For Love and Honor

In December of 1972, Donald Richie, then film curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, wrote to artist Hollis Frampton and suggested that they organise a retrospective of his work at this most prestigious of museums. To an artist of any standing, this would be a tempting offer; however, Frampton took issue

Dear Friends

On December 14th of 1999, a few weeks after discovering he had colon cancer, cartoonist Charles Schulz wrote the following open letter and announced his retirement from drawing the Peanuts comic strip — a widely adored publishing phenomenon that was read by hundreds of millions of people during its 50 year lifespan. Sadly, just two months after writing the letter, on

Whatever you like doing, do it!

Since joining Pixar 22 years ago, award-winning animator Pete Docter has been influential in bringing some of the studio’s most successful movies to the big screen, including Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., and Up — the last two of which he also directed. In 2009, Martin Kelsey — a teacher at South Valley Middle School in Liberty

I AM the boss

In 1970, three years after co-founding Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner hired 21-year-old Annie Liebovitz as a staff photographer; her work impressed, and in 1973 she was named “Chief Photographer” at the title. Nine years later, by which time the magazine had become widely read — thanks in some small part to Leibovitz’s numerous iconic cover shots — the following exchange

The most beautiful work of all

Punk pioneer Patti Smith and influential photographer Robert Mapplethorpe enjoyed a close, often intense relationship that began in 1967 when 20-year-old Patti moved to New York City. The pair hit it off immediately, and for the next seven years they lived together in Manhattan. In 1989, 22 years after first meeting and by which time

I should like more money

The great Al Hirschfeld had been supplying his much-loved caricatures to the New York Times for 37 years when, in 1962, tipped over the edge by the newspaper’s accounting department, he sent the following amusing letter to the Sunday editor, Lester Markel. His request for a raise was granted. Transcript follows. (Source: The Paper’s Papers: A

I am so lonely I can hardly bear it

American artist Rockwell Kent wrote the following love letter to his wife, Frances, in 1926. It’s a masterclass in romantic writing. Much-needed transcript follows. Image courtesy of the Archives of American Art. Large version here. Image: Archives of American Art Transcript Frances! I am so lonely I can hardly bear it. As one needs happiness

Dearest Andy

Silver Liz – Andy Warhol, 1963 Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor waited 14 years to acquire her own, personal version of the Andy Warhol silk-screens in which she featured; an iconic collection of pieces that were in many ways an extension of Warhol’s infatuation with the star. One can only imagine how much this subsequent letter of

The Factory

The Factory, c.1966 | Image: Tuscene One can only imagine the parties that occurred on the fifth floor at 231 East 47th Street during the 60s, for this was Andy Warhol‘s Factory, the very studio in which his famous silkscreens were created on a daily basis; a veritable hot-spot that welcomed a steady stream of visitors that

Sweetheart come

On February 7th of 1909, a 30-year-old mother of two by the name of Emma Hauck was admitted to the psychiatric hospital of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, having recently been diagnosed with dementia praecox (schizophrenia). The outlook improved briefly and a month later she was discharged, only to be readmitted within weeks as her condition deteriorated

PERSIST

In May of this year, Pixar animator Austin Madison kindly hand-wrote the following open letter to aspiring artists, in a bid to inspire them through times of creative drought. It’s a lovely, eloquent letter, and in fact contains advice valuable to people in many a creative field. It was written as a contribution to the Animator

Keep drawing

This charming letter was written in 2009 by long-serving Viz cartoonist Graham Dury to a young man named Charlie, in response to some cartoons he sent to the comic’s offices. For an aspiring artist and fan of the comic to receive such a positive reply — not to mention the nibs and unwanted Roger Mellie doll — must have been quite something. All in

The Giant Zlig

Early-1976, aged 17 and still in high school, aspiring artist Tim Burton sent both a letter and copy of his illustrated children’s book — The Giant Zlig — to Walt Disney Productions in the hope that they would publish it. Weeks later, he received a very polite rejection letter from an editor named T. Jeanette Kroger

Don’t do it for anyone else

It’s incredible to think that Keith Haring was only alive for 31 years, given the impact of his work. In New York particularly, his public pop-art greeted many thousands of people every day, and internationally he was, and still is, highly regarded. He also left behind a valuable legacy that includes, alongside his artwork, the

The mass audience will never learn

On April 14th, 1960, comedian Steve Allen wrote the following letter to journalist Nat Hentoff, congratulating him on his latest Village Voice column (available to read here) in which Hentoff questioned some unfavourable reviews of Lenny Bruce‘s stand-up act. Bruce, recently a guest of Allen’s on his prime-time talk show, had caused widespread controversy following his

Script-written cartoons are like rap music

Happy new year everyone. To begin 2011, below is a letter from Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi (on letterhead of his now-defunct production company, Spümcø) to a fan, in which he discusses Rocky and Bullwinkle; reveals his love for Roger Ramjet; debates storyboard-written vs script-written cartoons; and then compares the latter to rap music. Transcript follows. Image courtesy of

Fake!

