Internationally renowned illustrator Murray Tinkelman, creator and director of the prestigious Low Residency MFA in Illustration program at the University of Hartford’s Hartford Art School (HAS), died on Jan. 29. His wife, Carol, who was the former program manager for the MFA in Illustration, passed away just a few weeks earlier.
Together, Murray and Carol Tinkelman made the University’s MFA in Illustration a prominent and highly regarded program attracting top illustrators from around the country. “Alumni from the program have received national illustration awards and have gone on to teach illustration at colleges and universities around the world,” HAS Dean Nancy Stuart wrote in a letter to HAS faculty, staff, and board members announcing Murray Tinkelman's death.
The program that the Tinkelmans started in 2006 has served as the model for other low residency MFA programs at the Hartford Art School. Carol Tinkelman retired last year, and Murray Tinkelman had planned to retire in June 2016.
“All of us are deeply saddened by the deaths of Murray and Carol Tinkelman,” said University of Hartford President Walter Harrison. “They brought the Low Residency MFA in Illustration program to the University and the Hartford Art School, managed its transition with skill, and established it as one of the most exciting and dynamic graduate programs of the University. They were beloved by their students.
“In my mind, they were inseparable,” Harrison added. “Murray was the program’s inspirational leader—he was one of the most highly respected illustrators in the world—and Carol kept everything humming. They were both very important figures within the Hartford Art School and the University, and deeply valued friends and colleagues among their students throughout the world.”
Murray Tinkelman had a long and distinguished career in illustration. In 2013 he was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, joining legendary artists such as Norman Rockwell, Winslow Homer, Maurice Sendak, and Charles Schulz. The Society of Illustrators also recognized Tinkelman with the Distinguished Educator in the Arts Award in 1999; at the time, he was only the third person to be recognized for his teaching excellence and contributions to education. More recently, the Norman Rockwell Museum honored Tinkelman with its 2014 Artist Laureate Award and celebrated his work and career with an exhibition.
Prior to his appointment at the University of Hartford, Tinkelman was on the faculty at Parsons School of Design and Syracuse University. He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Ferris State University’s Kendall College of Art and Design in 2013.
HAS Professor of Illustration Bill Thomson has known Murray Tinkelman both as a colleague and as an inspirational teacher and mentor. As a student at Syracuse University in the fall of 1982, Thomson took Tinkelman's "Introduction to Illustration" course. "Taking that one class determined the course of my entire life," Thomson said.
"Murray was a living legend in the field of illustration. While his recognition for his extraordinary artistic talent and accomplishments were richly deserved, Murray was so much more than that," Thomson added. "On a personal level, Murray was the father of my illustration career and I loved him so very much. Words seem so inadequate to describe what he meant to me and so many others.
"He blended his vast knowledge of illustration with a genuine love for his students to change all of our lives for the better. While his loss is a tremendous blow to all of us, Murray's influence will live on through each of his students in the work we do."
Professor of Painting Power Boothe, who served as dean of the Hartford Art School from 2001 to 2010, helped the Tinkelmans start the Low Residency MFA in Illustration program at UHart, along with Thomson and several other faculty and administrators.
“They (the Tinkelmans) were an extraordinary team,” Boothe said. “Together they created an astonishing MFA program in Illustration at the Hartford Art School. Carol was the Mom, she oversaw the details and welcomed every student with open arms, and Murray was the visionary, as well as 'spiritual leader.' Together they led a program that became the envy of other universities across the country.
“What could not be duplicated, however, was how they lived their lives; art for them was more than a profession—it was a way of life,” Boothe added. “Every one of us who worked with Carol and Murray, and especially those who had the good fortune to be students, were changed forever by knowing them. With their absence, the world is a much poorer place.”