He who knows how to appreciate colour relationships, the influence of one colour on another, their contrasts and dissonances, is promised an infinitely diverse imagery.
- Sonia Delaunay
Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.
- Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.


Saturday, August 5, 2006

Frank Reilly

Posted by Charley Parker at 10:48 am

Frank Reilly and Doug HigginsSome artists have as much, or more, impact as a teacher as they do as an artist.

Although Frank Reilly had been fulfilling assignments as a professional illustrator even while he was still a pupil at the Art Students League, it was on his return there as a teacher that he would make his greatest contribution.

Reilly was one of the most influential American art teachers in the 20th Century. He is credited with codifying methods for teaching drawing, painting, illustration and other aspects of representational art in ways that became the foundation for teaching techniques still in use today.

Reilly organized the study of color, value, form, composition and other elements of painting and drawing into systematic programs built on Munsell’s scientific study of color and the knowledge he acquired from his own teachers (who included renowned anatomist George Bridgeman, Frank Vincent DuMond and his friend and neighbor, the great illustrator Dean Cornwell), as well as his own experience as a working illustrator.

For the 35 years he taught at the Art Students League his classes and lectures were waiting list and standing room only.

I can point you to two excellent sources of information about Reilly on the web. One is an article American Art Archives, the other is a remembrance by contemporary realist Doug Higgins in which he gives a wonderfully detailed account of his experiences as a student of Reilly’s, profusely illustrated with his notes, drawings and paintings from his classes (images at left, bottom).

Because Higgin’s site is in frames, I’ve popped it out of context here because it’s the only way to link to it directly. The original context is a link within Higgin’s main site.

Another of Reilly’s students, Jack Faragasso, who succeeded Reilly at the school he founded, has published a book, Mastering Drawing The Human Figure From Life, Memory, Imagination which is based in large part on Reilly’s instruction.


15 comments for Frank Reilly »

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  1. Comment by Michael
    Saturday, August 5, 2006 @ 8:31 pm

    Excellent post!

    I’d never heard of Reilly until you mentioned him (I’m in the UK so it was slightly unlikely!).

    Now I’m going to dig a bit deeper into his methods and his successors.


  2. Comment by Charley Parker
    Sunday, August 6, 2006 @ 9:44 am

    Thanks, Michael.

    I tried to find some online images and info about Reilly’s predecessor at the Art Student’s League, George Bridgeman. While his excellent books are widely available, I was surprised that I conltn’t find much of anything online about him.

  3. Comment by Andrew Swift
    Monday, August 7, 2006 @ 11:21 am

    I was a Faragasso student at the Art Student’t League of New York and am of course very pleased to see this article on Frank Reilly.

    Reilly’s impact on the world of illustration was profound.

    The “Reilly Method” is still talked about at the league and I hope this article leads to a better understanding of his work and important legacy to the craft and discipline of illlustration and drawing.


  4. Comment by Nick Tabron
    Thursday, February 8, 2007 @ 10:56 am

    I am currently trying to teach my self the Frank Reilly system… beacause it is so organized, I only have books , by Reilly students and articles on the system.. i would like to talk with Andrew Swift or any student of that system,,, I once heard about a boook that reilly wrote for a course , that is in a wherehouse in Calf.. any help given would be appreciated thank Nick please email me email hidden; JavaScript is required.. I have Faragasso books and all i could find thanks Nick

  5. Comment by rose roburn
    Saturday, March 31, 2007 @ 6:33 pm

    Reilly’s classes were too filled up at Art Students League so I was able to enroll at his class at a school called Modern Art School in NYC. Is that school still around?
    Probably not…but his teaching left a great
    impression on me.

  6. Comment by Tony Perrotta
    Saturday, December 29, 2007 @ 7:31 am

    I have done some research on the palette used by Reilly and Dumond. It is my conclusion that Dumond taught the palette to Reilly. I would love to hear comments on this.


