Liza Donnelly Live Tweet-Draws the Tony Awards

Posted on 12th June 2016 in News

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Liza Donnelly is already on the scene at The Beacon Theater in New York where she will live Tweet-draw tonight’s Tony Awards. Follow her as she draws the Red Carpet festivities as well as the goings-on inside the theater from the Press room.

LD Tonys

 

Follow her on Twitter: @lizadonnelly

and on Facebook: Liza Donnelly

Evergreens

Posted on 10th June 2016 in News

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The past three months we’ve lost three giants in the New Yorker Cartoonists constellation: William Hamilton in April, Frank Modell in May and Anatol Kovarsky in June. Together they contributed just over 2,600 pieces (including covers) to the magazine, but of course it is immeasurable what they really gave in hours, days, months, and years of laying down magic on the cliché blank of piece of paper. I’ve often said that being a cartoonist is obviously not the kind of hard work you see being done by men and women building roads and bridges; cartoonists have their own wearying yet propulsive set of challenges; the thrill of finding just that right interaction of drawing and words to say exactly what you want to say. And along with that thrill is the weekly rejection of much of the work you do. We cartoonists get to live this unusual life of drawing what we want to draw and thinking what we want to think, but all along the way, week after week, we are also reminded that much of what we do is turned down, rejected. No matter — it’s part of the deal, my friend and colleague Jack Ziegler once said, we made with the devil.

 

The cartoonists we’ve lost this early part of the year were given the gift of lives mostly devoted to humor. Two of the three men, Modell and Kovarsky, published work during the editorship of Harold Ross, the man responsible for inventing The New Yorker. Hamilton arrived in 1965, just a few years shy of (Ross’s successor) William Shawn’s midway point as editor. All three artists worked under the magazine’s first Art Editor, James Geraghty and later under Geraghty’s successor, Lee Lorenz. (Kovarsky and Modell also worked under Rea Irvin, the magazine’s legendary Art Supervisor). Combined, they spent well over a hundred years contributing their work to The New Yorker.

 

Each of them let us participate in their worlds as played out in ink lines on the pages of the magazine. Hamilton, with his scrappy lines and unabashed use of black space, was a master of dissecting the look, the language, the culture of the wealthy; Kovarsky used his graceful disciplined line to put a sympathetic spotlight on the absurdities of modern living (and oftimes ancient living); Modell placed a giant banana peel underfoot of life’s everyday banalities. His drawings were as friendly as the man himself.

 

The best cartoonists – and these three were among the best — have an unstoppable gift: not-a-one of them boxed up their creativity once their time at The New Yorker, for whatever reason or reasons, had come to a close. As noted on this site yesterday, Kovarsky, at 97 years old, was still drawing just days before he passed away. Hamilton, taken too soon, was still very much at work before he died.  And Modell was painting and drawing well into his upper 90s.

 

Go out of your way to find collections of work by any of these men, or simply look their work up online. I guarantee you’ll discover evergreens: work that is as fresh today as when it was created; work that will live on as long as there are cartoons. And while you’re laughing as you absorb their humorous worlds, give a thought to these three very fine fellows spending all those years with pens and pencils in hand toiling happily away.

 

[photos: from top left reading clockwise: William Hamilton, Frank Modell, and Anatol Kovarsky]

Kovarsky’s Last Drawing

Posted on 9th June 2016 in News

Kovarsky May 27 2016 Market Gauge People

 

Three years ago, I wrote a piece about the great New Yorker artist Anatol Kovarsky, and titled the piece “Still Drawing After All These Years” (a version of the piece later appeared on the New Yorker’s website). Had I updated the piece last month I could’ve easily revived that same title. You see,  Kovarsky, at 97 was still drawing.  What you see here is his very last, drawn on May 27th, five days before he passed away; the drawing is one of many his family refers to as the Market Gauge series.  His daughter Gina recently told me:

“My mom [the actress Lucille Patton] would place the Market Gauge graph page in front of dad and before you knew it, he would be absorbed in total concentration, pen in hand, finding these odd-looking fellows who had been hiding inside the graphs. It was quite amazing to see him be so immersed in drawing no matter what else was going on.   It really sustained him until almost the very end.”

