Longtime Vanity Fair caricature artist Robert Risko’s career at the mag has drawn to a close, Page Six has learned.
The legendary artist has worked at the magazine since its relaunch in 1983, and his beloved illustrations appeared on its final page each month with the famed Proust Questionnaire.
But we hear Risko was personally given the news that his contract would not be renewed by editor-in-chief Radhika Jones. Sources say it was about money.
Illustrator Ryan McAmis will take over his duties on the back page, we’re told.
“It is a little sad leaving. We worked so hard,” Risko, 66, who worked under Tina Brown and Graydon Carter previously, tells Page Six. “When Radhika came over [in Dec. 2017], I was happy and looking forward to it. I am all for a diverse representation of America and she is a part of doing that. I thought [it would mean that I would] get to draw more interesting people.”
Risko says he thinks Jones is still figuring out her formula, just like her predecessors, and is on her way to reaching a new high point for the magazine.
“I guess the decision was just to not have me be a part of that,” he says. “That I feel sad about. I am a problem-solver by nature and I think that I could have helped in creating a new Vanity Fair [that would]… come up with something that is even more interesting in a new era.”
The 40-year veteran of the mag continued of his time there: “I have given so much to it, it’s kind of like my child. With my artwork too, these are my children, this is what I put my love into, I pour my heart into. Where is the heart of Vanity Fair now that I am gone?”
We’re told Risko’s name will still appear on the masthead and that he isn’t entirely leaving: his work will still occasionally appear in features.
The artist, who started his career in Andy Warhol’s Factory and worked for the art icon’s Interview Magazine, as well as Rolling Stone and the New Yorker, has some new projects on the horizon.
He tells us he’ll be working with a UK-based gallery called Iconic Images, which will deal with his archival works as well as new pieces. He also has an ongoing work relationship with Bravo head Andy Cohen, for whom he has created book covers, and he tells us he is considering getting 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 personality. My job was to capture someone’s aura.” He noted that people now seem happy with emojis. “A computer can maybe do facial recognition, but there are abstractions in life and feeling that the computer just isn’t going to get.”
Risko is also still interested in working with media outlets.
“I did have 40 years; that is pretty good,” he says. “I was able to surf that wave of all those changes.” He added, “I would like to work ’til I drop like [famous caricature artist] Al Hirschfeld. I am 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 along with a goodbye.
“Every month, we at the magazine have the immense pleasure of seeing an actor, a singer, a writer, an athlete, or an all-around sage interpreted through [Risko’s] eyes, from the first sketch through to the finished product,” Jones says. “With gratitude and affection, we thank him for his service… Given that our plan is to enlist him for other features, we trust you’ll keep seeing his signature strokes in Vanity Fair.”