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Longtime Vanity Fair cartoonist Robert Risko at the magazine


Longtime Vanity Fair cartoonist Robert Risko’s career with the magazine has come to an end, Page Six has learned.

The legendary artist has worked for the magazine since its relaunch in 1983, and his beloved illustrations have appeared on its back page every month along with Proust’s famous quiz.

But we learn that Risko was personally informed that his contract would not be renewed by editor Radhika Jones. Sources say it was all about the money.

Illustrator Ryan McAmis will take over on the back page, we’re told.

“It’s kind of sad to leave. We’ve worked so hard,” Risko, 66, who previously worked under Tina Brown and Graydon Carter, told Page Six. “When Radhika came [in Dec. 2017], I was happy and looking forward to it. I’m all for a diverse portrayal of America and she’s part of that. I thought [it would mean that I would] manage to attract more interesting people.

Robert Risko
February is the last issue of Risko. Radhika Jones will say goodbye in her editor’s letter.
Joe Corrigan

Risko says he thinks Jones is still finding his formula, just like his predecessors, and is about to reach a new high point for the magazine.

“I guess the decision was just not to involve me in that,” he says. “It makes me sad. I’m a problem solver by nature and I think I could have helped create a new Vanity Fair [that would]…to come up with something that is even more interesting in a new era.

The magazine’s 40-year veteran continued his time there: “I gave him so much, it’s kind of like my child. With my works of art too, they are my children, this is what I put my love into, I put my heart into it. Where is the heart of Vanity Fair now that I’m gone?

We’re told that Risko’s name will still appear on the bear and he won’t leave entirely: his work will still appear occasionally in feature articles.

Robert Risko
We are told that his work will still occasionally appear in the magazine.
Bryan Beder

The artist, who began his career at Andy Warhol’s Factory and worked for the art icon’s Interview Magazine, as well as Rolling Stone and the New Yorker, has new projects on the horizon.

He tells us he will be working with a UK-based gallery called Iconic Images, which will be dealing with his archive works as well as new pieces. He also has an ongoing working relationship with Bravo head Andy Cohen, for whom he’s created book covers, and he tells us he’s considering going into animation.

He also runs a popular Instagram page.

But he tells us: “I don’t know if people want to see caricatures. I don’t know if they want to see the personality. My job was to capture someone’s aura. He noted that people now seem happy with the emojis. “A computer might be able to do facial recognition, but there are abstractions in life and the feeling that the computer just won’t understand.”

Robert Risko
He has projects on the horizon and will be working with a UK-based gallery.
Bryan Beder

Risko is also always interested in working with the media.

“I turned 40; it’s pretty good,” he says. “I was able to ride this wave of all these changes.” He added: “I would like to work until I drop like [famous caricature artist] Al Hirschfeld. I’m still good and I have a lot of experience. I could offer a lot.

We’re told Jones’ February editorial letter will include an image drawn by Risko with a goodbye.

“Each month we at the magazine have the immense pleasure of seeing an actor, singer, writer, athlete or complete sage interpreted through [Risko’s] eyes, from the first sketch to the finished product,” says Jones. “With gratitude and affection, we thank him for his service…Given that our plan is to hire him for further features, we hope you continue to see his signature shots in Vanity Fair.”

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.