In 1986, having just completed some layouts for a Jonny Quest strip, professional comic book artist Steve Rude decided to fax his work to a personal hero – celebrated cartoonist Alex Toth – in the hope of garnering some productive feedback. Toth’s brutal handwritten response, the reading of which must have been more than a little

Limitations are the greatest assets in producing a work of art

Image: Peter Emslie In 1976, having recently been introduced to – and quickly enchanted by – his work by way of a cover of TV Guide – seen above – aspiring artist Peter Emslie decided to contact acclaimed caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. Unaware of Hirschfeld’s address, Peter sent a letter to the offices of TV Guide along with some of

Art, like love, speaks through and to the heart

During the run-up to a benefit show at Carnegie Hall in January of 1961, civil rights activist Martin Luther King sent the following supportive letter of thanks to Sammy Davis, Jr., as a result of his active role in its preparations. At the time Davis was looking to star in an anticipated – but ultimately

I hear you like Tomato Soup

As product marketing manager for Campbell’s, William MacFarland must have been overjoyed with the incredible public reaction to Andy Warhol‘s first exhibition as a fine artist in 1962, as present at the gallery was his now world-famous Campbell’s Soup Cans piece: 32 silkscreened portraits, each representing a different variety of the company’s soup product, all

Characters are more important than jokes

In the 1980s, intrigued as to the techniques employed when producing one of the world’s most adored comic strips, aspiring artist and Calvin and Hobbes fan Todd Church took a chance and sent an inquisitive letter to the offices of the strip’s Kansas syndicate. A few weeks later – much to his surprise – Todd

Planning Mount Rushmore

In 1927, sculptor Gutzon Borglum began work on what was to become one of the most iconic landmarks in the world: Mount Rushmore. Whilst preparing to start work on the gigantic sculpture, initially intended to feature just the heads of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Borglum wrote the following letter – complete with a very rare prelimanary

What you say should be applied to others rather than to me

In January of 1890, six months before his death, a lengthy review of Vincent van Gogh‘s work appeared in the highly influential French gazette, Mercure de France. The entirely positive article is notable for two reasons, the first being that this was the only such review of the artist’s work to be published during his

Will you please have a brilliant idea?

From the office of author Ian Fleming in 1961, below is a letter requesting the services of artist Richard Chopping, the man responsible for creating the iconic dust jacket illustrations that helped strengthen the James Bond brand. Chopping’s trompe l’oeil paintings – each of which took a month to produce – had already featured on

I am quite sad that you are ill

Today I bring you a vibrantly illustrated ‘Get Well Soon’ note – presumably coloured in such a way so as to cheer up its recipient – sent to renowned French poet Jean Cocteau in 1916 during a short period of bad health. The letter was sent to him by his friend, Pablo Picasso; a man

How to Train an Animator, by Walt Disney

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the following eight-page memo. Written by Walt Disney in December of 1935 to Don Graham — a highly respected art teacher from Chounaird Art Institute tasked with helming art classes for Disney animators — this missive signalled the birth of a structured training program that would subsequently enable

Lennon: ‘Society only likes dead artists’

On September 27th, 1971, a fortnight prior to the opening of an exhibit by Yoko Ono at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, the area’s local newspaper – The Post-Standard – ran an article entitled ‘Art or Hokum?‘, in which an anonymous journalist questioned the museum’s motives when agreeing to the show.

It is my dream and goal to capture TRUTH

In 1988 as his record-breaking Bad World Tour rolled on, Michael Jackson penned a rare note to Bill Pecchi, a camera operator who, due to his recent work on the movie Moonwalker, had been asked to film crowd reactions prior to and during each of the 123 concerts. The letter followed a clearly emotional conversation between the

I will be stopping Calvin and Hobbes

Click here to embiggen Late-1995, ten years after it was first syndicated, Bill Watterson sent the following letter to the thousands of newspapers which carried his widely-adored Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, in doing so announcing the forthcoming end of its run. True to his word, on December 31st of that year the final, 3’160th

Popeye’s favorit tree

Here’s an utterly charming letter from Popeye in which he ponders an apple tree’s life cycle, written and drawn by Bill Zaboly in 1942. Zaboly was one of the artists responsible for the comic strip following Elzie Segar‘s death in 1938 and lovingly produced this piece for a fan by the name of Jennette Winterhalter. Reading the

Advice for an aspiring architect, in 1931

In December of 1931, as the Great Depression took hold, a young man by the name of Richard Crews wrote to a number of prominent architecture firms in the city of Chicago. Soon to enter the profession himself, Crews was curious to learn about an established architect’s typical working day, and so sent letters to

Dear Lucy

From 1971, a powerfully succinct letter from Nancy Spero to Lucy Lippard; two highly influential women whose paths crossed numerous times; Spero as a feminist artist, Lippard as a feminist art critic, historian and curator. Transcript follows. Source Transcript N Y OCT 29 DEAR LUCYTHE ENEMIES OF WOMEN’S LIBERATION IN THE ARTS WILL BE CRUSHED.

