New Yorker Cartoonists’ Elder Statesman Frank Modell Has Died at 98

Posted on 28th May 2016 in News

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Frank Modell, whose first New Yorker cartoon appeared in the issue of July 20, 1946 died yesterday just a year and small change from his 100th birthday. Frank was a great cartoonist, a raconteur, a New Yorker historian, and not least, a truly truly nice person.

In 2013 Frank told his good friend and New Yorker colleague James Stevenson (in Mr. Stevenson’s book, The Life, Loves and Laughs of Frank Modell) that as a youngster:

“I wasn’t athletic and I wasn’t a good student, but I was good at drawing. I could copy a Lincoln head from a penny, and the other kids were very impressed. Everybody wanted one. I made a lot of Lincolns.”

Back in the States after serving in World War II (where he landed on Omaha Beach as part of the 116th Radio Intelligence Company) Frank made his way north from his hometown of Philadelphia to The New Yorker, the place that would remain his anchor for much of the rest of his life. After a stint as assistant to the magazine’s Art Editor, James Geraghty (who, he told me, at first deemed Frank’s work not quite ready to be published) Frank became a regular contributor, eventually seeing just over 1400 pieces published (including six covers). And like so many of the New Yorker‘s cartoonists of that time he also contributed ideas to other colleagues.

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(Left: Frank Modell’s 1st New Yorker drawing)

Later in life Frank became an unofficial oral historian of the New Yorker.  For a newcomer like me (I began contributing in the late 1970s) hearing his tales of leading the nearly completely blind James Thurber around the hallways of the New Yorker‘s offices at 25 West 43rd Street was a dream come true.

As for his art, Frank was a cartoonist’s cartoonist. He drew with confidence and grace and joy.  There’s nothing quite like a Modell character in motion. A Modell drawing exudes humor — we’re  laughing before we’ve even reached the caption.  Seeing his work was like  spotting the man himself across the room at a New Yorker party:  it always made me happy — I could barely wait to cross the room to  hear him speak.

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MODELL1(Left: a popular Modell drawing in poster form. Below: Mr. Modell’s one and only cartoon collection, published in 1978).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Left: James Stevenson’s 2013 tribute to his friend)

June 29th: Four New Yorker Cartoonists in Conversation at The Museum of The City of New York: Barbara Smaller, Marisa Acocella Marchetto, Liana Finck & Liza Donnelly

Posted on 27th May 2016 in News

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Be sure to mark Wednesday, June 29th on your calendar for this event.  Pre-register here using the code you see at the bottom of the poster and you’ll save $.

Barbara Smaller, Marisa Acocella Marchetto, Liana Finck and Liza Donnelly will be in conversation about all things New Yorker cartoonish. Don’t miss!

Liza Donnelly to Live Tweet Draw Tony Awards; More About Playboy’s Cartoons…And Lack Of

Posted on 26th May 2016 in News

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Hot on the heels of Liza Donnelly‘s historic appearance live Tweet-drawing at this years Oscars Awards (she was the first cartoonist ever invited to draw at that event) Ms. Donnelly has announced on Twitter that she will be live Tweet-drawing at the Tony Awards (held this year at the Beacon Theater).

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R.C. Harvey has returned with another piece about Playboy‘s abandonment of cartoons. Interesting reading right here.

A Taste of Peter Arno’s College Humor Work

Posted on 23rd May 2016 in News

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Luckily for us, Attempted Bloggery  has gone out of its way to give us a look at a number of obscure Peter Arno drawings.  Link here to see some of what Arno contributed to College Humor.

Gus Mager Gets His Due; Pat Byrnes Pencilled

Posted on 18th May 2016 in News

From The Comics Journal, May 18, 2016,  this lengthy informative piece by Paul Tumey, “The Screwball Comics of Gus Mager: Hippos, Monks and Sherlock Holmes” —  Read it here.

Ink Spill’s New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z entry for Gus Mager:

  Born, 1878, Newark, New Jersey. Died, July 17, 1956, Murrysville, Penn.

New Yorker work: 5 cartoons, March – July of 1925. It should be noted that a character named “Groucho” in Mr. Mager’s “Monk Family” comic strip was the inspiration for Julius Marx’s stage name, “Groucho.” Read more about it here

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Pat Byrnes joins the ever expanding list of New Yorker cartoonists sharing their tools of the trade on Jane Mattimoe’s blog, A Case For Pencils. See Mr. Byrnes entry here.

 

Kim Warp Speaks!

Posted on 17th May 2016 in News

Kim WFrom Distinction, May 14, 2016: “In Their Own Words: Kim Warp” — this short piece, mostly, as befits the title, in Ms.Warp’s own words.

[Photo: Jessica Shea]

New Yorker Cartoonists & Tomato Juice

Posted on 15th May 2016 in News

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  Attempted Bloggery takes a look at a series of ads for Libby’s Tomato Juice, with art by Peter Arno, Otto Soglow, Syd Hoff, William Steig and James Thurber.

Go see!

Mondo NY Social Diary Roz Chast Post

Posted on 13th May 2016 in News

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From New York Social Diary, May 12, 2016, “Jill Krementz Covers Roz Chast  at MCNY” — this long post filled with lots of photos.

Link here to Ms. Chast’s website.

Rarely Seen Arno Inspired Play, “The New Yorkers” Coming to City Center in 2017; A New Case For Pencils Post

Posted on 11th May 2016 in News

In what is surely the surprise of the day (for me), next year City Center will put on a limited run of the 1930 play The New Yorkers.  The play, with music by Cole Porter as well as Jimmy Durante, was based on “a seed of an idea” [NYTs] by …Peter Arno. 

Below: sheet music cover art by Arno. Details on the revival here

(You can find much more on the play in my biography of Arno in the chapter “Up Broadway…and Down” )

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Jake Goldwasser, one of the half-score of brand new cartoonists debuting in the New Yorker (so far) this year, is the subject of Jane Mattimoe’s latest blog post on A Case For Pencils. See it here!

 

The Lull In Traffic That Saved The New Yorker

Posted on 7th May 2016 in News

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In the early 1925, when The New Yorker was just a few months old (its first issue was dated February 21,1925) its main financial backer, Raoul Fleischmann decided to shut it down. If readership is a measure of success, the magazine was a failure.

At 11:00 on a Friday morning, Fleischmann called an emergency meeting at The Princeton Club (then on East 39th Street & Park Ave.). Attending were Fleischmann, Harold Ross, who invented the magazine and was its editor, Ross’s financial advisor, Hawley Traux, and Ross’s publications advisor, John Hanrahan.  After deciding to suspend publication the four walked west a block and then north up Madison Avenue. I’ll let Mr. Fleischmann pick up the story as he remembered it [the full account can be found  in The New Yorker‘s Archives at The New York Public Library]:

 

It was at 42nd Street, during a traffic lull, that I heard Hanrahan say to Traux or Ross, behind me, “I can’t blame Raoul for a moment for refusing to go on, but it’s like killing something that’s alive.”

 

Fleischmann wrote further that “Hanrahan’s remark had got under his skin,” and so he decided “to carry on, lending money in return for stock.”  Within a year the magazine was not only surviving, but beginning to thrive, helped along by a wildly successful piece in the November 28, 1925 issue by Ellin MacKay, “Why We Go to Cabarets: A Post-Debutante Explains” and by the work of a young man whose cartoons were brand new to the publishing world: Peter Arno.

[photo: the intersection of Madison Avenue and 42nd Street just a few years before the serendipitous lull in traffic]