Richard Bernstein

Interview Magazine was founded by infamous artist Andy Warhol in 1969. This year, culture as we knew it took a serious hit when Interview announced that it was folding (more like just lying dormant for a while). Covers of the vividly colourful magazine swirled around the internet as celebrities from the ‘70s and ‘80s circulated in vibrant splashes all over social media. Many assume that Warhol was behind the elaborate artwork. However, the true artist behind the illustrations was Richard Bernstein.

By Brenna Dixon

Born in the Bronx to a middle-class family in 1939, he went on to study art at Pratt and Columbia when he fully immersed himself into the pop movement. Bernstein ran with the cool kids: he introduced Grace Jones to her husband and ran around London in the ‘60s with Twiggy while frequenting Studio 54 nearly every night in the ‘70s, drawing the attention of big names like David Bowie, Hemingway, and Roman Polanski, to name just a few.

Warhol hired Bernstein in 1972 when he began his artistry and cover legacy for Interview. He came up with an unbelievable handwritten logo for the brand and was ultimately given creative autonomy when he began to apply neon colours and makeup to his artwork.

The world shook when Warhol suddenly passed away from a gallbladder operation in ’87, seeing in Shelley Wagner as the new head of this publication. With new management in tow, Bernstein found himself quickly out of a job.  

Continuing to create after being released from Interview, he fell victim to an elaborate lifestyle of drug abuse, which, naturally, took a toll on his finances. Sadly, he was found dead at age 62, with the cause of death still highly speculated: HIV complications? Suicide? Drug overdose? A heart condition?

Regardless of the cause, Bernstein was renowned for living large and loud, and his work was a direct reflection of his way of life. Having painted the ultra-famous and the next up-and-coming stars, he was the epitome of the era: sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, and, not to mention, glamour, notably painting psychedelic compositions of sedatives and gemstones in Michael Jackson and Madonna’s portraits.

For many, his name sat in the shadows of Warhol. Released on September 4th, Rizzoli brought his creative contributions to light with the book Richard Bernstein Starmaker: Andy Warhol’s Cover Artist by Roger Padilha and Mauricio Padilha with a foreword by Grace Jones and an afterword by Jean-Paul Goude. It’s a dedicated monograph to his infamous work at Interview and just as captivating as Bernstein and Warhol’s original publication.

richard bernstein interview magazine

Written on: September 16, 2019