In Memoriam: Milton Glaser (1929 – 2020)

Image credit: Catalina Kulczar

Milton Glaser, one of the world’s greatest graphic designers and Fulbright Association Lifetime Achievement Awardee, died on June 26th, his 91st birthday.  As the New York Times puts it, Milton “changed the vocabulary of American visual culture,” designing such iconic images as the “I ♥ NY” and a psychedelic poster of Bob Dylan.  The editors of New York Magazine observed that “Milton Glaser’s work is everywhere: in logos in your supermarket, on posters you see from the side walk, and in the identity of New York itself.”

Milton often reflected that his Fulbright grant to Italy—where he studied with the painter Giorgio Morandi in Bologna—changed his life forever, attuning him to artistic traditions and sophisticated aesthetics that powered his own creativity and exceptional career.  The website of the firm he founded in 1974, www.miltonglaser.com, provides a wonderful overview of his life (including a version of “Interminable Length”) and “The Work,” which catalogues many of his campaigns and images.

Milton Glaser on his Fulbright Grant to Italy in 1952 to the Academy of Fine Arts, Bologna, Italy, studying with painter Giorgio Morandi. Image Credit: http://www.miltonglaser.com

You may agree with me that these images reveal an artist of immense reach, a creative genius who tackled each project with new eyes and a fresh palate.  Milton never rested, he never relied on his own iconography, and he never stopped looking for the new in New York, and in the wider world.  His work was bold, striking and memorable because Milton was fearless.

Poster for Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, 1967 – Image Credit: http://www.miltonglaser.com

Milton was also true to the mission of the Fulbright Program, deeply believing in building meaningful friendships wherever he went, and remaining dedicated to teaching successive generations of art students.  His art is known to billions, but his favorite legacy, I will wager, was the love and connection of his friends, colleagues, clients, and students.  He was a mensch.

On a personal note, I am very sad to lose my good friend.  Milton always made time in his busy schedule to sit with me, whether in his studio or at a favorite Italian restaurant nearby.  Our conversations were wide ranging because Milton loved the world and its complexities, injustices and troubled politics.  He viewed that world through very progressive lenses, decidedly, but he was too wise to dismiss anyone’s perspective.  Warm and funny, Milton was a pleasure to know, and I already miss him terribly.

Among many works of art he gave the Fulbright Association is a t-shirt I cherish.  It boldly shouts “ART FOR LIFE.”  Milton Glaser, Fulbrighter and friend, embodied that phrase.  He embraced life with joy.  He connected art to everyday life, making it more precious and beautiful.  We are grateful for his legacy, spirit and creations.

The Fulbright community mourns his loss and shares our condolences with his wife, Shirley.

-John B. Bader, Executive Director

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