Sunday 28 September 2014
Meeting Ruth Ansel

Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly present Ruth Ansel, a woman who’s always been at the right place at the right time. Back in the 60’s, when she was just 24, she and Bea Feitler became co-art directors of Harper’s Bazaar. In the 70’s, Ruth was the art director of The New York Times Magazine, in the 80’s, Vanity Fair. Each time, she was the first woman in that position. In recent years, she’s run her own studio – Ruth Ansel Design – designing books like the much-talked about, 20-inch tall monograph on the photographer and artist Peter Beard. Today, Ruth is 70 years old and still working.

Ruth is Grand. Everyone we’ve met has spoken about her with the utmost respect. Ruth is the one we’ve dreamed most about meeting though we hardly dared to think it would ever happen. She’s been known to publish fake e-mail addresses online with the sole purpose of making it harder for people to reach her. A few months ago, we called her up. It was a brief conversation, ending shortly after Ruth sternly told us that she would »look us up«. Several nervous weeks later, we received an e-mail from Ruth in which she praised our work. Throughout our entire career, nothing has been as important as that e-mail. We felt like a door had opened, that we had received an invitation to an important society. Is this what it feels like to be in the »in« crowd?

Ruth Ansel lives in a posh apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In her courtyard a film crew is set to shoot a Disney film starring Nicolas Cage. On our way up to the tenth floor, the elevator man asks us if we’re aware that Cyndi Lauper lives in the house. »You know that song ’Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’?« But we’re focused on a different lady.

Ruth Ansel welcomes us into her large apartment, only to disappear into the kitchen. She’s wearing black clothes, Mary Janes, a big orange watch and a turquoise ring. In the kitchen, she’s arranged a lunch buffet of delicious treats; croissants, smoked fish spread, tasty cheeses and small apples. We fill up our plates and ask if she’s interested in food. »Unfortunately«, she replies, not helping herself to lunch. Above the refrigerator there’s a blackboard in the shape of a cat. On it, Ruth has scribbled a Diana Vreeland quote : »Elegance is refusal.« It’s supposed to keep her from sneaking things out of the fridge.

In 1963, when Ruth Ansel and Bea Feitler were appointed co-art directors of Harper’s Bazaar, the leading fashion magazine of its time, they were met with blatant skepticism by a male-dominated media world. Could two twenty-something females really shoulder such an important role? However, it didn’t take long before the duo had modernized the magazine by infusing it with elements of pop art, street fashion, rock and roll music and film. They chose photographers whose work changed fashion photography forever. Furthermore, the graphic design of Ansel and Feitler set a new standard in magazine design, an updated take on Brodovitch’s revolutionary designs from the 40’s and 50’s.

Ruth Ansel ended up in the magazine world by accident. She was born in the Bronx in the late 1930s. Her father was in the china import business and her mom ran a small lingerie shop. From childhood, Ruth took a great interest in art and movies. Along with her classmate Nina Castelli, daughter of Leo Castelli and Ileana Sonnabend , central figures in the New York art world, she spent a summer in East Hampton at age 15. There, she saw the artist William De Kooning paint his »Woman« series in the downstairs guest bedroom where he was living at the time. Jackson Pollock and Larry Rivers often came by for dinner. Together with the Castelli-Sonnabend family, Ruth went to see her first Balanchine ballet performance as well as Robert Rauschenberg and Picasso exhibitions. It was then her love for art took root.

She graduated from Alfred University earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree majoring in ceramic design but soon realized her career opportunities were limited. After a brief marriage, she escaped to Europe to mend her heart and look for adventure. Her plan was to look for work in different countries and eventually end up in Rome. But after eight months of travel she ran out of money and knew it was time to head home. She felt that, as a young woman, she was never taken seriously in her pursuit of a graphic design career. 

Ruth shows us into the living room. The sun shines in through an open window. On the walls there are pictures we’ve seen in books, like Richard Avedon’s famous Andy Warhol Factory triptych and his portrait of Stravinsky. Some are signed with personal notes to Ruth. Her white Mac is standing on a desk that stretches along a wall. Every now and then, we hear a little »pling« announcing she’s got mail. Ruth asks us to sit down on the large couch, and adds that it’s quite uncomfortable, so we should help ourselves to plush pillows to put behind our backs.

