If Bernie Fuchs’ Walls Could Talk

Talented artist and former Westport Historical Society education director Elizabeth Petrie-DeVoll is connected to famed illustrator Bernie Fuchs historically and emotionally. She writes:

Bernie and I both attended Washington University in St. Louis.

When I was there I met a talented painter, Mark Green, who idolized Bernie. For 4 years Mark educated our entire class about Bernie’s work. He talked about him so much, we nicknamed Mark “Bernie.”

When I moved to Westport in 1994, Mark was thrilled to tell me that Bernie lived
nearby.

Mark is head art teacher at the Hackley School in Tarrytown. He contacted Bernie, and invited him to talk to his students. Bernie agreed. I was drafted to be his chaperone.

I drove him to the school, took him to lunch, and carried his canvases. He could not have been more humble or patient.

Bernie brought famous paintings and sketches. He spoke to an intimate and fascinated group of kids. They were spellbound.

Bernie Fuchs talking with students.

Back in Westport, Bernie invited us into his home on Tanglewood Lane, off Stony Brook. Over cocktails, he showed us his studio and his work. He explained his process and shared his secrets. He could not have been more gracious or kind.

There was a walled-in pool area surrounded by statues, which Bernie had collected all over the world. It was a sanctuary,  where he and many of his famous Westport artists friends gathered frequently. If walls could talk!

Bernie Fuchs’ “sanctuary.”

Once in a while after Bernie died in 2009, I’d drive by his home. I’d look at the big beautiful windows that led to his studio, and think how lucky I was to have known him a bit.

The other day, I saw a “Demolition” sign pinned to the stripped door. I thought how few people know what a talented, kind man lived and worked there.

Bernie Fuchs’ studio.

There’s no sign, no plaque. Just the notice to demolish.

I was hoping to find something — anything — to give to Mark, to commemorate Bernie.

An old paintbrush would be awesome. But the house is totally stripped.

Another McMansion will soon be built there, I’m sure. An amazing art studio will be gone.

And so will another part of Westport history.

(To learn more about Bernie Fuchs — the youngest person ever elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame — click here. To see his artwork, click here. For an interview with the artist about his work, click below.)

10 responses to “If Bernie Fuchs’ Walls Could Talk

  1. Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

    So sad… The days when Westport was full of creative talent like Mr Fuchs have disappeared. Now my beloved hometown seems to be full of ‘look at how big mine is’ bankers and hedgies… how boring it must be.

  2. I only use it to check my emails or to look things up. No banking. M

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    >

  3. Linda Pomerantz Novis

    Such a heartfelt,sad post of a truly talented man.
    (My parents were close friends of the Fuchs and Jack & Barbara Clark from Patterson Club golfing days, back in the 1960’s. many good memories)

  4. My Mom was good friends with Bernie. I agree with Bruce F. said… to watch from afar what Westport is becoming. Everytime I see the Teardown of the Day it makes me sad. I wish I had enough money to save this historic home. Too bad whoever bought it either doesn’t realize the significance, or doesn’t care to preserve just one more small part of what makes Westport so special!

  5. David J. Loffredo

    Buyer Beware – all these new McMansions will rot on the vine someday and their first owners will take the hit. Check out 1 Michelle Lane – built in 2005 and sold back then for $2.995M. Perfectly good 9236 sq ft mansion for the time, but like all of us perhaps showing its age a decade later when it changed hands Monday for $2.075M. Add in realtor fees and transaction taxes and there’s $1M lost.

    Buckle up….

  6. Timothy Hall Woodruff

    The distressing legacy of Westport Teardowns continues daily… The latest victim is in our old Stony Brook / Tanglewood Lane neighborhood but that is not what gets me typing today…

    Remembering the beautiful art and unique gifts shared by Bernie Fuchs is the genesis of this “comment.” I went to first grade through middle school with Bernie’s son Derek [and “little sister Elise”] and enjoyed great times in that swimming pool, introduced to Tudor Electric Football in the very elegant house. It was more common for us to interact with Derek’s very pretty Mom who drove a distinctive Jaguar and seemed years younger than all other Mothers. When we chatted with Derek’s artist Dad, he always seemed ready for a tennis court or ski slope according to season. He was a very private but totally cool guy. Sometime in our Kings Highway Elementary years, a teacher had shared Mr. Fuch’s renderings of the late President Kennedy. His style was distinct. Memorable.

    Years later when I got into the golf business, some Taylor Made promotional displays impressed me as very beautiful while striking a strong chord of artistic memory. In a pre-internet world, I discovered they were done by Bernie Fuchs. Further exploration of his larger body of work reveal just classic mid-century advertising art but so much more; multiple magazine profile art, spectacular sporting art and so much more. This gentleman was an amazing talent and I am envious of those students who had a chance to meet him, listen and discover his “secrets.”

    It’s a shame that his studio windows will meet the bulldozer and a beautiful house and pool complex will be folded over for something “new and better.” The Art of Bernie Fuchs, not bigger and better, just beautiful, ironically, might just be displayed in the new home. Or probably not.

  7. David Apatoff

    Bernie’s house was a magic place, where one generation of illustrator after another worked far into the night during the golden years of American illustration. Before Bernie lived there, Suren and Arpi Ermoyan, the power couple of illustration, called it home (he was an art director, she was an illustrator, model, and ultimately the author of a great art book about the Hall of Fame illustrators.) . Before them, the famous illustrator R.G. Harris lived there. He’s the one who first built the studio with the big windows. But Fuchs was by far the greatest of them all, and he produced beautiful and important work there for decades. A large coffee table art book of Bernie’s work will be out next month. A nationwide television show about his work is appearing in Japan later this year. If the town of Westport had a lick of sense, that house would have a bronze plaque on its door today. Nobody who builds a new house on that space will contribute anything to the special character of Westport, or to the art world, like what Bernie Fuchs did. He was the last rock star of American illustration.

  8. Margaret Hart Rynshall

    I idolized Bernie Fuchs and his style of painting when I was a fine art student in college and still do to this day. I wish I had met him and am saddened to hear this might happen to the his home where so much amazing creativity took place.

  9. There was a deeply moving portrait of JFK. It hung, for as long as I can remember, on the wall in the bar area at Chez Pierre. Does anyone know what became of it?

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