Below: Anatol Kovarsky working on a Market Gauge drawing.  Market Gauge drawing & photo courtesy of the Kovarsky family

At work on a Market Gauge drawing

Peter Steiner: The Ink Spill Interview

Posted on 7th June 2016 in News

PS selfpor w:camera

I first met Peter Steiner in 1984 at an impromptu party thrown the night of The New Yorker’s annual anniversary bash (at the Pierre on the corner of 5th Avenue at 59th Street). Following the festivities in the hotel’s grand ballroom, a bunch of cartoonists made their way west to the other side of Central Park to a much smaller space: Liza Donnelly’s apartment on 79th Street. Roz Chast and her husband, New Yorker writer, Bill Franzen were there as was Richard Cline —  I believe Mick Stevens was there as well. Jack Ziegler was certainly there (he and I left the apartment at some point on a beer run, walking up to a bodega on Columbus Avenue). And Peter Steiner was there. His incisive wit was immediately evident as was his ability to stray from cartoon-talk. Less than a decade later he would go on to make New Yorker cartoon history by  authoring On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” — the most reprinted drawing in the magazine’s history. And about a decade after that he began to carve out another career, as a novelist. This was a rare pursuit for a New Yorker cartoonist.  We’ve had just a few outside-of-the-box colleagues (James Thurber of course, and the late William Hamilton was a playwright as well as a novelist.  Lou Myers did a fair share of non-cartoon writing as well).

I spoke with Peter this past week, thinking it was a perfect time to catch up with him as he ventures afield again, this time as a graphic novelist, with the publication of An Atheist in Heaven.

 

Michael Maslin: Let’s begin with the present. We’ll eventually work our way around to the past. Your fifth novel, The Capitalist was published this past February, and you’ve followed it three months later with An Atheist in Heaven. Is this an unusually productive period for you, or is this your norm?

 

Peter Steiner: Well, it actually seems like a more productive period than it was.  I finished writing The Capitalist a couple of years ago, then there was the final editing process, then it sat for a good year and half at the publisher (St. Martin’s Press) before it finally came out.  So, a while after I was finished with the book, I came on the idea of an Atheist in Heaven and started drawing.  That was in the spring of 2014.  It took me about a year to do. It’s pretty much a coincidence that they came out so close together.

 

Q: It’s not easy — nor necessary really — to pigeonhole you as a writer, a cartoonist, a painter, an editorial cartoonist, a graphic novelist (now with An Atheist in Heaven). Are any of those callings greater to you than the others or are they all relatively equal. Do you wake up each morning and think, today I’m painting? Or today I’m writing? Or today I’m working on a drawing? Where does the day’s direction come from?

 

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A:  I tend to work in one medium or another—painting, writing—for long periods.  So when I’m working on a novel, I’m not painting.  And usually I won’t paint until I’ve finished the novel.  And likewise when I’m painting, I keep painting until I feel the urge to move back to writing. That can last a year or longer.  When I’ve tried to write in the middle of painting  it throws me off, and visa versa. Cartoons, being a smaller medium (in time, not in importance), get sprinkled about as the spirit moves me.  The year I was working on An Atheist in Heaven came after the writing of The Capitalist.  And now I’m looking forward to starting to paint again. 

 

Q: Looking at the self-portrait series of paintings on your website I see seeds of the kind of drawing that fill An Atheist in Heaven. By that I mean the work seems to be cinematic. The question is: are you finding that your recent cartoons are at all influenced by the drawings in the book, i.e., are you drawing differently?

 

A:  I hadn’t thought of the interplay of painting and cartoons.  I’ve always tried to make my cartoons cinematic, if you want to call it that.  I like interesting settings with particular details, odd angles and dramatic lighting.  Since doing cartoons on my blog I’ve started using pencil for both shading and color, and that continued into my drawing of Atheist. Pencil is more painterly than water color washes; you get more texture sort of like brush strokes in a painting.  And doing color, you can mix color or lay down layers of color on top of one another with exciting effect.

 

Q: Without going into the Atheist story line too much, I have to say it pulled me in right away and then felt carried along quickly on a great ride. Is that was it was like writing it? Was it an express train kind of experience for you?

