Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding

Friday, November 17, 2006


The Father of Marine Nature Art, Stanley Meltzoff, died on November 9th at his home in Red Bank, New Jersey. He was 89 years old. Meltzoff's subdued pallette and unnerving compositions combined to lend an unmistakable and authentic look to his paintings. His skill at transferring the movements of fishes, both schooling and alone, to the canvas have never been equalled, to my mind. He was inducted into the Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame, and was twice awarded the Society of Animal Artists' Award of Excellence. The following biographical data were lifted from his New York Times obituary:

Born in Harlem on March 27, 1917, Mr. Meltzoff was a son of Nathan and Sadie Marcus Meltzoff. His father was a cantor at a Manhattan synagogue. Mr. Meltzoff graduated from City College in 1937 and earned a master’s degree in fine art from New York University in 1940. During World War II, he was an artist for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, in Europe. He taught painting and art history at City College from 1939 to 1941, and taught there again after the war until 1950, when he began a five-year stint at Pratt Institute.

But even as a child in the 1920s, Mr. Meltzoff had been an avid skin diver, mainly off the New Jersey coast. By the 1940s, he was keen on spear fishing and scuba diving and, starting in 1949, he added underwater photography. He first combined his passions for the sea, photography and art in the 1960s, when he painted several series on particular fish species for Sports Illustrated, National Geographic and Field & Stream.

Mr. Meltzoff’s first wife, Alice Forder Meltzoff, died in 1979. Besides his second wife, whom he married in 1999, he is survived by two daughters, Sarah Keene Meltzoff of Miami and Annie Laurie Armistead of Davis, Calif.; three stepchildren, Jessie Dulberger of Boulder, Colo., Stephanie Ritz of Oshkosh, Wis., and Matt Ritz of Tacoma, Wash.; and a brother, Julian, of San Diego.

Mr. Meltzoff’s art was not limited to marine life. He did illustrations, including landscapes and historical subjects, for Life, The Saturday Evening Post and Colliers. In 1976, he was commissioned by AT&T to paint a whimsical telephone book cover celebrating the nation’s bicentennial and the company’s centennial. The cover, on 187 million phone books distributed nationwide, included an American Indian bewildered by smoke signals rising from a telephone receiver.

But Mr. Meltzoff always returned to the sea, “a place without horizons,” he once wrote, where he could dive “through the surface into the looking-glass world where I flew down into the deeper blue, until I fell back up into the air, exhausted with delight.”
SNAPPER, SPOTS, STRIPERS AT ELBERON oil on canvas by Stanley Meltzoff


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wondeful canvas. I found myself holding my breath, not wanting to surface for fear of scaring them away.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Carel Brest van Kempen said...

That's a great description, Clare!

3:28 PM  
Blogger Tim Jones said...

I'd never heard of this artist before, but a quick browse round his site shows how talented he was, over a period of decades - nice post.

5:04 AM  

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