Arnold Skolnick, artist behind Woodstock poster, dead at age 85

Arnold Skolnick, the artist best known for creating the iconic poster for Woodstock, has died aged 85.

Deadlineciting Skolnick’s son, Alexander, said the artist died on June 15 due to respiratory problems.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, Skolnick was reportedly only five years old when he started dreaming of becoming an artist. As an adult, he worked as a freelancer for many advertising agencies in New York. In 1969, he received a call from John Morris, Woodstock’s production coordinator. The festival initially enlisted David Edward Byrd, known for designing posters for rock concerts for the Fillmore East, to design their poster. His creation, featuring a naked woman posing with an urn, was deemed inappropriate. Due to time constraints, Byrd asked Skolnick if he could think of anything.

“They gave [the assignment] on Thursday with me… and I brought it to them on Monday afternoon,” Skolnick later recalls. “It was just another job, but it got famous.”

Inspired by the work of 19th-century Post-Impressionist artist Henri Matisse, Skolnick created his design by cutting shapes from colored paper. “The whole thing came to life,” he later explained. Initially, the artist planned to turn his image into a bird sitting on top of a flute, “but the flute is really jazz, so I turned it into a guitar.”

“It was very simple. It said the whole thing,” Skolnick explained to the… Stamford attorney† “It said peace, it said music. It was very colorful, so people didn’t forget.”

Held August 15-18, 1969, Woodstock became a pivotal moment in the hippie counterculture movement. With more than 30 acts—many of whom are among rock’s most celebrated performers—it is often considered the most famous festival in American history.

Woodstock’s success made Skolnick’s poster legendary. The artist was present on the first night of the festival, but chose to leave early due to the large crowd.

“Had I been 16 or 17 I probably would have enjoyed it,” admitted Skolnick, who was in his early thirties at the time of Woodstock.

Skolnick went on as a graphic artist for many years and later switched to publishing. For decades he produced and published art books through his company Chameleon Books. He also regularly held exhibitions of his own work in East Coast galleries.

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