Thanks to the treasure trove of scans the illustrator Tom Bloom has sent to this site, we are able to behold this beautiful Abe Birnbaum cover for New Yorker writer Philip Hamburger’s 1949 collection, The Oblong Blur.
Though Mr. Birnbaum (who died in 1966) was know principally for his New Yorker covers, he was, graphically-speaking, a jack-of-all trades at the magazine, contributing cartoons (nine in his earlier years), illustrations, and spot drawings.
According to Mr. Birnbaum’s New York Times obituary:
he contributed more portraits and drawings to the magazine’s Profile and Reporter At Large sections than any other artist.
Describing his work habits, the piece went on:
Mr. Birnbaum was an exacting craftsman. In the studio of his home in Croton, N.Y. surrounded by most of his 15 cats, he would draw an object such as a chair as much as 200 times or more to get it right.
“Nothing is ugly,” he said often. “Everything is what it is.”
From The New Yorker‘s obit of Birnbaum, here’s how Brendan Gill described him:
He was a burly black-browed man with dark bright eyes and a bantering affectionate nature. The older he became, the younger and more joyous his work became.
Above: a Birnbaum New Yorker drawing from the issue of May 24, 1930