  7. Comment by carol
    Wednesday, January 2, 2008 @ 11:01 pm

    Tell me more about Dumond. I have read as much as I can about Frank J. Reilly and students of his who have written books. Does anyone have an old textbook or Frank Reilly or can tell me who I can contact who might have one. Thanks Carol

  8. Comment by Candido Rodriguez
    Thursday, March 27, 2008 @ 6:49 pm

    I studied with Frank J. Reilly at the Art Student League and at The Frank Reilly of Art. During my time with Mr. Reilly (as all the students addressed him) I served as one of his drawing class monitors for two years.
    Frank Reilly was a genius instructor who was a master craftsman, and possessed and developed a vast body of knowledge on the craft of drawing, painting, and picture making which he was uniquely able to impart to his students. Sadly a great deal of what he taught is undocumented.
    Reilly had a great gift, he could (and did) identify what in a student’s work needed to be improved before the student could truly advance.
    Reilly had many influence but beyond doubt the greatest was the great illustrator Dean Cornwell.
    Perhaps I can answer some questions on Reilly, I’ll be happy to take them on.
    Candido Rodriguez

  9. Comment by Doug Higgins
    Tuesday, March 10, 2009 @ 7:15 am

    Thank you so much for linking to my website which includes my book devoted to the Reilly teaching method. I was his drawing and painting monitor and he honored me further by eventually displaying my student work on the walls of the school. I took scrupulous notes during his lectures upon which the book is based. He gave me a career and it’s not too much of a stretch to say… a life. The book is my insufficient thank you.
    Doug Higgins, Santa Fe

  10. Comment by Donelli J. DiMaria
    Saturday, September 12, 2009 @ 12:55 pm

    I studied under Cesar Borgia (one of Reilly’s original students) at the “Reilly League of Artists” in White Plains, NY for more than 13 years. Cesar and Lu Deluca (the other instructor at the League) both died last year (2008) and the League is now defunct after 35 years of operation under Borgia. I am currently trying to carry on the tradition of the “Reilly Method” in Santa Fe, NM at the Santa Fe School of Art where I am teaching two classes in figure drawing. If anyone knows of any other books or notes on the “Reilly Method” (besides the Faragasso and Higgins books), I would appreciate the information.

  11. Comment by Sylvia S. Smasal
    Wednesday, September 16, 2009 @ 2:25 am

    I just found another book which uses some of Reilly’s methods…
    It is called
    “The Artists Atelier” Edited by Henry J.T. Doren.
    Has anyone read it?

  12. Comment by Donelli J. DiMaria
    Sunday, February 28, 2010 @ 1:18 am

    My wife and I have just finished writing and publishing a book based on the “Reilly” drawing technique entitled “Figure Drawing from Life: Tools, Techniques and Tricks”. It is 75 pages long, 11 in.x 8.5 in. x 1 in., in black and white, cost $25 (not including shipping). Please contact us through out website http://www.dimariagallery.com if you are interested in purchasing a copy.

  13. Comment by Chris Bradley
    Thursday, August 26, 2010 @ 10:33 pm

    There is a vigorous search going on for the unpublished Reilly correspondence course – National Institute of Art and Design. Please help any way you can!

    The Reilly Project – http://frankjreilly.blogspot.com/

  14. Comment by Doug Higgins
    Tuesday, August 21, 2012 @ 8:49 am

    My friend Clark Hulings, a former Reilly student, once showed me his copy of the Reilly correspondence book in which he was included. It was large and thick. We were on our way to lunch so I didn’t see much other than his lesson but it was packed full of artist lessons, none by Mr.Reilly, and not all by his former students. I had once lent him my book on Frank Brangwyn so I’m sure he would have lent it to me but I’m afraid I neglected to ask. His wife, Mary, survives him so I suppose I could ask her as I’d love to pour over it.

  15. Comment by Donelli J. DiMaria
    Saturday, May 4, 2013 @ 12:23 pm

    My teaching videos on the Reilly drawing and painting techniques recorded in 2011 are now available for “free” on several educational platform sites, including http://www.udemy.com/u/donellijdimaria and http://www.lifedrawingposes.com/figure-drawing-lessons. Also, the drawing manual that goes with the figure drawing videos in also available on “Lulu” at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/DJDiMaria as a paperback or ebook.

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