of imitation very much. His work is simply too difficult a process to replicate.

Another side of Snyder is his delicate and extraordinary meticulous line drawings. The absence of color provided him with the opportunity to demonstrate his control of line, his studied draftsmanship, and his thoughtfulness of interpretation as well as a surprising ability for caricature.

A third aspect of Snyder’s art is a rather more recent development. A new mood evolves. Refreshing, naturalistic paintings of nature’s bounty: fruit, fish, flowers, crustaceans—a sudden beautiful realism executed with a sure lightness of touch, in color and rendition. A demonstration of enormous technical facility combined with a poetic reality.

In short, Jerome Snyder leaves a legacy of the picture and word in vibrant unity… of the seminal artist, writer, teacher, whose perceptions were at once intellectual and aesthetic. His art, in line and language, exudes clarity and wit. He moved his art from visually brilliant fantasies to neo-realistic nature studies—without dropping his 4H pencil. He accepted his talents, he minded his resources, and he used them both for lasting performance.


Timeline:

1916 Born in New York City

1940 Winner of national competition for design of mural, Main Post Office, San Francisco, California

1941 Winner of national competition for design of mural, Social Security Building, Washington, D.C.

1942 Served in U.S. Army—rank of captain, infantry

1954 First art director of Sports Illustrated

1962 Art director of Scientific American; member of the Art Directors Club of New York and AIGA; awards from Art Directors Clubs of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, AIGA Best Books, Society of Publication Designers, Society of Illustrators, Society of Typographic Arts; taught at Cooper Union, The American University at Biarritz, Pratt Institute, Parsons School of Design, Yale School of Fine Arts; contributing editor of Graphics, CA, IDEA, New York Magazine, U&lc

1976 Dies at age 60 in New York City


Sources:

“Jerome Snyder,” ADC Global Awards & Club, accessed April 13, 2018, http://adcglobal.org/hall-of-fame/jerome-snyder/

Thomas Jr., Robert McG. “Jerome Snyder, 60, Co-Author Of Underground Gourmet, Dies.” New York Times, May 4, 1976. http://www.nytimes.com/1976/05/04/archives/jerome-snyder-60-coauthor-of-underground-gourmet-dies.html


This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.