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Fred Brenner fashion illustrations

Identifier: KA-0153-01


Fred Brenner (1920-2006) was a fashion illustrator specializing in menswear, who taught illustration at Parsons School of Design from 1962 until 1984. This collection is comprised of approximately forty original fashion illustrations, as well as a smaller number of publications featuring his work, reprints and pre-print process work.


  • 1944-1970s



1.3 Cubic Feet (2 boxes, 12 folders)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The collection consists of original illustrations, reproductions, tearsheets and newspaper and magazine clippings of published illustrations created by Fred Brenner. The undated original illustrations were created in various media, including pencil, charcoal, pastel, ink, watercolor, and gouache. The majority of original illustrations depict menswear, with a few examples of boyswear. Although most of the original illustrations are not identified by client or date, based on the dates of the published illustrations in the collection, they were created between the 1950s and 1970s.

There are two clippings of non-fashion illustrations, cartoon-like drawings Brenner made for a humorous publication called Seth-o-scoop, published at the Lincoln Army Air Field, Lincoln, Nebraska in 1944, where Brenner was probably stationed while serving in the Air Force. There is a cover of The New York Times’ “Report on Men’s Wear'' that is also possibly his work, according to the donor, Barbara Brenner.

Some of the drawings are signed as F.B., or F. Brenner, but most of them are not signed.

Some of the published illustrations were commissioned by Mallory Hat Company for Esquire and Collier’s magazines. Other commissioning manufacturers include Cricketeer, Cortaulds, and Arrow shirts. Several of the illustrations were published in The New York Times Magazine’s Report on Men’s Wear for example for retailer Franklin Simon; some of them were published in Men’s Wear magazine. His illustrations appeared in The New York Times as well for retailers De Pinna, and Macy’s. The collection also contains apparently stand-alone advertisements for the retailers Bamberger’s, Robert Hall Clothes, and Lord & Taylor. In some instances it is unclear whether Brenner was commissioned by a magazine, or by the company, as in the case of Wamsutta, Rose Brothers, Ensenada, Larkey, and Eastman Chemical Products, Inc.

There is one instance of an illustration with a short essay also by Brenner as part of a campaign for renewal of retail men’s wear advertising, in Men’s Wear magazine. He argues that men’s fashion illustrations would stand out more if the illustrators used more varied, individual drawing styles and techniques.

Brenner also created wildlife drawings and illustrations for children’s books, and the collection contains several issues of the UK-published The Artist’s magazine, with illustrations and articles by Fred Brenner on fashion illustration, children’s book illustration, and wildlife drawing. However, no original wildlife drawings or children’s book illustrations are included in this collection. The collection also includes two publications, “The 1986 Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards” booklet, and a book, How to Draw in Pen and Ink by Susan E. Meyer and Martim Avillez, with illustrations by Brenner.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact:

Biographical Note

Biography of Fred Brenner by Barbara Brenner

FRED BRENNER, 1920-2006


Fred was born in Newark, New Jersey, where his father owned a restaurant. Fred claimed always that his interest in art was awakened by a headwaiter named Franz who entertained him by drawing pictures of trains and taught him to draw with a charcoal stick.

Whatever the influences, he held on to them through elementary school, then attended Newark Arts High School, which was a kind of magnet public school.

First Jobs

After graduating from high school, Fred went straight into the workforce. His first job was as a jewelry engraver, which probably helped him develop his facility with a stylus/pen instrument and also what became a special talent for creating intricate design in small spaces.

Meanwhile, he attended the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art at night, his next goal being to get a job in the Advertising Department of Bamberger's, the largest department store in Newark at that time. He finally got “in the door,” but as a messenger in the department. It was some time before he got on the drawing board. His first drawing assignment was to make a line for the floor under a photograph of a refrigerator. So proud was he of his first repro in newspaper that he saved dozens of copies.

At Bamberger’s, Fred was surrounded by older, more experienced illustrators and other professionals in layout, re-touching and all aspects of the business. He got on-the-job training in fashion illustration, in decorative pen-and-ink illustration, in design and layout, and in working for reproduction. By the time he was twenty-one he was getting full page ads to do as well as getting some freelance work in men’s fashions.

Art in the Army

After Pearl Harbor (1941), Fred enlisted in the Army Air Force. He wound up in an Art Unit that was part of Air Force Intelligence. For a while he was stationed in the States, where he did posters for the Army, and illustrations for the Army Air Force newspaper. Later his Art Unit was sent to Guam, where he performed critical work mapping and keeping a visual record of the destruction of Japan. While on Guam he kept a sketchbook of drawings of the island, of Japanese prisoners, and of his fellow soldiers. Many of these drawings are in the Veterans History Project in Washington, D.C.

