David Suter

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David Suter
Born1949 (age 69–70)
Known forIllustration, Painting, Sculpture

David Suter (born 1949)[2] is an American artist known for his many years producing editorial illustrations for clients such as The Washington Post, Time, and The New York Times. Known as "Suterisms"[3] or "visual koans",[4] his illustrations are notable for their use of bistable perception, in which Suter combines multiple images and concepts into a single image.[3] Suter is also an accomplished fine art painter and sculptor.

Biography and illustration career[edit]

Suter grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, the son of Richard Sturgis Suter, who worked in the CIA, and Angela Phillips Suter, an artist. He was influenced early on by the mathematically inspired work of M. C. Escher,[2] but never had any formal art training.[3]

Suter attended a number of different colleges, not graduating from any of them.[2] Drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War, he spent his deployment in West Germany.[2]

Upon returning to the U.S., Suter got work at The Washington Post as an illustrator, for a while working as a courtroom artist during the Watergate scandal trials.[5]

Suter was awarded a Michigan Journalism Fellowship in 1977, where he spent a year studying fine art, philosophy, and history[6] at the University of Michigan. Upon completion of the fellowship, in 1978, Suter moved to New York City to pursue editorial illustration full-time. He quickly become sought-after by such publications as The New York Times (both on the op-ed page and the book review), Time magazine (for whom he did a number of covers), Harper's Magazine, and the Chicago Tribune.[4]

In a mid-1980s magazine profile, Suter described his work this way:

For many years, Suter has been working on creating a full-length animation of the complete text of Shakespeare's Hamlet.[2][1]

In the late 2000s he retired from editorial illustration to work full-time on his painting and sculpture practices.

Fine art[edit]

The first exhibition of Suter's fine art — which he terms "Constructivist Expressionist"[5] — was in 1996 at the Morgan Rank Gallery in East Hampton, New York.[2] He is represented by Gallery A and Alex Gallery in Washington, D.C.[7]

In 2011, he was arrested and detained in Serbia while transporting his paintings from France to Romania for a gallery show in Bucharest.[8][7]

Personal life[edit]

Suter has four daughters: Valerie, Georgia, Charlotte and Olivia.[2]



  • (illustrator) Coming to Terms, by Wayne Biddle (Viking, 1981) ISBN 978-0670330928
  • Suterisms (Ballantine Books/Available Press, 1986) ISBN 978-0345337436
  • (illustrator) Keep Your Brain Alive, by Lawrence C. Katz and Robin Manning (Workman, 1999) ISBN 978-0761110521


  1. ^ a b Kraus, Jerelle. All the Art That's Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn't): Inside The New York Times Op-Ed Page (Columbia University Press, 2013), p. 82.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Lyman, Rick. "FILM: Rendering 'Hamlet' With Pen in Hand," New York Times (July 27, 1997).
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Van Biema, David H. "Look Twice! Illustrator David Suter Uses Visual Puns to Make His Points," People Vol. 24, No. 21 (November 18, 1985).
  4. ^ a b "Current Issue," 3x3 Magazine. Accessed Dec. 2, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Jenkins, Mark. "Style: Painter and sculpter [sic] David Suter’s homespun art at Gallery A," The Washington Post (November 17, 2011).
  6. ^ "Past Fellows: 1977–1978," Archived 2015-10-28 at the Wayback Machine Knight-Wallace Fellows at Michigan website. Accessed Dec. 2, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Jenkins, Mark. "Style: Serbian authorities detain D.C. artist, gallery owner, seize dozens of artworks," The Washington Post (November 21, 2011).
  8. ^ Heller, Steven. "David Suter Detained in Serbia," Print magazine (November 22, 2011).

External links[edit]