American calligrapher Sam Fink, who drew richly illustrated volumes of historical documents ranging from Exodus to the US Constitution, died Nov. 1 in Jerusalem at 95 at his son’s home.
Late into his 80s and in his early 90s Fink published well-received volumes of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Gettysburg Address.
New Yorker reviewer Ian Crouch said teachers and parents should introduce Fink’s Constitution to their children. “Fink is at once reverent and mischievous. Throughout, we see his gentle but strongly felt patriotism, along with flashes of humor.”
As an example of that, his inscription for Constitution book included a drawing of the vertebrae of the spine. “This is a backbone,” Fink wrote. “No man can stand erect without one. Neither can a country. The backbone of the United States is her Constitution.”
The Times said it was his “distant ancestors’ flight from tyranny that inspired Mr. Fink to spend years inscribing the entire text of the Book of Exodus – both in Hebrew and English – on 45 watercolors, most of them ethereal impressions of the sky.”
Fink’s grandparents immigrated to the US in the mid-1880s, Fink said in 2007. “I had one grandmother who was illiterate. I have a son now who has a Ph.D. in Jewish history. I have cousins who built businesses. It could only happen here.”
A long and loving 2009 article from by Wall Street Journal writer Bob Davis, a relative of Fink’s described both his artistic skills and desire to mentor young people, as well as to connect distant family members:
Sam is 93 years old, 35 years older than me, and he has become my tutor. That was his goal in first writing me, I now realize. He wanted me to understand his craft and his family, and to understand mine. I was a willing partner — a reporter who lives by words and who is full of questions about a family that was once large and close, but has whittled down over time….
As I get ready to leave, Sam hands me a striking illustration he had done of a pen, the symbol of writing, which binds us together. I tell him I hope we’ll keep writing letters to each other. "I am pretty sure we will," he says. There are many other stories to tell.
Fink was born in The Bronx, one of two children of Morris and Tillie Fink. He studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League and later became art director of advertising firm Young & Rubicam.
Beginning in 1969 he did freelance design work for Lands’ End, among others and worked on illustrations. Random House published black-and-white ink drawing versions of the Constitution and Gettysburg Address done in the 1980s Scholastic Inc. published a color version of the Declaration of Independence in 2002. Welcome Books in New York republished the Constitution in color (video here), after which he did the Gettysburg Address, Exodus, and a passage from an Annie Dillard book.
The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Write to the Eulogizer at email@example.com.