Lyrics & Knowledge Personal Pages Record Shop Auction Links Radio & Media Kids Membership Help
The Mudcat Cafemuddy

Post to this Thread - Sort Descending - Printer Friendly - Home


Obit: Alex Steinweiss-early album cover artist

Desert Dancer 20 Jul 11 - 01:02 PM
Thomas Stern 20 Jul 11 - 04:10 PM
Thomas Stern 20 Jul 11 - 04:16 PM
Desert Dancer 20 Jul 11 - 05:12 PM
Desert Dancer 20 Jul 11 - 05:13 PM
Share Thread
more
Lyrics & Knowledge Search [Advanced]
DT  Forum
Sort (Forum) by:relevance date
DT Lyrics:





Subject: Obit: Alex Steinweiss-first album cover artist
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 01:02 PM

Alex Steinweiss, Originator of Artistic Album Covers, Dies at 94

By STEVEN HELLER
New York Times
July 19, 2011

Alex Steinweiss, an art director and graphic designer who brought custom artwork to record album covers and invented the first packaging for long-playing records, died on Sunday in Sarasota, Fla. He was 94.

His death was confirmed by his son, Leslie.

The record cover was a blank slate in 1939, when Mr. Steinweiss was hired to design advertisements for Columbia Records. Most albums were unadorned, and on those occasions when art was used, it was not original. (Albums then were booklike packages containing multiple 78 r.p.m. discs.)

"The way records were sold was ridiculous," Mr. Steinweiss said in a 1990 interview. "The covers were brown, tan or green paper. They were not attractive, and lacked sales appeal." Despite concern about the added costs, he was given the approval to come up with original cover designs.

His first cover, for a collection of Rodgers and Hart songs performed by an orchestra, showed a high-contrast photo of a theater marquee with the title in lights. The new packaging concept was a success: Newsweek reported that sales of Bruno Walter's recording of Beethoven's "Eroica" symphony increased ninefold when the album cover was illustrated.

"It was such a simple idea, really, that an image would become attached to a piece of music," said Paula Scher, who designed record covers for Columbia in the 1970s and is now a partner in the design company Pentagram. "When you look at your music collection today on your iPod, you are looking at Alex Steinweiss's big idea."

Mr. Steinweiss preferred metaphor to literalism, and his covers often used collages of musical and cultural symbols. For a Bartok piano concerto, he rejected a portrait of Bartok, using instead the hammers, keys and strings of a piano placed against a stylized backdrop. For a recording of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," he used an illustration of a piano on a dark blue field illuminated only by an abstract street lamp, with a stylized silhouetted skyline in the background.

Alex Steinweiss was born March 24, 1917, in Brooklyn. His father, a women's shoe designer from Warsaw, and his mother, a seamstress from Riga, Latvia, emigrated to the Lower East Side of Manhattan and eventually settled in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn.

On the strength of his high school portfolio, Mr. Steinweiss earned a scholarship to the Parsons School of Design. After graduation he worked for three years for the Austrian poster designer Joseph Binder, whose flat color and simplified human figures were popular at the time and influenced his own work.

During World War II Mr. Steinweiss became Columbia's advertising manager. He left for a job at the Navy's Training and Development Center in New York City, where he produced teaching materials and cautionary posters.

After the war, Mr. Steinweiss freelanced for Columbia. During one lunch meeting there, the company's president, Ted Wallerstein, introduced him to an innovation that the company was about to unveil: the long-playing record. But there was a problem. The heavy, folded kraft paper used to protect 78 r.p.m. records left marks on the vinyl microgroove when 33 1/3 r.p.m. LPs were stacked.

Mr. Steinweiss was asked to develop a jacket for the new format and, with help from his brother-in-law, found a manufacturer willing to invest about $250,000 in equipment. Mr. Steinweiss had the original patent for what became the industry packaging standard (he did not develop the inner sleeve, only the outer package), but under his contract with Columbia he had to waive all rights to any inventions made while working there.

Mr. Steinweiss left the music business at 55, when he realized his design ideas were out of step with the rock era. He turned to his own art, making ceramic bowls and pots and later paintings, often with a musical theme. In 1974 he and his wife moved to Sarasota.

Mr. Steinweiss's wife of 71 years, Blanche, died in 2010. In addition to his son, of Brooklyn, he is survived by a daughter, Hazel Steinweiss of Sarasota; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Mr. Steinweiss said he was destined to be a commercial artist. In high school he marveled at his classmates who "could take a brush, dip it in some paint and make letters," he recalled. "So I said to myself, if some day I could become a good sign painter, that would be terrific!"

---

~ Becky in Long Beach


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Obit: Alex Steinweiss-first album cover artist
From: Thomas Stern
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 04:10 PM

It is a shame that the MYTH that Steinweiss INVENTED the illustrated album cover continues to be repeated. A gifted
artist, and important force for implementing widespread use of illustrated albums, but many others were there before him.
There is an extensive discussion of this on 78-L, and a presentation was made at ARSC debunking this claim.

Anyone familiar with early 78 records know of the Bubble Books, which had illustrated covers    http://www.littlewonderrecords.com/bubble-book-discography.html

early Gilbert & Sullivan albums with
richly illustrated jackets and many others, including many Decca covers in the 1930's.

A richly illustrated presentation By Dr.Michael Biel given at the ARSC conference in New Orleans, 1910.
http://arsc-audio.org/conference/audio2010/extra/biel1.ppt
http://arsc-audio.org/conference/audio2010/extra/biel2.ppt

Anyone interested in album illustration should also delve into the work of Jim Flora, and David Stone Martin.

Best wishes, Thomas.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Obit: Alex Steinweiss-first album cover artist
From: Thomas Stern
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 04:16 PM

PS:
The links for the biel presentation are for Powerpoint illustrations.
I omitted the link for the audio presentation:
    http://www.arsc-audio.org/conference/audio2010/mp3/40.mp3

Best wishes, Thomas.


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Obit: Alex Steinweiss-first album cover artist
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 05:12 PM

Thanks for that further information, Thomas.

~ Becky in Long Beach


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate

Subject: RE: Obit: Alex Steinweiss-first album cover artist
From: Desert Dancer
Date: 20 Jul 11 - 05:13 PM

I'll put in a request for a thread title change to "early album cover artist".

~ Becky in Long Beach


Post - Top - Home - Printer Friendly - Translate
  Share Thread:
More...

Reply to Thread
Subject:  Help
From:
Preview   Automatic Linebreaks   Make a link ("blue clicky")


Mudcat time: 26 May 9:06 PM EDT

[ Home ]

All original material is copyright © 1998 by the Mudcat Café Music Foundation, Inc. All photos, music, images, etc. are copyright © by their rightful owners. Every effort is taken to attribute appropriate copyright to images, content, music, etc. We are not a copyright resource.