 

A:  I wrote the text for Atheist very quickly, over the course of a couple of days, without doing any drawings at all or knowing what the drawings were going to be like.  Then I set to work on the drawings, page by page without having any plan or sense how it would develop.  I drew entire pages, rather than individual panels that would need fitting together.  I had no plan, not even from one page to the next.  I drew with ink and, at the beginning, on various kinds of paper.  I also tried out different color methods.  The drawings were rough and a little crude; so was the script.  I wanted it to look handmade and unrefined.  I decided to leave some corrections visible.  The main character evolved as I went along, developing more specific facial and body features.  And the various settings evolved too, becoming more and more involved.  And, yes, it was an express train kind of experience that carried me along.  I tried to keep struggle out of it and just enjoy the experience.  And in that regard, at least, I succeeded.

 

Q: Let’s rewind a good deal to the period just before you began trying to get your drawings into the New Yorker. When was that and what were you doing at that point in your life?

page from Atheist

[Left: a page from An Atheist in Heaven]

 

A:  I sold my first cartoon to the New Yorker in 1979.  (I know that because I looked it up; I’m not good at remembering dates.)  I was living in Watkinsville, Georgia at the time and had moved there from Pennsylvania the year before.  I had just given up my professorship at Dickinson College in order to be an artist full time.  We had bought our first home, a big rambling farm house with a wonderful if delapidated barn and a lovely grove of huge pecan trees.  I was painting seriously and was submitting cartoons every week to the New Yorker.  I had been since leaving teaching, maybe even before leaving teaching.  (Again, I can’t remember exactly.)  I was drawing cartoons for the local paper, a weekly called the Oconee Enterprise for $25 each. I had sold some cartoons to the Saturday Evening Post and the Saturday Review, but the New Yorker was the big prize I was aiming for, and when I hit the bulls eye I was elated.

 

Q: Can you describe your entry into the New Yorker, both the first cartoon published, and the first time (or first few times) you traveled to Manhattan and visited the offices. Did you meet with Lee Lorenz [the magazine’s Art Editor at the time] right away; did you meet other cartoonists at the office?

 

Steiner 1st july 9 '79[left: Peter Steiner’s first New Yorker drawing, in the issue of July 9, 1979]

 

A: When I was 25 or so (about 1965), headed for grad school and about to be married, I was in New York on my way to Maine, and I stopped at the New Yorker with about 75 or eighty roughs. I had been getting cartoons in various small publications, but didn’t think of cartooning as a career or even a job. Of course there was a woman guarding the door who told me I couldn’t see the editor—was that still Geraghty? [James Geraghty was Lorenz’s predecessor as Art Editor, in that position from 1939 through 1974], but I could leave them for him to look at and pick them up the next week.  I was only there for a day, so, for whatever reason I decided not to leave them.  Who knows how it could have changed my life if I had left them.  The next time I was there was fifteen years later–1979 or 80 with at least one sale under my belt—A Swiss guy with an Alpenhorn, and some cows saying to him, “For heaven’s sake, we’re right here.”  I did meet Lee Lorenz then.  I was very reverent and awed by the whole New Yorker thing, and being let in was like arriving at Mecca.  I would come back every few months—I was living in Georgia, and over those first few times met lots of cartoonists.  I mostly remember those older cartoonists who were nice to me–Arthur Getz, Joe Mirachi, Sam Gross.  Of course I met Jack Ziegler, Mick Stevens, Bob Mankoff, Roz Chast, and then we all went for lunch at the worst restaurants in the neighborhood.  I don’t remember whether you and I met there or not [see the introduction above].

Q: I believe I’ve heard you mention (in interviews, or perhaps in earlier conversations with me) that there are certain New Yorker cartoonists that you consider (my word) exceptional. Can you mention a few, and briefly tell us why they stand out so for you?

A:  When I think of “exceptional” cartoonists, I mean my favorites, those whose work would lift my spirits.  And most of my favorites are the beautiful drawers—Gluyas Williams; Helen Hokinson; Arno, of course; Steinberg; Addams; Charles Saxon; Bob Weber; Booth.  I’m sure there are some I’ve forgotten to mention.  Their drawings are lovely to look at, each in its own way.

