David Schorr (1947 – 2018) was an American artist whose works span painting, drawing, intaglio printmaking, lithography, and engraving. Lauded for his in-depth and multifaceted projects, Schorr explored diverse themes ranging from comedy and music to the AIDS crisis and feelings of nostalgia. Schorr’s creative process rested on an emphasis on historical research, the idea of the collection, and the animation of everyday objects. His paintings, drawings, and prints are known for their layered surfaces of objects or figures. An illustrator and calligrapher, Schorr often incorporated text and literary references into his work.
Schorr’s major print projects include lithographs about AIDS which were accompanied by a catalogue, Songs with a Dying Fall featuring an essay by Paul Monette; Roman Prints and Drawings, with which the artist revived “lost” techniques such as burin engraving and silverpoint drawing; My Verdi, a series of color engravings about the opera; Unconstraining Voices, a series of 60 engraved portraits; Apothecary, a series in which the artist represents himself as a storehouse with various antique apothecary bottles; and a suite of intaglio prints made to accompany Norman Shapiro’s translation of Charles Baudelaire’s poems, Les Fleurs du Mal.
A native of Chicago, Schorr received his BA from Brown University and his BFA and MFA from Yale University. He began teaching at Wesleyan University in 1971 and instructed a wide range of courses including printmaking, drawing, typography, book design, graphic design, and calligraphy for nearly 5 decades. In 2015, he received the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching. He was a Fulbright scholar three times, in Italy in 1975 and India in 1998 and 2001. He served many years as an adjunct professor at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad.
Schorr was a regular illustrator of The New Republic’s literary sections, which ultimately published more than 300 of his portraits of writers. His work has also been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine and Poetry Magazine.
Mary Ryan Gallery has held seven exhibitions of Schorr’s work between 1986 and 2012. Each of his solo exhibitions was accompanied by an artist’s book designed by Schorr. Paul Monette, Phyllis Rose, Richard Howard, Judith Thurman, Stephen Greenblatt, and Jonathan Galassi wrote the essays for his artist books.
Schorr was commissioned for major murals and posters by the Kennedy Center, the Metropolitan Opera, Scaramouche restaurant in Toronto, Verdi restaurant in Santa Monica, and many other private and public institutions.
His work is held in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, OH; Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University, CT; Fogg Museum at Harvard University, MA; Israel Museum, IL; Morgan Library and Museum, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Museum of Modern Art, NY; National Gallery, Washington, DC; New York Public Library, NY and the Yale University Art Gallery, CT.