Later Career

When the war ended, Fred went back to his former job at Bamberger's. But now he was looking for a wider horizon, art-wise. He wanted to freelance and he needed an agent. After we met and decided to get married, I quit my job as an editor and acted as his agent. Shortly thereafter we moved to New York City, the mecca for fashion illustrators at the time.

We had no trouble getting accounts. The field of men’s fashions was not crowded and Fred was good at what he did. Some of his department store accounts were Macy’s, Franklin Simon, De Pinna, Lord & Taylor, and Saks Fifth Avenue. He also worked, through ad agencies, for menswear businesses such as Mallory Hats, Arrow Shirts, MacGregor Sportswear, Cricketeer, and Celanese Corporation. At the same time he was sought after for editorial fashion for Esquire, Mens Wear, and the New York Times.

His Work Process: The Tools

It seems hard to imagine but back then there were no computers. The lightbox, the camera lucida (“lucy”), the camel hair brush, and the croquil pen were the tools of the trade. Whatman Board and Strathmore were his surfaces of choice. Tracing paper was useful as was a lightbox.

Beyond that, each illustrator had his or her own way of working. Fred worked both from live models and from Polaroid shots of himself that either I took or he took with a cable attachment. After we had our first child, I quit being agent/assistant and he hired an agent, then an assistant. During his busiest years doing fashion he always had either an assistant or an agent, sometimes both.

Freelancing not only required working nights and holidays but very often, if there was a big ad campaign, one had to meet (a la Mad Men) with the client to hash out “the look” that the client wanted. Fred still managed to attend a life [drawing] class regularly. He also did some painting and had a show or two in Rockland County, New York, where we settled shortly after our second son was born. After that move he kept his studio in the city and sometimes commuted and sometimes stayed at home. He pretty much had two complete studios.

I think it was in the early 1960s that Fred started teaching part-time at Parsons at the urging of Alan Gussow, who was then head of the Fine Arts department. [Archivist note: Brenner was a Parsons School of Design faculty member from 1962 until 1984. According to a 1994 oral history interview with Alan Gussow, Brenner helped to recruit illustration faculty through his extensive industry contacts.]

The Business Changes

Around this time a change was beginning to take place in fashion with the advent of high fashion photography with such luminaries as Richard Avedon. Although high fashion illustration in the women’s clothing field continued to flourish for some time, mens fashion illustration became a smaller part of the illustration market. Fred still had as much work as he could handle, but he also had been developing other art interests and skills. He began to move into other areas of art. (Illustrators have to). He had always been interested in nature, particularly in birds, so for awhile he became a wildlife artist. During this period he did a very successful bird chart for Scholastic, had a show of his bird art at Kennedy Gallery in NYC, took a course in painting with Charles Alston, and sold several paintings to private collectors.

Meanwhile, he was developing a reputation as an outstanding Figure Drawing and Fashion Drawing teacher at Parsons.

I had resumed my writing career and had published my first children’s book. It seemed natural for us to team up and combine our talents. We did several books together. Fred also illustrated several books by Newbery winner Jean George. Some of the books he illustrated, such as The Drinking Gourd by Ferd Monjo, and The Tremendous Tree Book, which we did together, are still in print after some thirty years.

As Teacher

Fred taught at several art schools during his career. He was an instructor at Parsons for 23 years and taught Figure Drawing, Fashion Illustration and later Children’s Book Illustration. At one point during this time we taught a class together called Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books.

In 1977, we moved to Pennsylvania, and I think it was shortly after that that he left Parsons. He had planned to give up teaching but a friend mentioned his name to the head of the art department at what was then Marywood College in Dunmore and she persuaded him to teach there part-time. At this point he was still doing children’s books and some fashion, and he was painting wildlife and writing articles for The Artist magazine.

Before he left Marywood he had created a Masters Program in Art there. The college has become a university and has grown from a small girls’ college to a well thought of art school in the Atlantic states region.

Fred died in 2006 at the age of 86 from complications of Alzheimer's disease.


Arranged alphabetically by format and media.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Barbara Brenner, Fred Brenner's wife, donated this collection to The New School Archives in 2013.

Related Materials

A collection of Fred Brenner's illustration work for children's publication is held by the University of Central Missouri's Philip A. Sadler Research Collection of Literature for Children and Young Adults. Additionally, Brenner's original artwork for children's books forms part of the collection of the University of Findlay's Mazza Museum, located in Findlay, Ohio.

Guide to the Fred Brenner fashion illustrations
Agnes Szanyi
November 4, 2022
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