Richard Merkin, 1938-2009

September 11th, 2009 3:50pm by Elizabeth Leuthner

Richard Merkin

Richard Merkin MFA ’63 PT, who enlivened our campus, adding color in every possible way during his 40-odd years as a RISD student, professor, friend, raconteur, bon vivant and spirit, died September 5 in New York. He was 70.

The New Yorker (see some of his many NYer drawings here) noted this week that Richard “loved and evoked the great spirit of the nineteen-twenties, thirties, and forties in his work” – he was, moreover, “a connoisseur of the good life.” Everyone who knew him (probably everyone who ever met him) took note of what he was wearing, but Richard’s approach to life distinguished him more than bespoke or orange jumpsuits – one alum, commenting on the NYer blog, described him as “fearless beyond measure.” He embodied RISD. He lived.

Thank you to Doug Doe in the RISD Archives for supplying this photo – a rare glimpse of Richard the lifelong dandy, captured here in a t-shirt while going about the work of teaching. [Update 09/17/09: It turns out that Ed Newhall ’74 AR, Director of Admissions, took the photo above in an early-70s Pre-College studio!]

Ed postscript: As I was preparing this post, Prof. Mike Fink sent along a lovely remembrance of Richard. Since then, many other memories of Richard have rolled in. I have posted Mike’s and others’ impressions of/thoughts about Richard here. If you would like to have your own included there, please do submit them to our-suggests **at** and I will post them.

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