Andy Warhol did it. Damien Hirst will sell you a kit to do it yourself. Time did it, and now The New Republic has gotten into the act. We’re talking, of course, about the art of painting by number. Our sister blog, FishbowlNY, noted today (via Portfolio) that The New Republic‘s in-progress paint-by-number Obama cover is strikingly similar to Time‘s paint-by-number visage of Howard Dean of four years ago, although TNR publisher Franklin Foer says that nobody at the magazine “has any recollection of seeing that cover.” Someone needs to go talk to the art directors, because we suspect that both covers are homages to Richard Hess‘s famous drawing for Esquire‘s June 1967 cover (art directed by Samuel N. Antupit), which featured a color-by-number portrait of Lyndon Johnson on the occasion of his imminent birthday. The cover line read: “LBJ’s birthday is August 27th. Color this portrait, send it to him, and make him happy.”
Although Hess’ DIY LBJ cover was bumped at the last minute for one of a sledding Jackie Kennedy cradling a pint-sized Eddie Fisher, the cover was widely exhibited and lauded, even making it into Hess’ 1991 New York Times obituary. Hess was something of a paint-by-number expert, having worked early in his career to create pictures for the Palmer Paint Company’s paint-by-number drawing kits. And clearly, his influence is felt to this day, if not always knowingly.