Illustrator Robert Fawcett was born outside of London, England in 1903. His father, an amateur artist, lent much encouragement to his son’s early drawing efforts. Fawcett’s family moved from England to Winnipeg, Canada where he apprenticed under a local engraver. He spent his entire earnings buying old magazines to study the illustrations. When the family moved again, this time to New York City, Fawcett pursued commercial work until leaving to study abroad.
At nineteen, Fawcett returned to London, and for two years studied drawing under the rigorous discipline of the Slade School of London University. After graduating, he viewed commercial art with scorn. However, upon entering the fine art world, some of its political aspects diminished his youthful enthusiasm. From that point on, he was determined that he would earn his living through commercial work alone.
Fawcett came back to the United States in 1924. He began a long career in advertising and editorial illustration that brought him preeminence as “the illustrator’s illustrator,” and the master of the subtle approach. His remarkable draftsmanship, and ability to pour himself into his work without resorting to the usual solutions, resulted in a wealth of detailed and evocative illustrations. His belief that “draftsmanship was the answer to everything,” kept his artwork consistent and undiluted by fads. His artistic integrity grew from his belief that illustrators had a terrific responsibility: “We represent the only view of art, of beauty, to millions of people. If we do less than our best, we cheat them.” His mastery of composition is evident as shown in a series of Sherlock Holmes stories he illustrated for Collier’s magazine.
In later years, he preferred to restrict his work to reportorial assignments, for example, an assignment on Oxford, Mississippi, for Look magazine. His book, On the Art of Drawing, was published in 1958. In 1960, he painted a series of murals for the Commonwealth Institute of London.
Fawcett was twice president of the Westport Artists and also a member of the founding faculty of the Famous Artists Schools in Westport, Connecticut.
The book, Drawing the Nude, was based on Fawcett’s drawings and teachings. It was written by his colleague and friend, Howard Munce, and published in 1980. In 1990 his work was featured on a U.S. postage stamp as part of the Great American Illustrators series.
(Information on the biography above is based, in part, on writings from the book, The Illustrator In America, 1880-1980, A Century of Illustration, by Walt and Roger Reed.)