Q: Before I let you return to your painting, writing, and drawing, do you foresee more written work in the Atheist in Heaven vein (i.e., text and graphics)?  I’m hoping you say ‘yes’.

A:  I don’t have another drawn book in mind, but it was so interesting and amusing doing an Atheist in Heaven that I can’t imagine not doing it again.  I’ll let you know when I start something.

 

To see more of Peter Steiner’s drawings and  paintings, including more self-portraits like the one at the top of this piece, visit his website: plsteiner.com

To read more about his latest book, An Atheist in Heaven, go here.

Besides An Atheist in Heaven, Mr. Steiner has published five novels of a series, the latest being The Capitalist. In 1994 he published a collection of cartoons, I Didn’t Bite the Man, I Bit the Office.

Peter's Capitalist STEINER1photo-9

A Peter Kuper Retrospective

Posted on 6th June 2016 in News

Kuper 3:21:16Outside the Box,  a retrospective exhibit of Peter Kuper‘s work will be shown at Scott Eder Gallery in Dumbo from June 16th – August 19th. All the details here (look at the events listings upper left on the gallery site).

[Above: Mr. Kuper’s drawing in the March 21, 2016 New Yorker]

New Yorker Artist Anatol Kovarsky Has Died At Age 97

Posted on 3rd June 2016 in News

The sad news arrived here this morning that the great New Yorker artist Anatol Kovarsky died this week.  He was 97.  In his honor I’m re-posting the piece, in now slightly edited form,  about Mr. Kovarsky that I wrote three years ago this month. The above photo, by Liza Donnelly, was taken at Mr. Kovarsky’s upper west side apartment, June, 2013. To see the entire piece, with art and photographs link here.

 

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At 3 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon in late June, my wife and I, wearing our cartoonist historian hats, were welcomed into an apartment in a pre-war building along Manhattan’s west side. We made our way through a short hallway to a foyer lined with paintings. There were paintings on the walls, and paintings lined up several feet deep along the floor. Paintings paintings everywhere. All of them by the New Yorker cartoonist/artist, Anatol Kovarsky.

Kovarsky’s wife, the actress Lucille Patton, married to the artist since 1954, greeted us, and a few moments later, Kovarsky himself appeared from a back room. He held the latest issue of The New Yorker, and was eager to talk about an illustration that caught his eye. “This was done with a [computer] program?” he asked pointing to the piece.

When Kovarsky began his publishing career at The New Yorker he was 28 years old; he is now 94. His New Yorker work, which began with a cartoon in the issue of March 1, 1947 (cartoon above), ended with a great flourish of covers in 1969. After 1969, Kovarsky turned to painting full time. New Yorker readers no longer saw his work in the magazine and on its covers, but his work continued and continues on to this day.

For me, it was a rather surreal moment shaking Kovarsky’s hand. I had long ago placed him in my thinking — and rightly so– in the late Harold Ross, early William Shawn era of the magazine’s history, what some have referred to as “the Golden Age” of the magazine’s cartoons. In 2013, if you count the number of New Yorker Golden Age cartoonists who are still with us — those who began contributing to the magazine during the editorship of Harold Ross — you will count no further than four: Frank Modell, Dana Fradon, James Stevenson, and Anatol Kovarsky [Note: Frank Modell passed away exactly one week ago today, May 27, 2016]. Meeting these artists is meeting New Yorker history. In the past two months I’ve had occasion to speak to three of these men, and all three exhibit the playfulness of spirit I’ve encountered in most every cartoonist I’ve ever met, no matter their age.

For someone who contributed hundreds of cartoons to The New Yorker it may seem odd that only one collection, Kovarsky’s World, was published (by Knopf, in 1956). Kovarsky’s Kabinett der Kuriositaten, published in Germany in 1962, seems to be a paperback reprint of Kovarsky’s World.

 

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I had always wondered why there was no follow-up collection – a book that would have included some of his scores of covers for the magazine. When I posed that to Kovarsky, he shrugged, and said, “there were some other books” – one in particular he seemed proud of is an unpublished illustrated guide to English spelling. His work found its way into books as illustrations ( Cycles in Your Life, and a book of limericks, There Was a Young Lady Named Alice). Kovarsky’s work also made it to the Great White Way; he designed and drew the sets for the Broadway play, “The Owl and the Pussycat.”

