In Memory of Alex Steinweiss (1917–2011)

"I wanted people to look at the artwork and hear the music." —Alex Steinweiss

Alex Steinweiss, the grandfather of album cover design, died at his home in Sarasota, Florida, on July 18, 2011. He was 94 years old. Since the publication in 2008 of his monograph with TASCHEN, Steinweiss’ contribution to the evolution of the music business and the history of graphic design has gained worldwide attention. Madrid’s El País called the book "a voluminous act of poetic justice for one of the real pioneers of graphic design." The Times, London, credited him with "singlehandedly creating the format, design and graphic 'language' of the album cover." Vanity Fair, New York, called his work "the beau ideal of midcentury graphic art." And he has been honored with exhibitions and even a revival of his iconic handwriting, called the Steinweiss Script. A laudable leap for a boy from Brooklyn who just wanted to do justice to Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff, Gershwin and Rodgers & Hart . . . all the music he adored. We knew that feeling when we published his book—we just wanted to do justice to Alex Steinweiss.

Last we saw our dear Alex was at the opening of an exhibit of his album covers during a design summit at the Ringling School of Art in 2010. Dressed in his trademark pink, the conference attendees gave a raucous standing ovation once he was introduced to the crowd by Steven Heller. "You mean you did all that by hand," we overheard one wide-eyed young designer ask him later that night, "without a computer?" He didn’t miss a beat: "Computers! That’s why everything today looks so crappy!" That was our Alex! We will miss him so.

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Steinweiss and his wife Blanche arriving at JFK after a trip to Europe, 1961.
Courtesy Alex Steinweiss.

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Ringling School of Art Design Summit in Sarasota, Florida, 2010. Alex Steinweiss, center, with editor Nina Wiener and co-authors Steven Heller and Kevin Reagan.
Courtesy TASCHEN.

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Cover design by Alex Steinweiss. Left: Sergei Rachmaninoff, "Songs of Rachmaninoff." Jennie Tourel, mezzo-soprano; Erich Itor Kahn, piano. Columbia Masterworks, 1946. Right: Ludwig van Beethoven, "Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat (Emperor)." Rudolf Serkin, piano; Bruno Walter, conductor; the New York Philharmonic. Columbia Masterworks, 1942.
Courtesy Alex Steinweiss

More information on the limited edition book:
Alex Steinweiss, Inventor of the Modern Album Cover - Collector's and Art Edition
<font size="1">Alex Steinweiss in his studio, 2008 <br /> (c) Miguel Elizalde<br /> </font>
Alex Steinweiss in his studio, 2008
(c) Miguel Elizalde

<font size="1">Alex Steinweiss photographed for &quot;Downbeat&quot; magazine at his home studio, 1947. <br /> (c) William P. Gottlieb;</font>
Alex Steinweiss photographed for "Downbeat" magazine at his home studio, 1947.
(c) William P. Gottlieb;

<font size="1">Promotional card sent to Steinweiss' clients, ca. 1952. </font>
Promotional card sent to Steinweiss' clients, ca. 1952.