Large bookshelves hold yard upon yard of bookmarked books and magazines. We would love to browse through them all. One of the lower shelves carries all the magazine issues on which Ruth has ever worked. They’re collected in heavy bound volumes. She tells us that she has one copy of each magazine except for the Harper’s Bazaar 1965 April issue – with the legendary cover where model Jean Shrimpton wears a large pink helmet and blinks with one eye if you tilt the magazine.

– Samira Bouabana, Angela Tillman Sperandio, 2010

Preface: Hall of Femmes: Ruth Ansel, 2010
Editor: Ika Johannesson

Buy the book here. Buy the poster here.

Left: Model Jean Shrimpton on the famous cover of Harper's Bazaar April 1965, with the winking eye. Art direction: Ruth Ansel and Bea Feitler. Photo: Richard Avedon. © 2010 The Richard Avedon Foundation. Right: Harper’s Bazaar fold-down cover, August 1966. Art direction: Ruth Ansel and Bea Feitler. Photo: James Moore.

Left: Model Jean Shrimpton on the famous cover of Harper’s Bazaar April 1965, with the winking eye. Art direction: Ruth Ansel and Bea Feitler. Photo: Richard Avedon. © 2010 The Richard Avedon Foundation. Right: Harper’s Bazaar fold-down cover, August 1966. Art direction: Ruth Ansel and Bea Feitler. Photo: James Moore.

Posted by: 16:09

Tags: , , , , , ,

Categories: Ika Johannesson, Preface, Richard Avedon, Ruth Ansel, Yolanda Cuomo

Tuesday 18 March 2014
Bruno Feitler on Bea Feitler

A few weeks ago we contacted Bruno Feitler, the nephew of art director Bea Feitler, and the initiator of a recently published book about her life and work. Bea Feitler was an outstanding designer who unfortunately passed away in the 1980s (how we wish we could’ve paid tribute to her with a Hall of Femmes book). She was Ruth Ansel’s art direction partner at Harper’s Bazaar in the 1960s and gave the form to Ms Magazine, Rolling Stone, and numerous book covers. We skyped with Bruno who lives in Sao Paolo on a cold winter Sunday in Stockholm.

Hi Bruno!
Is Bea well known in Brazil? Is she a kind of design celebrity?

Because of the book now: yes, but maybe five years ago, much less. But she was well known while she was alive. Once a year when she came to Brazil, there would be something about her in the newspapers. But when she passed away, after a while, nobody talked much about her.

Can you tell us a bit about her background, and why she went to New York?
When she was 18 she wanted to study something related to fashion, and my grandparents decided to send her to New York to study at Parsons. She had an aunt in New York, so maybe they decided to send her to the United States and not to Europe, or somewhere else, because of that. Once there, she realized that she wanted to study graphic design.

After her degree, she came back to Brazil where she started to work at a magazine called Senhor. It was a very important publication at the time, and she worked there from 1959 to ’60. And she also designed very, very important covers for important Brazilian authors at the time.

Do you have the books that she did those covers for?
Yes, I have one here, O Homem Nu. It’s in very poor condition, but it is iconic of design in the ’50s and ’60s. I also have this one. O Encontro Marcado. You can see the palette of colors she uses.

2She also worked for an art gallery, making invitations and posters, very typical of that period as well. But when she was fired from the magazine together with the main editor, she decided to go back to the United States after only one year in Rio. She started to look for work there, and that’s when Marvin Israel approached her.

Because Marvin Israel used to be her teacher at Parsons?
Yes, he taught at Parsons and that’s how she knew him. But there’s also Diana Vreeland, she says somewhere that someone had spoken very highly of her, that’s why she was hired.

Bea Feitler, Bill King, Ruth Ansel. New York, 1965.

Bea Feitler, Bill King, Ruth Ansel. New York, 1965.

What’s so special is that there were two art director’s assistants hired at the same time: Ruth and Bea. Do you know anything about how they worked together from Bea’s point of view?
It’s very hard for everyone who was there: for Ruth, for some photographers that I interviewed, people that were assistants for Bea later, to explain how they worked together. But Avedon wrote something about that once, saying that one was the classic and one was the modern, Bea being the classic. In fact there was emulation and a lot of collaboration, making it sometimes difficult to say exactly who did what. One would come with one idea, that would be developed by the other one, and then maybe reused by the first one in another spread of Bazaar.

