A Spill Spotlight: Roberta MacDonald





















The entry for Roberta MacDonald on Ink Spill‘s “New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z” has been woefully thin… until now. Thanks to her daughter’s contribution to this site  we now have a photograph of Ms. MacDonald as well as more biographical information and samples of her book illustrations.

Ms. MacDonald contributed  a hundred and three drawings to The New Yorker from 1940 to 1952.  Both her first drawing, in the issue of May 4, 1940 and her last, in the issue of July 19, 1952, were captionless and multi-panel — a MacDonald specialty. Of her hundred and three drawings I’d estimate a good three-quarters were multi-panel (some only a few panels and others stretching across several pages).  I’ve always felt that these kinds of drawings were the most difficult to do. Ms. MacDonald’s drawings had an easy line, with a seemingly effortless ability to capture whatever scene she’d set her sights on (below: a drawing from The New Yorker, April 8, 1950)


MacDonald April 8 1950

Liza Donnelly, in her Funny Ladies: The New Yorker’s Greatest Women Cartoonists and their Cartoons, had this to say about Ms. MacDonald:

her first cartoon was politically minded…it reflects MacDonald’s sensitivity to politics and the then mood of the country, a talent she demonstrated throughout her early work for The New Yorker.


Born in San Francisco in 1917, Ms. MacDonald attended the  University of California Berkeley where she was a contributor and editor for Pelican, their humor magazine. She moved to New York after selling some cartoons to The New Yorker. Besides contributing cartoons to other magazines  she illustrated numerous humor and children’s books until returning to California in the 1960’s. Ms. MacDonald  died in Santa Rosa, California, 1999. [left:  a self portrait from Meet The Artist, a 1943  exhibition catalog from the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum  in San Francisco]


Below are some examples of Ms. MacDonald’s book illustrations (Translations From the English, 1951 & a page from the book; The Abe Burrows Songbook, 1955; The Adventures of Pinocchio, 1960)


Translations from The Children Abe BurrowsPinocchio Abridged


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