The Burnham Library in Bridgewater honors a local resident with an exhibition of his superb work. Robert Giusti’s successful career as an illustrator and artist reflects a life devoted to art.
Hailed as one of the top illustrators in the country, Robert Giusti began his artistic journey at a very young age. He was born in Zurich, Switzerland and raised in New York City. His father was the famous graphic designer George Giusti, so Robert grew up surrounded by art and the creative process.
He studied painting and sculpture and returned to New York City where he pursued painting. After showing his work in New York City galleries, he began applying his talents to advertising and publishing. This led to a very successful career as a graphic designer, illustrator, teacher and lecturer. Robert’s work is known nationally and internationally and has been featured in many publications. His art has been on exhibit at galleries and museums around the globe, and is now being shown locally at the Burnham Library. Robert’s love for abstract painting has always flourished throughout his career. He works out of his studio in his home in Bridgewater, which he shares with his wife Grace and their two dogs, Lupo and Baci. We visited his studio and spoke with him about his extraordinary life as an artist.
Can you tell us about your background and where you grew up?
I was born in Zurich, Switzerland. My father was born in Milan, Italy and my mother from Berlin, Germany. The family emigrated to the U.S. in 1938 and settled in Riverdale, NY. From grammar school to highschool, this was my home.
How did your father’s career as a designer influence you?
My father’s career as an artist influenced me greatly. I was exposed to his creative life on a daily basis. He worked freelance in our apartment and this made it possible for me to witness his thinking out problems up until its final creation, not to mention his techniques. He often discussed art projects with me and served as my main critic and advisor. He saved every piece of art I did.
Where did you study art?
I attended High School of the Music and Art in NYC. From highschool to Tyler School of Art (Temple University) in Philadelphia and finally graduated with a BFA degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Why did you get into illustration instead of fine art?
Actually I pursued fine art—sculpture and painting—before venturing into commercial art. My early paintings were abstract and expressionistic and mostly executed in oil paints on large canvases. My influences were Rothko, Still, De Kooning, Kline, Stella, Caro, Louis, etc. I showed my work in mostly group shows and reality kicked in regarding survival. So I looked towards advertising design and later publishing. When I became art director at Random House Publishing, I was exposed to the illustrative work of Push Pin Studio and illustrators such as Paul Davis, Milton Glaser, Roger Hane, Gil Stone, and others. I was intrigued by illustration as a pathway to conceptual communication. By the 1970s, I began approaching various magazines and record companies and was encouraged by their response to my work. The rest is history.
How and when did you move from New York City to Bridgewater, Connecticut?
My parents moved to West Redding, CT in the 1960s, so I came to know the area and simply made a choice to find property and live and work part time between New Milford, CT and NYC. This was in 1978. Twenty years later, I discovered Bridgewater and moved there full time in 1999.
How has your style changed over the years?
My early illustrative style was graphic and “primitive” surreal, much influenced by Magritte and Rousseau. Eventually, my work evolved into a more tightly rendered and precise— but still graphically conscious—style. Animals and nature subject matter in a neo-relism style appeared more readily than ever.
Besides editorial work, you also have done album covers, postal stamps, and children’s books. Have you done much advertising work?
I would say that advertising—posters, billboards, annual reports, ads, calendars, packaging, logos, and TV animation—comprises one half of the total work load.
How did you get into doing illustrations for stamp designs for the U. S. Postal Service?
Since a large volume of my illustrations was appearing in art annuals, exhibitions, and catalogues, etc, it came to the attention of art advisors and art directors whose clients were the U.S. Postal Service and once that contact was made, I received many commissions thereafter.
Have you ever taken commisions from private individuals?
No, I haven’t, partly due to the fact that I was under pressure with heavy work loads that took up much time.
Do you spend time doing personal work, paintings for yourself?
I am constantly working on ideas reverting back to my earlier paintings, but it’s a slow and perplexing process. As an artist, you want to be “current” and progress beyond what you have already achieved.
Is there an area of illustration that you haven’t tackled yet, that you would like to do?
No, it sometimes seems like I have covered every area, at least as far as illustration is concerned.
Robert Giusti’s show, The Art of Illustration, can be viewed
at The Burnham Library in Bridgewater until April 3, 2015.
62 Main Street South
Robert Giusti can be reached at: email@example.com