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We have gotten the impression that Bea was a wild child and a rebel. What’s your thoughts on that?
Yes, she was very exuberant!

Bea Feitler

And everyone mentions the bracelets that jingled when she walked.
Yes, I remember her necklaces with Brazilian things hanging, and the bracelets I really remember also. And she was very expansive. But she knew of course, in design, what would be the best solution, what would be the best thing to do.

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What else interested her?
In Rio, before going to Parson, she used to come every week to the opera house in Rio, to watch ballet and opera, she was really passionate about ballet. And in NYC, while still studying, every week she would write a friend of hers about ballet and not much about work. But she also wrote in a couple of those letters (and I write that in the book) that she noticed during school that she needed a high-voltage tension. She needed to do all these things at the same time, she needed all this information coming out, and without that she wouldn’t be happy.

For example: when she worked with Bazaar, she also did a magazine here in Brazil and no one knew about that. It’s called Setenta, “Seventies”. So here’s the first issue.

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And nobody in United States knew, because she was still hired at Bazaar, so she couldn’t be working with other things. She was an advisor but she also made the layouts for some issues. For instance, she took Bill King to Brazil to take photos for this magazine. There are some gorgeous pictures and gorgeous spreads. She did that secretly and there were some spreads and some pictures that were used in this magazine and later, also in Bazaar. She mixed things up.

That’s daring, two-timing Harper’s Bazaar … So she needed stimulation?
Yes, she needed a lot of things at the same time, working a lot, later also teaching at the SVA, and having the rhythm that they had in New York at that time. And that was not the same in Rio.

How did the idea for the book come about?
My mother passed away very early. My father passed away, Bea passed away in the ’80s, my grandparents too. So it was a way for me to remember all of them at the same time.

Since we haven’t read the book, because it’s in Portuguese, how is it written? Is it from your perspective or from a design history perspective?
We didn’t want the book to be sentimental. In the book there are two texts: one is my text, a personal biography, it goes sideways when you hold the book straight, so you have to turn the book to see texts and images that relate to her personal life. And all the work images, and the text with design analysis, are set out in the regular way, written by André Stolarski, a great design theorist among many other things. Stolarski analysis of Bea’s work is amazing, and his text is the most important one for the book. Unfortunately he recently passed away. The book’s layout was a way Elaine Ramos found to play with Bea’s idea of the use of text as image. The size of the book is the same size as Bazaar’s magazine. So it makes it easier to reproduce some of those images.

Has the book been well received?
Very well. We got a lot of good press.

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Can you say something about her work at Ms magazine?
After leaving Bazaar in 1971, Bea was called by editor Gloria Steinem to be the art director of Ms magazine, which was just starting. It was a huge success. According to André Stolarski, Ms’ popularity was a direct consequence of its graphics, and thus also was the influence of feminism in the US. It was in fact a pop magazine, and Bea was able to gain a lot of space for images over text in it. Ms while dealing with political and serious social matters, was visually agitated, informal, and also well humored, what certainly helped its popularity. Bea worked there until July 1976.

1973November2-225x300

Can you tell us something about how the photographer Annie Leibovitz and Bea worked together?
Bea asked Annie to shoot some photos for Ms. magazine, and that’s how they got in contact. Annie then had Jann Wenner call Bea to do some special projects for Rolling Stone, where Annie was the head photographer; works as “capturing the soul. Seven master photographers”, of May 1976, or the 10th anniversary issue, of 1977, a huge work of edition of Annie’s photos. Once Rolling Stone moved to NY, Bea started collaborating even more, first as consultant art director and later as design director. For Annie it was very important to have Bea there. Have you seen the documentary Behind the Lens? Annie said that Bea took her under her wing and taught her a lot.

Actually, that was one of the starting points for Hall of Femmes, when we saw that documentary, because it was the first time we ever heard a woman speak of another woman as a mentor and give that kind of credit to another woman in a work collaboration thing. So it got us really curious about Bea and about the whole mentorship between women.
They had a very intense relation. And Bea was the one who took Annie Leibovitz to fashion, when she worked on the prototype for Vanity Fair. Do you want to see the prototype?

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That’s wonderful.

What made Bea the mentor type?
She recognized talent, and what would become the focus of that photographer or artist. For example, Richard Wilde (director of the SVA) told me that Bea paid attention to Keith Harring when he was a student, at a time when other people would not. With photographers and designers, she would know which path they had to follow. She would know how to make them develop their own personality.

