Happy Birthday Jonathan : original drawing

Biographical and Historical Notes

American painter, illustrator, and author Joe Brainard was born March 11, 1942, in Salem, Arkansas. Brainard grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he attended high school with future New York School poets Ron Padgett and Dick Gallup. At the age of 19 Brainard moved to New York City, where he met and befriended additional New York School poets, including Ted Berrigan and Kenward Elmslie. He became a frequent collaborator with members of the New York School, illustrating more than a dozen books of poetry over his 30 year career. He worked most frequently with Kenward Elmslie, with whom he was in a long-term relationship and spent summers in Vermont.

In addition to working as an illustrator, Brainard also authored over 18 volumes of prose-poems, designed sets for several plays (including LeRoi Jones’s "The Toilet" and Frank O’Hara’s "The General"), and exhibited several collections of collage, watercolor, and painting.

Brainard died from complications of AIDS in Manhattan on May 25, 1994.


Smith, Roberta. "Joe Brainard, Artist, Theater Set Designer And Poet, Dies at 52." New York Times, May 27, 1994, B8.

Scope and Content Note

Includes one original drawing by American painter, illustrator, and author Joe Brainard (1942-1994). The drawing is of a teddy bear with a small bow tied around its neck and the phrase "Happy Birthday Jonathan" written on its chest. Behind the bear is a hand-drawn checkerboard pattern. The drawing, which was done in black marker, is glued to a white backing board. The item is unsigned and undated.