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Eric: Portraits and Places

DATES February 10, 1959 through April 19, 1959
COLLECTIONS Contemporary Art
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  • February 10, 1959 A memorial exhibition of drawings by “Eric,” for many years considered the most famous fashion artist in the world , will be open to the public on the Museum’s 2nd floor from February 10 through April 19. The emphasis of this show is to be on the lively work he produced in his spare time away from fashions: portraits, landscapes, genre scenes. Carl Oscar August Erickson (1893-1958) was a prolific and highly talented draftsman, who worked out plans for this exhibition last spring, shortly before his death, with Miss Una Johnson, the Museum’s curator of Prints and Drawings, and Mr. Robert Riley, Curator of Design. The 100 drawings they selected - mostly large in size - range in date from 1913 to 1958.

    “His fluid line is the trademark of chic,” writes Aline Saarinen in the catalog for the show. And in the exhibition will be found portrait drawings of noted figures in many fields, such as Frank Crowninshield, Prince René de Bourbon, Mlle. Gabrielle Chanel, Eve Gautier, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra singing “Old Black Magic,” Balanchine, the Baroness Eugénie de Rothschild, Alfred Lunt at the Plaza, Jean Patou, Orson Welles, Alice B. Toklas, Kees van Dongen, Martha Graham, Berry Wall at the Paris Ritz, Franklin D. Roosevelt in a press conference, etc. But with equal flair Eric has portrayed his gardener in Senlis, a favorite French chef, the vineyards of France and the old Lafayette Hotel. The drawings have been lent by Mrs. Erickson.

    In addition to the biographical-critical essay on Eric by Aline Saarinen, the illustrated booklet accompanying the show contains appreciative notes on the artist by Felix Topolski and Jean Cocteau. At the Members’ cocktail preview on February 9 from 5-8 p.m., several attractive young married women from Brooklyn Heights will model gowns of the style Eric often sketched, by designers such as Charles James, Balenciaga, Schiaparelli, Chanel, Dior and other couturiers. The costumes are from the Museum’s collection.


    Charles Oscar August Erickson was born in 1893 in Joliet, Illinois, where his Swedish parents had immigrated. At the age of 18 he attended Chicago’s Academy of Art and, with his first drawing from a nude model, won a third place award. Here he was called “Eric” by his fellow students and decided to use this as his signature. After two years at art school and a year at some commercial jobs in Chicago, he arrived in New York with $65 in his pocket which he spent all in one night’s spree. But he had no difficulty in obtaining advertising jobs. His first picture for Vogue was done about 1916. In 1920 he went to Paris with a new bride; a daughter was born the following year. By 1925, Eric became a permanent Vogue artist and during the remainder of his life he did thousands of drawings for the magazine. He traveled a great deal, spent much time in France where he had a house, and drew everything from the Casino at Monte Carlo and the gay world of Le Touguet to the vaults in the wine country and the church at Senlis. He died suddenly in New York last spring. His work reflects a light nostalgic note in its accent on the persons and places known in the period between the two World Wars.

    Photographs available: Betty Chamberlain

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1953 - 1970. 1959, 065-66.
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