My friend, the photographer B. Docktor, wrote the following tribute to her father, the artist and illustrator Irv Docktor, who passed away last week. I was so moved by her words and her father’s work that I asked B. if I could post them on Drawger. She has put together an extensive collection of his work on her webpage. Here is her tribute, with her kind permission:
"My dad died last Thursday, and I wanted to let you know, and to share some of what his life was about.
"He was into drawing when he was very young and realized he could get out of assignments by doing chalkboard illustrations in class. He won a four-year scholarship to Philadelphia College of Art, and when he got out, he went into the army during WWII. His talent was used in a map-making division in Australia and the Phillipines from 1940-1945.
"When he came home, he met my mother, who he'd already been corresponding with. His mother had met my mother at my grandparents' restaurant--Himmelstein's in Philadelphia. They were both gorgeous, both ready, got married and moved to Flushing, NY. He said he wore out a lot of shoe leather taking his portfolio around, and then he broke into the illustration world in the late 1940's.
"In 1957 he found the house of his dreams, with a river view in Fort Lee. He continued to do illustration work through the early 60's. In 1960 he got a commission to execute 10-foot-high murals, and he needed a larger space. So he got a studio in the city, and from that point on, the next 15 years were spent mostly in NY, totally immersed in his artwork and teaching part-time at the Newark College of Art.
"In 1975 he moved back to Fort Lee, and then at age 60, he got his first-ever full-time job, teaching at the High School of Art and Design in NYC. He did that for 15 years, getting into school at 7am to run a studio with people modeling for himself and the more dedicated students and teachers.
"After my folks retired, they travelled to Europe several times, and they were the most dedicated museum-goers you could imagine. They also tremendously enjoyed going to the Metropolitan Opera, the Philharmonic, the theatre, American Ballet Theatre, and NYC Ballet. My dad would sketch in the Playbill during the performance, and he has a huge body of work illustrating what he was seeing.
"The week he died, he was working on the illustration he did at the performance of "The 39 Steps," and that is the next to last piece on the webpage.
"In the last 20-25 years, he exhibited extensively at juried shows in NY, NJ, Philadelphia and CT, and won numerous awards. He worked right to the very end--the last piece on the webpage was also completed the week he died.
"He also was teaching art to senior citizens in Fort Lee, and he taught the week he died.
"The work on the webpage is in roughly chronological order, starting with a couple of pieces from during the war. Then you'll see a small representative group of his illustration work from the 50's to early 60's. He did many children's books, as well as classics such as "War and Peace" and "The Brothers Karamazov." You'll also see some record album covers. There are some portraits from the period which I would call between the illustration and "fine art" years. I couldn't resist showing you some of his dog cartoons, which I love.
"He was unbelievably prolific, and eventually, I will put more of his work out there. I had photographed a lot of his work in recent years, but much of this selection was just done this week. My brother Paul had cleared out the house recently so that it could be renovated. It was an arduous process, because my dad was a compulsive hoarder. There are pieces in this set of work that I had never seen before.
"He was just starting to learn how to use the internet, and I wish he could see it presented in this way.
"I look forward to hearing what it evokes for you."