Richard Merkin was as famous for his clothes and pornography collection as he was for his painting or his role as a teacher at RISD for four decades. He died two weeks ago and the New York Times offers an obituary:
“He was the greatest of that breed, the Artist Dandy, since Sargent, Whistler and Dali,” the writer Tom Wolfe, a friend, wrote in an e-mail reminiscence on Tuesday. “Like Dali, he had one of the few remaining Great Mustaches in the art world.”
The men’s wear designer Alan Flusser, another friend, said in a telephone interview on Thursday: “He was one of the few men who knew how to wear clothes, in a bespoke Bohemian manner.” “You have to be way beyond fashion to do this.”
Mr. Merkin’s pet obsessions covered all manner of ephemera and exotica, from Fiestaware and Big Little Books to baseball players from the Negro and Cuban leagues. He was particularly keen on vintage pornography, an enthusiasm he shared in two books. “Velvet Eden” (1979), written with Bruce McCall, showcased his collection of early amateur pornography, and “Tijuana Bibles” (1997), written with the photojournalist Bob Adelman, paid tribute to the sexually explicit comics that Americans bought across the Mexican border from the 1930s to the 1950s.