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Brad Holland
André François
posted:
Last week I opened a package from Brussels that contained an unusual catalog of some very moving art. 
It was the work of André François, or rather the remnants of his life's work, salvaged from the catastrophic fire that destroyed his studio in 2002. 
Charred, mutilated and discolored by flame, these fragments can hardly be mistaken for the pristine drawings and paintings they once were. Nor can we judge the collection in the catalog as if it were a critics choice: a fire doesn’t discriminate among the works it destroys. 
Yet even as ruined artifacts, these ashes of a man’s life testify to the wit, imagination and style that André brought to the world of graphic art during a career that spanned more than seven decades of the Twentieth Century.
André François was born in Romania in 1915. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, moved to Paris in 1934 and by the early 1940s had established himself as a cartoonist. In 1962, he was placed in charge of covers for The New Yorker, and over the years did nearly 50 New Yorker covers himself. 
His career spanned the fields of graphic design, illustration, stage setting and painting. He authored and illustrated many celebrated children's books. After the fire, and a short stay in the hospital, André recovered and despite failing health, set about producing a body of new work. He died three years later, in 2005, at the age of 89.
Andre’s loss, which is every artist’s nightmare, reminds us that much of the world's most memorable art survives only as ruined artifacts: as broken vases, headless statues, faded drawings or paintings turned ghostly by the passage of time. Sadly, however, in Andrés case time didn't wait.
In his life, Andre's crude but sensual pictures helped set a course for popular art that veered sharply away from conventional illustration and design as it was being practiced at mid-twentieth century. He rarely sold his originals, choosing instead to keep them together, where together – tragically and paradoxically – they were lost.
 
Yet many of us who came of age when André was in his prime can still see his contribution shining through in these graphic embers. 
The catalog Andre Francois: Le Phoenix was produced by the Centre André Francois. It was sent to me by a longtime friend, Claude Haber, a Belgian cardiologist who knows and cares more about art than many artists. Claude was also a friend of André’s and it was he who contacted me at Christmastime in 2002 to tell me about the fire.
At the time, I wrote a letter, which Steve Heller and Milton Glaser co-signed, and sent it, through the auspices of the Alliance Graphique Internationale, to artists and designers in various countries. In it, I asked those who had been influenced by André’s life or work to say so in words or pictures. Hundreds did.

The original texts and drawings we collected and bound and sent to André at his home in Grisy-les-Plâtres, France. The written testimonials we posted on a website hosted by the Illustrators Partnership. These letters, which are still available there, add up to an extraordinary tribute from Andrés' colleagues and admirers, and collectively they express, better than I can in these few words, how much his life and work mattered.
 
Go there, if you have the time, and you'll find a moving commentary from some of the most influential people in our field to go with these poignant scraps of paper.

 

http://www.illustratorspartnership.org/tribute/viewAll.php

 
When I heard about the fire I wrote to Andre, who I had never met:
 
"However inexplicable your fate must seem to you, you're now like a character in a story Borges might have written, in which the loss of your originals is redeemed, in ways you may never know, by the moving account of their long creation and sudden loss.

"Your work will survive because you’re one of the cornerstones of modern popular art. You're our Duke Ellington. You may have lost many originals – but not your contribution. It exists in the thousands of reproductions which persist and which, with time, can be technically enhanced to rival the fidelity of the originals. And it exists in the influence you've had, the inspiration you've brought and the charm and elegance you've communicated in your remarkable body of art."When I heard about the fire I wrote to Andre, who I had never met:
 
"However inexplicable your fate must seem to you, you're now like a character in a story Borges might have written, in which the loss of your originals is redeemed, in ways you may never know, by the moving account of their long creation and sudden loss.

"Your work will survive because you’re one of the cornerstones of modern popular art. You're our Duke Ellington. You may have lost many originals – but not your contribution. It exists in the thousands of reproductions which persist and which, with time, can be technically enhanced to rival the fidelity of the originals. And it exists in the influence you've had, the inspiration you've brought and the charm and elegance you've communicated in your remarkable body of art."
 
When I heard about the fire I wrote to Andre, who I had never met:
 
"However inexplicable your fate must seem to you, you're now like a character in a story Borges might have written, in which the loss of your originals is redeemed, in ways you may never know, by the moving account of their long creation and sudden loss.

"Your work will survive because you’re one of the cornerstones of modern popular art. You're our Duke Ellington. You may have lost many originals – but not your contribution. It exists in the thousands of reproductions which persist and which, with time, can be technically enhanced to rival the fidelity of the originals. And it exists in the influence you've had, the inspiration you've brought and the charm and elegance you've communicated in your remarkable body of art."When I heard about the fire I wrote to Andre, who I had never met:
 
"However inexplicable your fate must seem to you, you're now like a character in a story Borges might have written, in which the loss of your originals is redeemed, in ways you may never know, by the moving account of their long creation and sudden loss.

"Your work will survive because you’re one of the cornerstones of modern popular art. You're our Duke Ellington. You may have lost many originals – but not your contribution. It exists in the thousands of reproductions which persist and which, with time, can be technically enhanced to rival the fidelity of the originals. And it exists in the influence you've had, the inspiration you've brought and the charm and elegance you've communicated in your remarkable body of art."
 
When I heard about the fire I wrote to Andre, who I had never met:
 
"However inexplicable your fate must seem to you, you're now like a character in a story Borges might have written, in which the loss of your originals is redeemed, in ways you may never know, by the moving account of their long creation and sudden loss.

"Your work will survive because you’re one of the cornerstones of modern popular art. You're our Duke Ellington. You may have lost many originals – but not your contribution. It exists in the thousands of reproductions which persist and which, with time, can be technically enhanced to rival the fidelity of the originals. And it exists in the influence you've had, the inspiration you've brought and the charm and elegance you've communicated in your remarkable body of art."When I heard about the fire I wrote to Andre, who I had never met:
 
"However inexplicable your fate must seem to you, you're now like a character in a story Borges might have written, in which the loss of your originals is redeemed, in ways you may never know, by the moving account of their long creation and sudden loss.

"Your work will survive because you’re one of the cornerstones of modern popular art. You're our Duke Ellington. You may have lost many originals – but not your contribution. It exists in the thousands of reproductions which persist and which, with time, can be technically enhanced to rival the fidelity of the originals. And it exists in the influence you've had, the inspiration you've brought and the charm and elegance you've communicated in your remarkable body of art."
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