Drive safely and don’t abuse alcohol, drugs or candy

When asked by his teacher to write to a contemporary artist as part of a school project in 1997, 13-year-old Green Day fan Austin Kleon immediately opted to contact collage artist Winston Smith – the man responsible for creating the artwork for the band’s 1995 album, Insomniac – and after finding his address via a

This is the second fan letter of my long career

It’s nice to know that someone as supremely gifted as Norman Rockwell (born on this day in 1894) wrote fan letters. Realise too that this particular example wasn’t penned by Rockwell as a child but in 1948 when he was both 54 years of age and already extremely established as an artist. It was written

My life couldn’t fill a penny postcard

In response to a request for ‘biographical information’ by Harper’s Magazine‘s managing editor Russell Lynes, 21-year-old Andy Warhol wrote the following self-deprecating note. It was 1949, Warhol had recently moved to New York following his graduation at Carnegie Tech, and he was already starting to impress as a commercial artist having just illustrated Vega, a

I painted you a letter

Russian-born artist Moses Soyer wrote a number of letters to his teenage sons; nearly all replete with fantastic illustrations as charming as those seen below. This particular work of art was sent to David in the late 1930s while he attended summer camp miles from home, and must’ve been a perfect remedy for homesickness. Similar

Superman looks worse in each picture

At some point in the early 1940s, the following letter of complaint was written – along with numerous others during that period – by DC Comics editor Whitney Ellsworth and sent to Jerry Siegel, the man responsible for co-creating Superman and then signing away the character to DC for pittance. This particular day, Ellsworth was

Your pal, John K.

In 1998, aged just 14, aspiring young cartoonist Amir Avni decided to send a letter to the creator of Ren & Stimpy, John Kricfalusi, along with a few cartoons he’d drawn, some of which contained relatively unknown characters of John’s. An incredibly generous reply soon arrived in the form of the wonderfully supportive, illustrated letter

No wonder Mary Poppins was awful in this regard

Following its release in 1988, the production team responsible for Who Framed Roger Rabbit were instantly applauded by the millions of stunned moviegoers who subsequently saw the film, and rightly so, as even now (an unbelievable 22 years later) the most hardened critic would have difficulty finding fault with the near-seamless interactions between live-action and

I wish I could do a lot more for you

Since the character’s inception in the 1930s, the original creative forces behind Superman – and now their surviving families – have been disagreeing with publishers both behind closed doors and in court. From relatively petty arguments concerning the aesthetics of Superman’s jockstrap through to more pressing matters relating to legal ownership of the Superhero, all

Art is useless because…

In 1890, following the publication of Oscar Wilde‘s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, an intrigued young fan named Bernulf Clegg wrote to the author and asked him to explain a now-famous line included in its preface: “All art is quite useless.” To Clegg’s surprise, Wilde responded with the handwritten letter seen below. Transcript follows. (Source: The Morgan; Image: Oscar Wilde, via.)

The Jim Morrison Triptych

Courtesy of artist Thomas E. Breitenbach comes an intriguing missive from Jim Morrison; legendary frontman of The Doors and owner of stationery so cool it’s a wonder he didn’t send more letters. Breitenbach, a long-time fan of Morrison, had previously written to him and offered to paint an album cover. Below is the singer’s response.

The Sunday Strip

In a move which simultaneously riled newspaper editors and delighted fans, famously strong-minded cartoonist Bill Watterson returned from a nine month sabbatical in 1992 and demanded that the Sunday edition of his comic strip – Calvin and Hobbes – be allotted a full half-page each week by newspapers, or nothing at all. The fear of

I want to buy it

In August of 1982, aged 22, Marvel Comics fan Randy Schueller received the following letter from then editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics itself: James Shooter. The letter, which boasts a stunning letterhead and simply begins ‘I want to buy it’, was sent in response to an idea Randy had submitted to Shooter’s offices; an idea which

Disney, Day 1

On October 16th of 1923, just hours after striking a distribution deal with M. J. Winkler, near-penniless brothers Walt and Roy formed the company we now know as Disney. On the very same day, 21 year old Walt desperately wrote the following persuasive letter to the mother of Virginia Davis, a 5 year old girl

