You Know His Poster, if Not His Name

Arnold Skolnick, who created the iconic Woodstock imagery, is dead
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2022 10:15 AM CDT
You Know His Poster, if Not His Name
The iconic image, from a video in which Arnold Skolnick talks about its creation.   (YouTube/New England Public Media)

When freelance designer Arnold Skolnick was asked to quickly churn out a publicity poster for an upcoming concert in 1969, he ended up creating what the New York Times calls a "symbol of the era." The upcoming concert, of course, was Woodstock, and Skolnick came up with the concept of a bird sitting on a guitar, an image that would be accompanied by the words "3 Days of Peace & Music." The feat is being remembered because the 85-year-old Skolnick died last month in Amherst, Massachusetts, reports Deadline. He'd been suffering from a heart condition, and the cause of death was respiratory failure.

Skolnick was 32 when he got the assignment—the original submission by a different artist was rejected because it depicted a nude woman—and not a particularly big fan of music. One of the remarkable tidbits in coverage is that Skolnick got the job on a Thursday and turned in his poster the following Monday. “It was just another job, but it became famous," he once said. Skolnick was paid $12,000 for the work, which he split with a copy writer. And yes, he did go to the festival, but only for one day. The Washington Post notes that he drew inspiration for the poster from Henri Matisse—as well as from catbirds. Skolnick said most people assumed the bird was a dove, but "it owed more a debt" to the catbirds he was sketching on New York's Shelter Island, per the Times. (More obituary stories.)

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