Thank you for taking the time to talk, Bruno, bye!
Bye!

Bruno Feitler lives in São Paulo, Brazil, where he is a Professor of History at the Universidade Federal de São Paulo, with studies mainly on the Church in Brazil and the Portuguese Inquisition. O design de Bea Feitler is published by Cosac Naify and ipsis in 2012. Buy it here , even if it’s in Portuguese, it’s worth it.
Bruno with Bea, 1976. From the Cosacnaify blog.

Bruno with Bea, 1976. From the Cosacnaify blog.

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Posted by: 20:25

Categories: Annie Leibovitz, Bea Feitler, Diana Vreeland, Gloria Steinem, Harper's Bazaar, Marvin Israel, Mary Shanahan, Ruth Ansel, Uncategorized, Vanity Fair

Wednesday 11 December 2013
Årets julklappar

Nu ska ni få den enda lista ni behöver inför julen. Det är lite oklart om det är en inköpslista eller önskelista, både och förmodligen – det vet ju alla att man alltid hittar bäst presenter till sig själv. Det är lika bra vi säger det på en gång, den är väldigt partisk, ingenting du lika gärna kan slöjda själv, allt är kvalitet men inget är gratis!

Affischer

1. Självklart vill vi att alla du känner ska läsa alla våra böcker och att väggen som är det första du ser när du slår upp ögonen på morgonen, hela tunnelbanevagnen på väg till jobbet,  utrymmet bredvid kaffemaskinen på kontoret  och varenda lägenhet du tjuvkikar in i på kvällarna alla ska vara tapetserade med Hall of Femmes affischer. I år gav vi ut tre nya böcker och lika många affischer, om Janet Froelich, Lella Vignelli och Tomoko Miho. Dessutom gjorde vi Bloggboken, där du som vill julevila skrollfingrarna kan läsa Hall of Femmes blogg i bokformat. Dessutom har Ruth Ansel formgivit en fin bok förra året och dom här fina anteckningsböckerna har Paula Scher gjort. För den som redan har allt Hall of Femmes-relaterat (vi älskar dig), och hellre vill blicka in i framtiden, föreslår vi att köpa biljetter till det här eventet vi ordnar på Arkitektur och Designcentrum, True Freedom can only be collective – a seminar celebrating Lina Bo Bardi.

2. Årets största konsthändelse i Stockholm – vid sidan av Barbara Krugers föreläsning i maj – var förmodligen Cindy Shermans utställning på Moderna museet. Årets konstkatalog är helt följdriktigt Stefania Malmstens katalog för utställningen, där litterära texter blandas med konstbilder. En annan av våra favoritkatalogformgivare Anders Wester har gjort den här om Charles Long.

3. Kören The Sweptaways 10 år som Stockholms mest lysande popkör har blivit till en kombinerad foto- och notbok (kan även köpas på Bondegatan 11 under kontorstid) med arr och nyskrivna texter av kören själv. När alla julaftonsvännerna gått hem, sätter du på den nya skivan och sjunger med, svajande framför granen.

4. För dig som känner, eller själv är, en fåfäng bebis – här är dom mjuka paketen från en av våra svenska favoritformgivare, Ida Wessel och hennes klädmärke för barn, Tuut kids.

5. För dig som känner någon som är – eller själv är – ålderslös. För utan att ha läst den ännu, föreställer vi oss att Bea Uusmas bok Expeditionen kan ges bort till vem som helst, i vilken ålder som helst. Formgivning av Lotta Kühlhorn är såklart den andra anledningen att köpa boken.

6. The Gentlewoman kan du köpa en prenumeration på här. Prenumerationer är för övrigt världens bästa present, spridd över året och alltid lika glad överraskning när ett nytt nummer kommer. Vi rekommenderar även Mattias Åkerbergs ambitiösa nyhetsbrev Please Copy Me. Och för fanzineälskaren: maila me@johanbjorkegren.se och beställ 44 sidor talang.

9. Till den som är mer teoretiskt lagd, köp Hello World eller 100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design. Och för den som vill ha en bok som räcker i flera år och är så tung att man inte behöver ge bort ett gymkort, köp Svensk illustration – en visuell historia. Och såklart: In som ett lamm, ut som en tigrinna.

