Sy Barlowe, a celebrated wildlife artist and longtime resident on Long
Island's South Shore, created detailed illustrations of flying, crawling and
growing things, which appeared in nature guides, encyclopedias and Newsday's
During a professional career that spanned more than 50 years, he worked for
some of the country's largest publishing houses, where colleagues recall his
meticulous attention to detail and ability to transform a two-dimensional image
on paper into a lifelike window into the natural world.
Barlowe was working in the studio inside his Massapequa home Oct. 27 when
he died suddenly, apparently of heart failure, family members say. He was 77.
As a child, Barlowe, a native of Brooklyn, taught himself to draw, working
mostly in opaque watercolor, pen-and-ink and scratchboard.
He served as a staff sergeant in the Army during World War II, working on
the electronic radar on B-29 military aircraft. He was stationed for a time in
India, where he drew a cartoon strip for an Army base newspaper called the
After the war, Barlowe began his professional art career in 1946 in the
preparations department at the Museum of Natural History, working on the
habitat scenery for animal and bird exhibits. That's where he gained a love of
biology and the natural sciences, said his wife of 54 years, Dorothea (Dot)
Barlowe, an artist who also worked as a staff scientific illustrator in the
museum's art department.
The Barlowes collaborated throughout their professional careers. They last
worked for Dover Publications in Mineola, collaborating on many of the
company's nature books in its "Learning About" series aimed at 5- to
8-year-olds. Sy Barlowe also drew the black-and-white illustrations in his
wife's book, "Illustrating Nature," which was originally published by The
Viking Press in 1982 and reprinted by Dover in 1997.
"With some nature illustrators, there's a tendency to just take photographs
or go on the Web and get information," said Paul Negri, senior vice president
and editor-in-chief at Dover. "He was the kind of person who liked to draw from
life. At Dover, we've had many dozens of artists. We've always felt he was one
of the best, and that's why he did so much work for us."
The Barlowes also taught illustration at the Parsons School of Design in
Manhattan in the 1980s. His focus was animals, and hers was botanicals. Their
work was recognized by several organizations, including the Society of
Illustrators and at Expo '67, the World's Fair in Montreal.
Barlowe's daughter, Amy Barlowe Bodman of Akron, Ohio, recalled that her
father, while working on the nature guides, often would bring live specimens
home. "I grew up with all of the wildlife around me," she said. "There were
squids and octopi in bottles of formaldehyde, and I remember there was an
alligator in the bathtub one time."
"We went to all kinds of lengths to get things right," explained Dorothea
Barlowe, a freelance artist who also teaches painting to seniors in Massapequa.
"We haunted museums and botanical gardens. It was a heavy research job."
In addition to his other work, Barlowe's family said he also contributed
illustrations to the Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds,
Merit Encyclopedia and Americana Encyclopedia. For several years, he also drew
centerfold illustrations for Newsday's Sunday magazine. Stan Green, managing
editor of the Newsday magazine from the time it started in 1972 until its last
issue in 1991, said Barlowe's spreads depicting Long Island nature and wildlife
were popular with readers.
"People would tell me they would save those centerfolds," Green recalled.
"They were really effective pieces of art. He was an accomplished artist."
In addition to his love for art and science, Barlowe's other interests
included photography and classical music. He taught himself to play the
clarinet, and Amy Barlowe Bodman, a Juilliard graduate and professional
violinist, said his influence resulted in her choosing a career in music.
"This was one person who loved what he did," Dot Barlowe said. "I like what
I do, but he really, really loved it."
After a private service, Barlowe was buried near his home in Massapequa.
In addition to his wife and his daughter, he is survived by a son, Wayne
Douglas Barlowe, of Rumson, N.J.; a brother, Murray Barlowe, of Bethpage; a
sister, Henrietta Bloom, of Brooklyn; and four granddaughters.