Arnold Skolnick, the designer of one of the most iconic images of the 20th century with his poster for the Woodstock festival, died June 15 in Amherst, Massachusetts at the age of 85. The cause of death was respiratory failure, according to his son Alexander Skolnick.
Skolnick wasn’t a big fan of rock music when he designed the poster on a deadline of several days. Skolnick was 32 at the time and created the message “peace, love and music” with an image of a guitar neck with a white bird on it. Under it was the slogan “3 Days of Peace & Music.”
“I brought it to (the festival producers) on Monday afternoon,” said Skolnick, who was given the order Thursday before. “It was just another job, but it got famous.”
Originally, Skolnick toyed with the idea of a flute in the picture, but then switched to a guitar. As for the bird, Skolnick says many people thought it was a pigeon. But his inspiration was the cat birds he sketched on Shelter Island, New York. “I forgot to tell the printer that the bill has to be black,” Skolnick revealed, “and so it’s a red bill.”
Skolnick was paid $12,000 for the work and split the fee with a copywriter. He went to Woodstock for a day, but left before the rain started.
Among the survivors are his sons Alexander and Peter from his first marriage to Irish Jay. Skolnick is also survived by his grandchildren Mose and Charna, and sister Helene Rothschild.