I said to him that I couldn’t help but notice, looking through his New Yorker work, that the majority of drawings were uncaptioned – to my way of thinking, the most difficult kind of cartoon to do (there have been scant few masters of the form: Otto Soglow, Sam Cobean, Steinberg, Anthony Taber, Nurit Karlin, and more recently, John O’Brien). Kovarsky said, pointing to this newer work of his — a book-in-the-works of drawings accompanied by humorous rhymes — that this latest effort “made up for” the lack of words in his earlier work. He opened the manuscript and read several of the rhymes, then his finger ran over one of the drawings, as if he was redrawing it.

His daughter, Gina, a college professor who teaches Russian literature and culture, showed us some of her father’s recent work: drawings on newspapers, on ads, on stock market charts.

Lucille said, “Anatol will draw on anything” as she handed us two large round cardboard platters that had come from a catered event: each were painted over by Kovarsky. A design incorporating an elephant on one, three nudes on the other. Later she showed us two small cardboard saucers or dessert plates, also transformed by Kovarsky into works of art.

I had done my homework on Kovarsky before meeting him, looking through his entire New Yorker ouvre, and reading an extended biography from a conference volume about American cultural figures from the Russian empire. Born in Moscow in 1919 to Jewish parents, he drew at a very young age, entertaining his classmates (behavior much in common with many cartoonists) – he drew his first political cartoon at age 9. After the Russian revolution, his family settled in Warsaw.Kovarsky studied briefly in Vienna (his father wanted him to be an economist), but then, according to his daughter, “he found a drawing master and shifted his attention exclusively to art.” Kovarsky went on to Paris where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts for three years. The war was on in Europe and in 1941 Kovarsky was able to make his way to Casablanca, where he boarded the last passenger liner leaving Morocco for the United States.   He was eager “to see,” he told me, “what the rest of the world looked like.” He arrived in America just as it entered the war. Kovarsky told me of the circuitous route he took from the South up through the Midwest and finally to New York City.

He enlisted in the Army, serving as a cartographer and translator; he also began contributing cartoons to Yank and the Stars and Stripes. He returned to Europe as a soldier, at first based in London, and then landing at Normandy. He arrived in Paris the day after it was liberated from the Nazis, and was eventually reunited with his family, who amazingly had survived.

Back in America following the war, he turned to the world of magazine cartoons but never away from painting. Lucille told us that the large studio Kovarsky once used in lower Manhattan, was divided in two: one part for doing drawings, the other for paintings.  Lucille said, “he would switch from one to the other.” (photo below: Anatol Kovarsky and Lucille Patton, in the late 1950s or early 1960s)

Kovarskys passport

I asked Kovarsky if he was led to cartoons by the work of other cartoonists, and he replied, “No, they (the cartoons) just came out of me.” While it’s not exactly clear how Kovarsky was introduced to The New Yorker, Gina Kovarsky believes it was “very likely” that the enthusiasm and encouragement of the author, Herbert French, led her father to submit work to the magazine. Kovarsky had contributed illustrations for French’s 1946 book, My Yankee Paris.

The New Yorker immediately fell in love with his work; Kovarsky’s drawings averaged at least two appearances a month (sometimes his work appeared every week of the month). His work often centered on the art world: artists in their studios, with their models and without, museum art; foreign culture was also a theme of great interest, specifically the Middle East. Little of post-war American life escaped Kovarsky’s imagination.

After a decade of contributing drawings to The New Yorker, his covers began to appear. Kovarsky has said he never did more than six a year, and seeing them it is not difficult to understand why. Many of his covers, like the paintings that surrounded us in the Kovarsky’s apartment, were energetic displays of brilliant color and action.

Before our visit, Kovarsky’s daughter wrote to me of her father’s interests:

His eye has been attuned to beauty not only in pageantry and performance, but also at the bar and grill, the beaches of Coney Island, the boxing ring, and the supermarket.   (Indeed, his appreciation for city life was such that when I was a little girl and we would be going on walks, he would periodically draw my attention to the colorful and interesting patterns created by garbage strewn about on the streets, or by dilapidated storefronts with their torn-off signs).

