THE ART OF WILLIAM OBERHARDT
Illustration|Illustration No. 76
Illustrator William Oberhardt (1882-1958) was born in Guttenberg, New Jersey, 1882.
Daniel Zimmer
THE ART OF WILLIAM OBERHARDT

As soon as he was old enough to venture alone to the big town across the Hudson, he became a pupil in the National Academy of Design. As he had begun his studies so early and had been an assiduous worker, he was very young when his studies at the academy were completed. Following this education, he went to Munich for three years for further study at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts under Carl V. Marr and Ludwig V. Herterich.

Upon his return, he was more than ready to join the ranks with other American illustrators, and he did well from the start, as he was a fantastic draftsman. Oberhardt was probably best known for his remarkably sensitive and facile portrait drawings, generally made with charcoal. "Obie" never worked from photographs, but worked directly from the live model, which was surely an important key to achieving his incisive likenesses.

His famous subjects ranged from Presidents Taft, Harding, and Hoover, to Thomas Edison, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Luther Burbank, Ezio Pinza, Cardinal Spellman, Bernard Baruch, and Walter Lippmann. Notably, his work was featured on Time magazine's very first cover, published on March 3, 1923. As the artist recalled, "Most of the men I've portrayed were ones I would have paid to do. I've had a great deal of pleasure and honor meeting and drawing the great men of my time."

In 1919, the government commissioned Oberhardt to make portraits of the 25 members of the Division of Pictorial Publicity. Those portraits are now part of the Archives in Washington, D.C. During World War II, Oberhardt contributed to the war effort by drawing hundreds of portrait sketches of soldiers, as well as the wounded men convalescing in hospital.

This story is from the Illustration No. 76 edition of Illustration.

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