Here’s another Randy flashback. See Randy’s editorial cartoon archive here. –Daryl
In the late 60’s and into the early 70’s, I became aware of a series of pretty avant-garde children’s books being published by someone named Harlin Quist. I think I first saw them in Graphis, an international magazine published in Switzerland and also in a similar publication, Gebrauchsgrafik, from Germany. Quist was an American publisher with offices in New York and Paris. I couldn’t believe how beautiful these books were. Many of my favorite artists were doing work for Quist, people like Reynold Ruffins, Murray Tinkelman, Eleanor Schmid, Phillipe Weisbecker, Charlie Slackman, Stan Mack, Edward Gorey, Étienne Delessert, Alain Le Foll, Alan Cober and Heinz Edelman. It was revolutionary! Realism was fading from the illustration field and in its place was a vibrant, refreshing breath of graphic grandeur. I wanted in.
So, I found Quist’s phone number and called him up for an appointment. He told me to come by on Thursday. Thursday found me in front of an ordinary, rather bleak-looking old brownstone with my trusty portfolio in hand. I was surprised to see that his office was in his apartment. I climbed the stairs and knocked on his door. It took a while for the door to be opened a crack. It was dark in the apartment.
I couldn’t see anything but a hand that had opened the door. Then I could make out an eye peering out at me.
“Mr. Quist is not here” said the voice in answer to my, “I have an appointment with Mr. Quist”.
“He’s in Paris” said the voice behind the door. “You can leave your portfolio until next Thursday!”
It was fairly common practice in those days to sometimes leave a portfolio for a week. I was disappointed but I agreed to leave it and a hand emerged snatching it from my grasp. The door shut. I needed that portfolio but I had high hopes that I would soon be joining that stellar group of outstanding illustrators in the Quist pantheon.
A week went by and I again climbed the stairs to the ominous apartment and knocked on the door. Nothing. I knocked again… and again. No response. The whole apartment building was soundless. No one seemed to be around. I didn’t know what to do. I went downstairs to see if I could find a door that said “Super” on it … or something. NOTHING. I went outside and looked for an entrance to a basement where I might find someone to give me assistance. I found a door that looked promising. I opened it and entered going down a few steps into a dark musty basement. It was EXACTLY like being in one of those horror movies. There were passageways, overhead pipes, electrical fuse boxes. It was dank, quiet, dark and eerie. After trying different paths that wound through the vast basement, I started to hear faint music coming from a radio. I followed it to a small room where I surprised an old fellow who was sitting there. I enquired about Mr. Quist.
“He’s gone” the super said.
“But … but” I stammered, “I need my portfolio that is in his apartment”.
“NO” he said, “He doesn’t pay his rent. We kicked him out and everything in that apartment belongs to us.”
I explained that I didn’t even know Harlin Quist. That I had never even met him. That I had just left MY portfolio for him to look at. It belonged to me. I had nothing to do with Mr. Quist. He replied that nothing could be done. Everything in the apartment was confiscated. I guess I started pleading, maybe even sobbing, about how my livelihood required that portfolio and etc. and etc., because he grudgingly relented and I followed him up the stairways to the foreboding apartment which we entered and finally found my portfolio, among others strewn about the place. I showed him my name on it and I left.
Now, I see that Quist has died and that my good friend Étienne, who had done four books (sometimes written by his friend Ionescu) for Quist, has written in a recent interview that Quist and his partner Francois Ruy-Vidal were con men, crooks and charlatans that didn’t pay proper royalties (if they paid anything at all) to their contributors and even though many illustrators were warned by Etienne and others of this fact, the illustrators continued to flock to his door hoping to do one of the beautiful, Harlin Quist award-winning books.
Harlin Quist passed away in 2000 at the age of 69. Read Harlin Quist’s obituary in the New York Times. –Daryl
Read more more of Randy’s cartooning memories: