SVA Honors James McMullan with Masters Series Award and Exhibition

November 14, 2012

SVA will honor James McMullan—one of America’s foremost illustrators—with the Masters Series Award and retrospective exhibition. The exhibition will be on view November 26 – December 15, with a reception and award presentation taking place November 29 from 6-8pm, both at the SVA Gallery, 209 East 23rd Street, 1st floor, New York City. On Tuesday, December 4 at 7pm, McMullan will discuss his career with designer, SVA Acting Chairman and Masters Series laureate Milton Glaser at the SVA Amphitheater, 209 East 23 Street, 3rd floor. Admission is free and open to the public.

Best known for his Lincoln Center theater posters and his psychologically intense style of realism, McMullan has also designed and illustrated many magazine articles, book and album covers, and advertisements. With over 100 works—some of them never before shown—his exhibition includes early work from the 1950s; 1960s editorial illustrations for publications such as TIME, Esquire, Rolling Stone and New York magazine; theater posters from Lincoln Center; and new paintings to be published next year in his memoir about growing up in China. Much of the work is drawn from the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives at SVA, a repository of original art and printed matter by preeminent designers, illustrators, and art directors who have close ties to the College.

“McMullan’s work achieves what we all aspire to,” says designer and SVA Acting Chairman Milton Glaser. “It’s unique, memorable and heartfelt. What else could you want?”

James McMullan was born in 1934 in Tsingtao, China and studied art at the Pratt Institute in New York City. He joined the venerated Push Pin Studios—founded in 1954 by Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Reynold Ruffins and Edward Sorel—in 1966. He departed Push Pin in 1969 just as Milton Glaser and Clay Felker were starting New York magazine; he was one of the core group of artists who helped establish that magazine’s graphic style. A highlight was a series of five illustrations—including the cover—for the June 1976 story “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,” which was the basis for the feature film Saturday Night Fever.

McMullan designed his first Broadway poster in 1976, and has had a long relationship with Lincoln Center, producing many evocative and highly expressive posters for the theater. Theater posters included in “The Master Series: James McMullan” include “Comedians,” “Carousel,” “Twelfth Night,” “Six Degrees of Separation,” “Anything Goes,” “Dinner At Eight” and “South Pacific,” among others.

McMullan has also collaborated on six popular children’s books with his wife, children’s book author Kate McMullan: I Stink! (HarperCollins, 2006), I’m Dirty! (HarperCollins, 2006), I’m Fast! (HarperCollins, 2012), I’m Bad! (HarperCollins, 2008), I’m Big! (HarperCollins, 2010), and I’m Mighty! (HarperCollins, 2003).

Beginning in 1969, McMullan taught at SVA for 30 years, and in 1987 he inaugurated his High-Focus Drawing Program, which later resulted in a book on his distinctive approach to life drawing. For more information about McMullan and the Masters Series, visit

Images by James McMullan, from top: Album cover, Paul Desmond: Late Lament, Bluebird RCA, 1990; poster for Ah Wilderness!; cover illustration for “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,” New York magazine, 1976; poster for A Fair Country.

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