Frank Reilly

2009 Distinguished Educator in the Arts: Frank Reilly

(1906 - 1967) A newspaper columnist once wrote, “Frank Reilly is the greatest art teacher in the country”. Wherever he was teaching, Mr. Reilly’s classes were so popular, they filled to beyond capacity. With the model completely obscured, students in back rows drew and painted from easels in the line directly ahead of them. His ability to thoroughly present concept, technique and procedure, were both legendary and instrumental to his success as a teacher. It was once related that, “Mr. Reilly could lecture for six hours on how to paint a bubble in a glass of beer.”

However, the ability to inspire is truly a gift. In this regard, Frank Reilly’s unselfishness is unparalleled. Although he enjoyed a distinguished career as an illustrator and innovator of artists materials, it is possible that the most important part of his life was teaching. Mr. Reilly could easily be considered one of the most influential artists of the Twentieth Century, so impressive is the roster of his former students. Born in the heart of New York City, Frank J. Reilly, was the son of a Broadway actor, and stage manager. This early exposure to the value of rehearsal and preparation undoubtedly had a lasting impression on the young Frank Reilly. Years later, as a pupil of Art Students League co-founder, Frank Vincent DuMond, Reilly would carefully chart and record his instructor’s every brush stroke. He studied for a year and a half with DuMond, and another three with renowned anatomist, George Bridgeman.

As Bridgeman’s successor at the ASL, Frank Reilly taught drawing, painting, picture making, and color abstraction. He was a meticulous perfectionist, who quickly became associated with success. Reilly witnessed the passing years of the Golden Age of Illustration Art, but recognized that there was an even larger landscape of assignments for well trained artists that were prepared to work hard and approach art as a profession. In this regard, his success was nothing less than monumental.

Kent Steine