Langlois Bridge

A letter written by Vincent van Gogh to Émile Bernard on March 18th, 1888, a month after leaving Paris for Arles. He begins the letter with a sketch of sailors and their ‘sweethearts’ strolling riverside towards a drawbridge, and goes on to mention his current preoccupation with the scene. In fact, the Langlois Bridge later

Best regards, Kurt

On August 2nd of 1993, Kurt Cobain wrote the following letter to a hero of his: Beat legend William Burroughs. Cobain had been a fan of Burroughs for many years and in 1992 even collaborated with the author on The “Priest” They Called Him; however, to Cobain’s dismay, they still hadn’t met. And so, during preparation for

This is me

Colorado artist Allen Tupper True – at one time consulting artist at the Hoover Dam – wrote and drew the following note to his daughter Jane whilst staying in New York, 1927. The illustration on the hotel letterhead clearly didn’t convey a realistic sense of scale in Allen’s eyes, so he modified the picture for

There is no time to be tactful

For fans of Mad Men it will prove difficult to learn of the story behind ‘Peace, Little Girl‘ – a brutal 60 second television spot which first aired on September 7, 1964 – and not imagine the offices of Sterling Cooper. The ad was conceived by agency Doyle Dane Bernbach on behalf of President Lyndon

Number One Snoopy Place

A couple of days ago, as the axe was barely settling in the head of Charlotte Braun, I was alerted to another letter by Peanuts creator Charles Schulz. He wrote this one back in 1986, in response to an inquisitive letter from a 15 year old boy named Randee. Randee had questioned Schulz regarding what

To all aspiring animators

In 1973, an aspiring young animator named Will Finn wrote a lengthy piece of fan mail to one of his idols, Disney legend Ward Kimball (pictured above), and Kimball responded with the wonderful letter below — an endearingly enthusiastic reply filled with friendly, sage advice. Even 15-year-old Will’s swipe at Hanna Barbera was dealt with expertly

If this letter doesn’t do it – nothing will

In 1962, Marilyn Monroe was shooting what was to be her last movie. Photographers Billy Woodfield and Lawrence Schiller received the assignment to cover the shoot and had obtained Monroe’s confidence, at least enough to allow them to photograph Monroe nude and semi-nude during a swimming pool scene. Playboy Magazine – which was launched with

The Ax

On November 30th, 1954, a character by the name of Charlotte Braun made her debut in the much-loved comic strip, Peanuts. Loud, brash and opinionated, “Good Ol’ Charlotte Braun” quickly annoyed the strip’s readers and on February 1st, 1955 — after just 10 sightings — she appeared in a storyline for the last time. 45

It’s with regret, Mr. Warhol…

As we all sit back in our chairs, bathing in hindsight, the temptation to laugh and cringe at Alfred Barr‘s decision to turn down a piece of art from Andy Warhol is almost overwhelming. But then it wasn’t until the ’60s that Warhol began producing the Pop Art he’s now famous for, and in fact he

UNADULTERATED HOGWASH

Whilst working for Leon Schlesinger Productions in the early 1930s, animators Tex Avery, Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett were highly instrumental in the development of the Looney Tunes cartoons, during what would eventually be known as the ‘Golden Era’ of animation. Fast forward to 1969, and animation historian Michael Barrier interviewed Clampett about that very

Describe The Sky

Over the course of four years in the 1970s, artist G. C. Haymes sent approximately 500 letters to a wide-ranging selection of high profile people as part of a project entitled Skymail. Enclosed alongside the letters were return postcards, upon which the recipients were asked to ‘describe the sky’. Below is the original letter and

They are solid and good people

Grant Wood‘s iconic American Gothic (above) is one of the world’s most recognisable paintings, and as such its subject matter has been the cause of much debate since its unveiling in 1930. Most presume the painting to be satirical and the two characters to be husband and wife, whilst many Iowans were/are furious at being depicted as

I leave it in your capable hands

For their ninth studio album, Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones aimed for the top and asked Andy Warhol to design what would become one of the most popular album covers of all time: a sleeve featuring a shot of Joe Dallesandro‘s crotch, a workable zip, and for the first time the band’s tongue and lips logo as

I ♥ U

Experts believe the following love letter to be approximately 100 years old. If you have some time to kill, I’d suggest attempting to solve the code yourself before looking at the transcript. The idea’s simple: each image represents a piece of text, e.g. ☼day would translate as Sunday. Good luck. Slightly larger photo here. More info

Your girl, Frida

A parting note written by Frida Kahlo on the back of a depository envelope – used by Kahlo to hold jewellery during a stay at hospital – prior to a trip to New York. Her husband (for the second time), Diego Rivera, was painting a mural in San Francisco which now resides at City College.