The Weird Bias Against Burne Hogarth

I remember when the online art community was beginning to get together and become an actual online community, they also started pooling resources, what is good, what isn’t, who is offering what classes, are they good, how much were they, which artists were the up and coming ones, etc.

Beginner Guides were being set up and everyone was throwing the usual names for art instructors who had reputable books like Andrew Loomis, Betty Edwards, George Bridgman, etc.

One name keeps being brought forward and that name almost keeps being shot down for many reasons. That name was Burne Hogarth.

Burne Hogarth if you do not know him, he was the founder of School of Visual Arts (SVA) which has also in turn educated a lot of good artists. He made some Tarzan comic strips before that and he has been an instructor about as long as he has been a illustrator/artist.

Burne Hogarth also made a set of instructional books, on drawing the head and the body, etc. The usual stuff.

As the online community continued to discuss resources of learning, his books inevitably are brought up.

They were at best accepted with mild warmth, at worst ridiculed and chastised for many reasons and anything in-between was also usually closer to at worst than at best.

In general, his artwork and what he taught in the books were seen as too stylized to be instructional, too stiff, too exaggerated/unnatural/not realistic, the list goes on.

This general sentiment lingers over all his instructional books including more harsher opinions that what he teaches in the books is outright entirely wrong, this sentiment is expressed a lot in art forums/communities.

I find this bias towards Burne Hogarth weird for two main reasons.

1) It has to be said that you can’t rely on one art instructor and their own series of books entirely on their own, you can learn things in other books that are not in their books. There’s stuff in Hogarth’s books that may be of use to some people in general in their own way with their own merit. Outright saying that his books don’t have any use to anyone is not actually true.

2) Although more realistic and accurate, Andrew Loomis also employs his own style that is very clearly that of the American advertorial illustration era. Loomis also does this by exaggerating, he does it when he says the human figure is at least 8 heads tall then its a model/ideal figure, 6 heads being the average and not ideal. While Hogarth is drawing upon his comic book muscle bodybuilder style. If the issue of style comes into the question than it becomes more subjective than objective.

For me, personally, I did not reference Burne Hogarth’s books that much in my art journey but I have read through them before and will again when I have the time.

The style in his instructional books personally are not too much to my liking, it seemed like he exaggerated all the muscles to emphasize the shapes and how to draw them, but in the end the appearance that happens tend to offput people as walking muscle men without skin, but there’s information that can help albeit minimally if you already well versed with George Bridgman and Andrew Loomis and anatomical books. His finished illustration work though its must be said looks novel and great so that’s something to consider there, in that the work in his book is not indicative of how he actually draws but how he teaches/thinks about drawing.

My personal belief is that there are merits in his books that will not be seen by everyone going to beginners: “Oh it’s not good, its not accurate, the style is ugly, etc.” More information is better than less information and the information there can supplement other books.

Below are some other articles I have written on art:

If you liked what you read, please consider supporting me on Patreon (monthly) or ko-fi (one time donations).

Stay safe~!
JR

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s