10. När du köpt alla dom här sakerna, föreslår vi att du slår in allt i rättesnöret.

Posted by: 16:46

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Alice Rawsthorn, Anders Wester, Böcker, Humor, Lella Vignelli, Lillian Bassman, Magazines, Massimo Vignelli, Paula Scher, Pengar, Penny Martin, Ruth Ansel, Stefania Malmsten, Tomoko Miho

Tuesday 6 November 2012
Avedons assistent berättar

För dig som klarar av att läsa en extremt ful och svårläst blog: här berättar Richard Avedons assistent historien om hur Avedon fotograferade till Ruth Ansels och Bea Feitlers rymdnummer av Harpers Bazaar 1965.

Posted by: 09:18

Categories: Bea Feitler, Harper's Bazaar, Richard Avedon, Ruth Ansel

Wednesday 10 October 2012
Tim, Penny och Ruth

Vivienne Westwood fotograferad av Tim Walker.

Här en artikel av Penny Martin om Tim Walkers nya utställning och hans och Ruth Ansels hårda redigeringsarbete med boken.

Posted by: 09:10

Categories: Fotografi, Penny Martin, Ruth Ansel

Friday 5 October 2012
Tim Walker: Storyteller

I dagarna öppnar en utställning på Somerset House i London med italienska Vogue-fotografen Tim Walker, känd för sina fantasifulla scenografier som för tankarna till Alice i Underlandet. Utställningen känns ambitiös då den förutom fotografi även visar exempel på film, installationer och den rekvisita som använts (man undrar ju alltid vad sakerna tar vägen när plåningen är över?). Boken med samma namn som släpps i dagarna är formgiven av Ruth Ansel. Beställ här eller gå till Konst-ig.

Posted by: 08:06

Categories: Fina saker, Fotografi, Ruth Ansel

Monday 11 June 2012
Hip, hip, Hiro

Ruth Ansel arbetade ofta med fotografen Hiro under sin tid på Harper’s Bazaar och har berättat om hans tidskrävande perfektionism. Hiro är en av våra favoritfotografer. Hans foton är magiska och har kvalitéer som inte är tidsbundna, vore det inte för kläderna skulle man gissa på att bilderna var tagna både på 60-talet och i framtiden. Getty Museum i Los Angeles har nu köpt in 14 foton till sina samlingar. Se fler foton och läs mer på det här ambitiösa och trevliga dagliga nyhetsbrevet.

Courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles Copyright Hiro




Posted by: 18:47

Categories: Fotografi, Ruth Ansel, Utställningar

Wednesday 21 December 2011
Lycka är…

Att få julkort från Massimo Vignelli och Ruth Ansel.

Posted by: 18:10

Categories: Massimo Vignelli, Ruth Ansel

Wednesday 9 November 2011
Från Hall of Femmes till Hall of Fame

Idag blir Ruth Ansel invald i Art Directors Hall of Fame och det känns som att en cirkel sluts.
Då – för två år sedan visste vi knappt vem Ruth Ansel var mer än till namnet. Vi hade precis skickat en artigt formulerad förfrågan om ett informellt samtal där vi ville prata om villkoren för kvinnor i branschen, då och nu. Att få tag i rätt mailadress var knepigt, och när vi äntligen lyckades var det svar vi fick lika kortfattat som New York-barskt: ”Jag hör av mig när jag kollat upp er. Om det är intressant då.”
Vi väntade med stigande ångest på svarsmailet som var översvallande positivt men dröjde nästan två veckor innan det kom. Mötet med Ruth Ansel ett halvår senare blev livsavgörande och kom att resultera i bokserien Hall of Femmes.
Så ikväll, Ruth, skålar vi i ditt italienska favoritvin och läser för hundrade gången igenom dina brev som för alltid kommer att ge oss gåshud. Vi är djupt stolta över att ha kunnat bidra till att rikta juryns uppmärksamhet mot dig och att du äntligen tillägnas ett pris du borde ha fått för länge sedan.
Grattis!

Posted by: 14:03

Categories: Ruth Ansel

Friday 7 October 2011
Beach life


Strandpar läsandes The New York Times Magazine formgivet av Ruth Ansel 1978. Foto av Nan Goldin.

Posted by: 13:18

Categories: Fotografi, Ruth Ansel

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