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Tom Funk Mid Century Illustrator

October 12, 2012

Tom Funk was born in Brooklyn on 18 July 1911, and attended Amherst College, the Art Students’ League and the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design, New York.

He was working in a display studio when he met Edna Eicke, later a celebrated New Yorker cover artist. Here’s a little of Edna’s work for ‘ The New Yorker ‘  in the late 1940’s and 50’s.

They were married in 1943, and until 1953 they lived in Greenwich Village, New York. Like many other artists, writers and actors, they then moved to Westport, Connecticut – considered an artists’ community, and at that time regarded as being way out in the country. Here’s some of Tom’s black and white etching style work.

Tom’s career included freelance book, magazine and advertising illustration. His work appeared regularly in the New Yorker and the Dramatists Guild Quarterly, and frequently in Harper’s, Woman’s Day, Gourmet, House & Garden and LIFE. He designed Christmas cards, and for many years contributed the Amherst College New Year card; he illustrated books and activity kits for children, textbooks, and many cookbooks. His grandfather and great-uncle had founded the dictionary publishers Funk & Wagnalls, and Tom illustrated four books on word derivations written by an uncle, Charles E. Funk, the firm’s former head lexicographer.

After nearly fifty years in Westport, Tom moved to Norwalk, Connecticut, where he continued to draw and paint local scenes and was happy to prepare artwork for many local organizations. His last major project was a collaboration with the late William G. Cahan of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, NY, on a series of anti-Big Tobacco cartoons. His hobbies included folk dancing – until his death, on 9 October 2003, aged ninety-two, he was an active member of the Nutmeg Folk Dance Group – and playing banjo with friends. He sounds a great character as well as an amazing artist.

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2012 1:11 pm

    Another great post! Very informative as usual and makes me want to search out more about that whole artist community in Connecticut – fascinating. Just one thing though – I would say those black and white images are more in the style of some kind of relief printing – lino or wood – or scraperboard – than etching 🙂

    • October 12, 2012 3:20 pm

      You could well be right Sue, there’s a mix of styles there and some are definitely looking more like lino or wood cuts I agree. Sadly there is little info online to refer to, I tried to play it safe in saying ‘etching style work’ lol

  2. Lisa Holman permalink
    October 12, 2012 4:10 pm

    What lovely samples, they bring back a lot of memories of books that I had as a child, especially the cookbooks. And I have to add that I just found your blog, and I’m really enjoying it, it’s a real pleasure to see so many beautiful illustration and design samples, so well presented.

    • October 12, 2012 4:50 pm

      Hi Lisa, many thanks for your bubbly and enthusiastic comment. You’re a most welcome addition : ) I wish that I had been brought up with these kind of illustrations as a child, but am thankful that I’ve got a chance to still discover them now, through the internet, as an adult. I hope life on the farm in Ohio is going well.

  3. October 15, 2012 6:31 pm

    I didn’t think I knew this illustrator until I saw some of his work, especially Betty Crocker.
    I really like his magazine cover illustrations.

  4. January 14, 2013 9:14 pm

    Hi, just found this from searching ‘Tom Funk’. Thanks for sharing these examples of his art, the illustrations are refreshing and entertaining, a snapshot of life ‘back then’.

    • January 16, 2013 10:59 am

      Definitely as you say a great depiction of life in those times. Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for your comment

  5. Nicole permalink
    January 5, 2014 5:00 am

    I own a couple of Tom Funks Original black and white architectural etchings on scratch board. I am trying to find out how much they are worth. Can anyone lead me in the right direction.

    • January 7, 2014 6:41 pm

      Hi Nicole, Sorry but I wouldn’t have a clue as to their value. Perhaps try an auction house like Christies and see if they’ve sold something similar in the past and what it’s sold for. Good luck

  6. January 13, 2014 2:13 am

    Try Illustration House for values. Roger Reed might be able to tell you. I was honored to know Tom. He had a variety of techniques which included scratching out of nice glossy ink blacks and sometimes using opaque white. His line is wonderful. He used brushes and grey wash with the sureness of someone using copal markers. He was an incredibly generous and lovely man with a sense of humor that inspired those around him.

    • January 13, 2014 9:16 am

      Thanks for the additional information and insight into Tom’s personality here.

  7. Bobbie Williams permalink
    December 15, 2015 9:02 pm

    i have a very old native american ink drawing of indian’s and horses, and it is signed ‘funk’! i cant find anything about the artist, it is on old brown paper.

    • December 20, 2015 7:17 pm

      Sounds intreaguing, perhaps it’s an original Tom Funk ! are the styles similar ? Happy hunting.

  8. Kathy Shortall Hensley permalink
    March 10, 2017 12:13 am

    I knew Tom Funk when I was a little girl. My father was an illustrator and they and their families were friends. Tom was a very nice and kind man. He took several beautiful photos of me and my brother, Steve. He was an excellent photographer. I just thought of him today–at my lofty age of 72–and I’m delighted to find your site and so much of his work.

    • March 10, 2017 9:02 am

      Hi Kathy, how lovely to hear from you and thank you for sharing your childhood memories of Tom with us too. I’m so pleased you came across his work on my blog.

    • April 4, 2017 1:40 pm

      Dear Kathy, I am Vicky, TF’s and EE’s daughter! I remember your parents well, and all the old photos of them together (doing LOTS of silly things, I have to add!). I live in London now, my sister Susan – who you might remember, lives in Boothbay Harbor Maine.

      I was just looking up my father’s illustrations for Dramatists Guild Quartrle – and ran into you!

      • Kathy Shortall Hensley permalink
        April 8, 2017 4:39 pm

        Wow! Isn’t it amazing what modern technology can do to connect people over time. My mother and father each remarried twice. My brother, Steve, died in Vietnam in 1969. My brother Tom is 67, happily married, and just became a grandfather. I have a daughter and son and two young grandsons. Hurray!

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