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Hy Rosen, 1923-2011
posted June 6, 2011

imageAccording to his longtime employer the Albany Times Union, Hy Rosen passed away on February 24 after a long fight with cancer. Mr. Rosen, a paragon of local cartooning virtues over the course of a 44-year career, was 88 years old.

Rosen was the son of a Russia-born junk collector, and grew up in poor conditions in Albany's famously tough South End. He was trained at the Chicago Art Institute and through programs provided by the New York Art Students League. He served in the army during World War II with the 604th Engineers Camoflauge Battalion where one duty was painting anti-Hitler murals in buildings in France.

Rosen went to work for the Times Union in 1945, beginning in the art department on a salary of $25 a week. He went on to become the paper's first editorial cartoonist, creating more than 10,000 cartoons between moving to that position and his 1989 retirement. The newspaper offices would move twice during his run there, from its original to its current locations.

In a well-written appraisal appearing in the Time Union obituary, Paul Grondahl described the cartoonist's work at its best. "Rosen's strength as a visual commentator melded dramatic pen-and-ink images, coupled with spot-on representational facial features of his subjects and a working-class perspective that fumed at corruption and pomposity in the commentary captured in his cartoon balloons. His trademark became a tiny self-portrait in a bottom corner of his cartoons, holding a paint brush in the manner of a spear and voicing a parting shot."

He was also one of those artists that chose to work in the newsroom, creating a final draft after a couple of hours of working, beginning at mid-afternoon and drawing from ideas that he had been considering throughout the day. He occasionally sought commentary from fellow newspapermen.

In the mid-1960s, the cartoonist became a journalism fellow at Stanford; he also pursued advance degree work at the SUNY- Albany. Rosen was a founding member and past-president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. In later years, he moved into bronze sculpture with a measure of success. In the 1990s a book of his cartoons about New York state politics, called From Rocky To Pataki, was published. His co-author was Peter Slocum. He won Freedoms Foundation awards in '50, '55 and 1960.

Rosen is survived by his wife of 61 years, Elaine, three children and three grandchildren. Services will be held this Sunday.

Rosen has won top Freedoms Foundation awards in 1950, 1955, and 1960.