“In recent years I’ve been intrigued by the idea of what Gregor Samsa’s dreams were like, before he woke up as an insect.”
At 91 years old, Robert Andrew Parker can’t stop making art. We sat down in his studio to talk about his 7-decade career in painting, illustration and printmaking. We talk about how a childhood bout of TB led to his becoming an artist, how he studied under German refugees at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, the challenges of keeping his fine art career running parallel with his commercial illustration career all these decades, how he got hired as Kirk Douglas’ hands in the Vincent Van Gogh biopic Lust for Life, his fascination with Kafka and the Metamorphosis, how he got started playing drums and how he felt about 4 of his 5 sons growing up to be drummers. We also talk about the worst part of his macular degeneration (hint: it involves books), why he prefers watercolors to oils, his favorite places when he traveled the world on magazine assignments, his profane correspondence with Thomas Berger (and a funny exchange with Nabokov), his astonishing “German Humor” series and why it had to be etched and not painted, how he nearly burned down a barn with nitric acid while prepping plates, why art agents and dealers need to be realists (but have a sense of humor), touring the Dardanelles with Edward Herrmann, and much more. Give it a listen!
And check out a bunch of pix in my Instagram feed:
“In Africa I saw everything I ever wanted to see, in terms of animals and landscapes. And the aromas, the smells, and the thousands of miles of fields: it was heavenly.”
“My wife has a computer, but I’m literally not welcome in that room.”
About our Guest
Robert Andrew Parker is an American artist known for both his paintings and prints of figures, landscapes, and animals. Parker has produced set designs for operas and films, as well as illustrations for many children’s books during the course of his career. “Robert Andrew Parker is one of the most accurate and at the same time most unliteral of painters,” the poet Marianne Moore wrote of him, adding, “He combines the mystical and the actual, working both in an abstract and a realistic way.” Born in Norfolk, VA in 1927, he went on to study at the Art Institute of Chicago during the late 1950s. After finishing school, he was recruited to play the role of Vincent van Gogh’s hands in the 1956 MGM film Lust for Life, though his hands never ended up in the finished film, he was able to live lavishly in the South of France during the production.Parker lives and works in Connecticut. Today, the artist’s works are held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Mr. Parker’s studio on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Mr. Parker and his studio by me. It’s on my instagram.