Arnold Skolnick, Woodstock poster artist, dies at 85

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Arnold Skolnick speaks about creating the iconic poster for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969 on the festival’s 50th anniversary, Aug. 14, 2019, at his Easthampton home. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/26/2022 8:34:37 PM
Modified: 6/26/2022 8:32:05 PM

EASTHAMPTON — The award-winning artist and designer Arnold Skolnick, best known for his work drawing an iconic poster for the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, has died at the age of 85.

A resident of the Pioneer Valley for more than five decades, much of it spent at his home in Chesterfield, Skolnick was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., and worked in advertising before later becoming a freelance book designer and producer. His work was featured in print and on film, including a well-recognized image of a lemon on wheels that graced the cover of Ralph Nader’s 1971 book, “What to Do With Your Bad Car.”

But it was his Woodstock poster created for the legendary 1969 music festival — a simply designed bird perched on a guitar, the line “3 DAYS OF PEACE & MUSIC” below — that garnered Skolnick the most attention.

“He was sort of larger than life,” Skolnick’s son Alexander said Sunday. “When I’d meet his colleagues when I was a kid or teenager, they’d say, ‘I love your father. He’s a lunatic.’”

Skolnick had his own visions that he would bring to life as an artist who loved to paint and had a particular affinity for Renaissance art, his son said.

“Sometimes it didn’t work out and that was OK,” Alexander Skolnick said. “Other times, he’d create a poster that the whole world has copied over and over.”

Skolnick got the chance to design the Woodstock poster after the event’s organizers rejected a different artists’s previous attempt, which featured a naked woman and a psychedelic design. His son said Skolnick was an art purist who hated psychedelic art, instead using a razor blade to cut the shapes out to create the simple, easily readable concept that has lived on for more than 50 years.

“Over the years he didn’t really want to be known for only the Woodstock poster,” Alexander said. “But in the end he sort of embraced it.”

Speaking to the Gazette in 2019, Skolnick said that he never made any money off the poster beyond the original commission.

“Anybody in the rock ‘n’ roll business knows you can’t get royalties from anybody. You’re lucky to get paid,” he said with a chuckle.

Skolnick told the Gazette that he had been drawing since the age of 5.

“You can’t become an artist,” he said at the time. “Either you are, or you’re not … it’s a gift.”

Skolnick is survived by his children Alexander and Peter, his grandchildren Mose and Charna, his sister, Helene Rothschild, and many nieces, nephews and friends.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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