How the Famous Artists School Began
Saturday Evening Post cover by FAS founding faculty member and illustrator Stevan Dohanos, c. 1952.
Famous Artists School was founded in 1948 in Westport, Connecticut, a community where many artists chose to live because of its pleasant rural nature combined with its proximity to the art markets in New York City.
The Founders were twelve artists who were giants in their field, nationally known and recognized for their creations. This was the “golden age” of American illustration: magazines were in great demand, and stories were illustrated almost entirely by painting and drawing.
The Founders, led by Albert Dorne and Norman Rockwell, had a vision of making high-quality art instruction available to students all across America. These artists knew that there were many people with the desire to produce art; every day they received requests from interested potential students. Of course, these prominent and busy artists didn’t have time to teach individual students.
The Founders’ great idea was to pool their knowledge, insights, and secrets, and create a comprehensive art Course that students could study in the comfort and convenience of their own homes. To fully involve students in the learning process, the Course was designed to include Assignments to be sent in for critiquing and evaluation by a staff of professional artist-instructors, who were trained and mentored by the twelve Founders.
Guiding Faculty members George Giusti, Robert Heindel, and Bernard Fuchs join founder Stevan Dohanos at a retrospective exhibition.
Initially, each of the founding artists designed his own Course comprising twelve lessons. Upon enrolling, students would have the opportunity to choose the artist whose work they wished to study.
Eventually, these Courses proved to be too advanced for most students, so elements from each artist’s Course were combined to create a more basic program. The Founders were intimately involved with the creation of the Courses, producing numerous pieces of original art which were reproduced for demonstrations and examples in the texts. They also worked closely with the team of instructors who critiqued students’ work. Frequent training sessions and workshops insured that the vision of the Founders would be exactly replicated by all the FAS instructors.
Because of this careful attention to detail, and their gift for communicating their ideas and structuring an effective instructional program, the Founders created the most successful home-study art school in the United States.