Richard Merkin passes away

Richard Merkin, Professor Emeritus of Painting, Rhode Island School of Design, died on Saturday, September 5 in New York.  Merkin was perhaps best known for his color saturated illustrations for the New Yorker magazine which evoked an American Golden Age with a decidedly non-Rockwellian twist and replete with baseball heroes, gun molls, and natty dressers. His work is held in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution, The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and the RISD Museum, among others. In the 1980s Merkin was a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and the writer of “On Style” for GQ. Merkin held degrees from Syracuse University and Rhode Island School of Design: he joined RISD’s faculty in 1963 and retired in 2002.  His enthusiasms were wide ranging and influenced his written and visual work. Merkin, a larger than life character even as a young man, appeared on the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. His friends and colleagues gathered at  RISD  on December 5th to honor his memory with a screening of his favorite film–“Horsefeathers” and “Freaks”, remembrances by friends including Tom Wolfe, and a dinner to launch a memorial scholarship fund.

For more on Richard Merkin: visit

To contribute to the scholarship fund: contract Louise Olson, Director, Leadership Gifts,

Division of Fine Arts, Faculty, obituary

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