Greenwich Village artist Arnold Skolnick was spending the summer of '69 on Shelter Island when he got a call on a Thursday afternoon from the production coordinator for the upcoming Woodstock music festival.
A month before the event, the venue had shifted and the promoters wanted a new poster with a new logo, John Morris said. Could Skolnick come up with something by Monday?
What the artist turned in four days later - a bird sitting on the neck of a guitar accompanied by the phrase "Three Days of Peace & Music" - became one of the most famous graphic images ever devised.
In his new book, "The Road to Woodstock," Michael Lang, one of the four festival promoters, takes credit for the logo and motto. "I gave Arnold the copy and told him the main message was 'three days of peace and music' and that I wanted a dove perched on a guitar as our image," Lang writes.
Skolnick, 72, who lives in Massachusetts and owns an art publishing company, insists Lang never spoke to him, had nothing to do with the poster and only saw it after it was finished. Morris and the two other surviving promoters back Skolnick's version.
Skolnick, who said he was paid $6,000 plus $11.14 in subsequent royalties, recalled "we had a small talk about what they wanted." The artist hired a writer friend, Ira Arnold, and "we sat down and we came up with 'Three Days of Peace & Music.' "
As for the logo, Skolnick said he had seen a Matisse show in Manhattan with works in cut paper and had been drawing catbirds on Shelter Island. "So when I sat down to do the poster I just cut out the shape of a catbird," he said. "People assume it's a dove."
When told other participants disagreed with his account of how the poster was created, Lang said others were not at the same meetings.
Skolnick, who has designed a 40th anniversary poster (www.internationalposter.com), said the original did nothing for his career and meant little to him at the time. "To me," he said, "it was just a design job."