The outpouring of affection for one of Westport's legendary artists last Friday centered not only on his extraordinary body of work, but on the man himself.

"Leonard Everett Fisher: A Retrospective," which opened at the Westport Arts Center, features dozens of pieces by Fisher, whose 70-year career includes illustrating approximately 250 books, 88 of which he authored himself, designing 10 U.S. postage stamps and creating literally thousands of works of art.

"He is a very fine, vigorous, vital artist that keeps exploring," Helen Klisser During, the center's artistic director and curator, said of the 90-year-old artist. She helped design the exhibition that chronicles Fisher's artistic vision over the years, which has earned him a wealth of honors and permanent display of his works in galleries across the nation.

"What I like here is you see the progression of his work instead of just seeing one style," said Dick Lowenstein, one of around 200 friends and fans who came to the opening reception Friday. "I love it."

Like others, he took note of Fisher's personality, which has made him an integral part of the community he and Margery, his wife of 62 years, have called home for nearly 60 years. "He's a lot of fun to be with too," he said.

"It's very overwhelming," Fisher said of the large turnout, describing it as bringing about a sort of out-of-body experience. And along with admirers who showered him with well wishes, there was also the excitement he had of revisiting past work.

"There's a couple of works I haven't seen in 60 years," said Fisher, who remains vibrant and engaged.

One of those is a painting of the original Nathan's store in Coney Island, N.Y., where Fisher grew up. The founder of the famous food brand ended up buying the art work, which was loaned for the Westport exhibition.

"I think there must be 10,000 paintings," Fisher said of his work, noting that During reviewed around 200 for the retrospective.

"These are the works that I thought told the story," she said, more excited than anyone as she talked about each individual piece on display. Among these is Fisher's very first drawing, done at age 4 in 1928.

"This is just a great look back at where he's been," said Leslie LaSala, director of marketing and communications for the arts center. "He's talented. He's a true artist and craftsman, and he's also given back so much."

"I think he's a treasure of the community," she said.

Fisher, a veteran of World War II, attributes part of his success to his father, who encouraged him to pursue his interest in art. "The more I look at them," his father wrote in a letter to him during the war about his work left at home, "the more I am convinced a great future lies ahead."

Fisher went on to attend Yale University's School of Art after the war, also teaching there before embarking on his journey as a professional artist.

"I think he is a remarkable man," said Bill Kirby of Westport, one of those in the crowd for the exhibit opening.

"The artwork is almost as impressive as he is," said Fisher's grandson, Sam Plotner of New York City, who described him as a man full of happiness and joy.

"He lives life fully and with passion and with love," he said.

"Leonard Everett Fisher: A Retrospective" runs through April 25 at the Westport Arts Center, 51 Riverside Ave. For more information, call 203-226-1806 or visit