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Skeleton key
Milton Glaser Collection Box 19 Folder 5. Columbia Records. Album cover art for “Death & the Maiden”, undated.
November 13, 2014

Skeleton key

Forever potent and still open to interpretation despite its ubiquity, the skeleton has surfaced many times in the early work of Milton Glaser. Glaser has exploited its (sometimes comic) menace with both expressive rendering and exploration of the shape of the skull. His art for Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden”, which would make an excellent album cover for several other musical genres, incorporates powerful swirls of flat color similar to his Dylan poster, but to a vastly different effect.

Below, a sketch and the printed final work for a magazine article on the economics of the international drug trade.

An ink sketch on paper of a skeleton in a suite and tie. It has a poppy growing out of both eye sockets.

Milton Glaser Collection Box 61 Folder 19. Vista Magazine sketch, late 1960s-early 1970s.

And hey, a couple of poppies are growing out of that skull.

An ink illustration of a skeleton in a suite and tie. Poppies growing out of both of it's eye socket and money popping out of its suite and pocket. Behind the skeleton is an empty field and mountains.

Vista magazine illustration from Milton Glaser: Graphic Design (Penguin, 1973).

For the great iceberg lettuce boycott of the early 1970s (entering the 1972 Democratic National Convention, Ted Kennedy welcomed the crowd with “Greetings, fellow lettuce boycotters!”), Glaser sketched one threatening head of lettuce. I’m not sure this art ever made it into production, but he used a similar idea for the grape boycott a few years earlier.

A sketch of a poster with a black skull that is half submerged in bright blue water. The top half of the skull is a green iceberg lettuce. "The tip of the iceberg. 40,000 workers..." written thinly above the skull and "Don't buy iceberg lettuce" at the bottom of the poster.

Milton Glaser Collection Box 40 Folder 12. Poster sketch, c. 1972.

Finally, a sketch and printed final piece from an unidentified publication.

A rough ink sketch on a 6 by 6 grid paper of a skeleton laying down on it's profile. On the skeleton's nose a small angel hovers above it. The angel has its wings open and both hands in the air.

Milton Glaser Collection Box 63 Folder 8. Sketch, undated.

Glaser traded in the gestural fairy of his sketch for a more traditional version.

An ink illustation on a 6 by 6 grid paper of a skeleton laying down on it's profile. On the skeleton's nose a small angel hovers above it. The angel is draped in cloth and has their wings open with one hand slightly raised.

Milton Glaser Collection Box 93 Folder 2. Illustration unknown publication.

See also: Henry Wolf’s x-rays.

This post also appears on our Picturebox blog.