What he was doing was what all great cartoonists do: he was taking it all in, no matter what “it” was (Kovarsky continues to take it all in to this very day).

We were shown a brilliant unpublished cover sketch obviously intended for The New Yorker (it included the famous “strap” that runs along the left edge of every New Yorker cover). It was a snapshot from Kovarsky’s eye, perhaps a combination of snapshots, with what appeared to be a throng of pedestrians on a major Manhattan avenue and  above them a collage of bright signage. An elevated train roared past above the signage and then,  the quiet grey backdrop of the city sky. We were also shown another New Yorker cover submission with the strap section showing a commuter reading his newspaper; the cover field itself is a series of images one would see from a train or elevated subway. It could easily be a contemporary New Yorker cover.

Gina Kovarsky has been spending her summer off from teaching cataloging her father’s work. She has accomplished much, but there is plenty left to do. She showed us three rooms filled – and I do mean filled — with her father’s work. Going through his drawings she found a number of folders labeled “Nyet” (Kovarsky is fluent in Russian, Polish, French, and English – indeed, when we first arrived Gina and her father spoke to each other in Russian before switching to English). It’s a puzzle now as to whether the “Nyet” folders contain drawings rejected by The New Yorker, or whether Kovarsky pre-rejected them as not suitable for the editors.

Sitting next to Kovarsky on a living room sofa, surveying the living room walls lined with his paintings, the hallway beyond, with paintings stored in racks, I said to Kovarsky, “You have done so much work” to which he replied, “I am told,” he said, “that there are 600 paintings here. I would like to do more.”

Kovarsky-Commuters-224x300

 

Kovarsky contributed nearly 300 drawings & almost 50 covers to The New Yorker.  All of his work (drawings & covers) can be found in The Complete New Yorker, or to see just his drawings:  The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker.   Another option:  any library with a collection of bound New Yorkers.  The New Yorker’s Cartoon Bank has a few examples of Kovarsky’s work for the magazine. To the left: an unpublished Kovarsky New Yorker cover idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
   

 

 

Panckeri Pencilled; More Gus Mager

Posted on 2nd June 2016 in News

tumblr_inline_o82aqwXtD21sj0qh6_500Drew Panckeri is up next on Jane Mattimoe’s terrif blog, A Case For Pencils.

Read all about Mr. Panckeri’s tools of the trade here.

 

 

 

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mager19060930-WHat-Little-Johnny-Wanted-650x424From The Comics Journal, June 1, 2016, here’s “The Lost Sundays of Gus Mager 1904-1906”, Part 2 of Paul Tumey’s close look at the artist’s work.

 

 

 

 

 

As a reminder of Mr. Mager’s New Yorker connection, here’s  Ink Spill’s “New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z” entry for him:

Gus Mager (photo above) Born, 1878, Newark, New Jersey. Died, July 17, 1956, Murrysville, Penn. NYer 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

R.O. Blechman Podcast: “A Lot of Artists Are Insecure.”

Posted on 1st June 2016 in News

R.O. AmHere’s an interesting and long (close to an hour) podcast featuring the great R.O. Blechman, recorded at the most recent MoCCA [Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art] Festival.  The conversation covers a wide range of Mr. Blechman’s pursuits, including filmmaking, advertising, cartoons, New Yorker covers, and illustration. Here’s a snippet of Blechman talking about advertising:

What I didn’t like about advertising: Hey, I’m for sale. I hated that.”

 

(Left: Mr. Blechman’s latest book and below: a recent collection)

R.O. Talking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(r-o-blechman-the-new-yorker-cover-october-1-1979_i-G-61-6120-KBMF100ZLeft: Blechman’s October 1, 1979 New Yorker cover; in my opinion, one of the magazine’s greatest covers. Below: his must-read 1980 book, Behind the Lines)

 

R.O. Behind t Lines

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.

Frank's 1st

(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.

 

Link here to see Mr. Modell’s New York Times obit.

Modell

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!