Art Town: Artists’ daughters describe their famous dads

In a news photo from 1953, Hardie Gramatky & Tracy Sugarman (second and third from left), Howard Munce, lower right inset photo.

In a news photo from 1953, Hardie Gramatky & Tracy Sugarman (second and third from left), Howard Munce, lower right inset photo.

Contributed photo /

Our last column, written by town curator Kathie Bennewitz, described the influx of artists and illustrators to Westport in the early 1900s, giving our town the lasting reputation as an artists’ community. The second wave came in the 1940s, 50s and 60s with illustrators flocking here to serve the burgeoning advertising business in New York, so we asked the daughters of three artists from this era to describe their talented fathers.

Laurie Whittier, daughter of Tracy Sugarman

My father, Tracy Sugarman, was foremost a kind and compassionate man. He deeply believed that our job on this earth is to make it a better place, through acts large and small. His career began during World War II, when he made wartime illustrations leading up to and through the D-Day invasion. After the war, he created illustrations for books, record covers and magazines. By the early 1960s, he had returned to the vocation of reportorial artist, begun in the Navy, putting his life on the line in Mississippi, and drawing and writing in support of the Civil Rights and other social movements. Despite being keenly aware of injustice, my father was an eternal optimist. He believed we can all make a difference, and he chose to use his art to work for and promote social justice. This is how he would want to be remembered.

Linda Smith, daughter of Hardie Gramatky

It was such fun being the only child of Hardie and Doppy Gramatky. Dad was optimistic and caring and let me paint on his studio floor as he worked. His chalktalks about his 14 children’s books really inspired young local artists. When I was 10 (mid-50s), he sat Mom and me down and explained that magazines would now be using photography for illustrations but “we’ll just pull in our belts and be fine”… and we were, a great life lesson about not worrying. What made him a great artist? His watercolors (many of Westport scenes) show his mastery over light and color and figures (and always the Gramatky touch of red in them). Andrew Wyeth named him as one of the “20 all-time great American watercolorists.” I believe Little Toot has remained a classic children’s book because its illustrations remain so fresh after 82 years in print.

Mary Brewster, daughter of Howard Munce

My father Howard Munce, was a very versatile artist and cartoonist but there really isn’t a short answer for what it was like being his daughter. Learning by example, I was always making something. I loved going to my dad’s office in New York City during his days as an art director. He would set me up with a pad of paper and an endless amount of markers he used to create story boards. My dad showed me that art was all around us. Through observation, enthusiasm and humor he created something new every day, including lasting friendships in the community. He was wildly talented, generous, funny and caring. One of a kind.

Miggs Burroughs is a lifelong Westport resident and full-time graphic artist since 1972. He is co-founder of The Artists Collective of Westport and a member of the Westport Arts Advisory Committee, among other accomplishments.

Ann Chernow has been a Westport resident since 1968. Her artwork has been exhibited locally and worldwide. Chernow is an honorary member of the Artists Collective of Westport, member of the Westport Museum Committee and other arts organizations.