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.
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.
With the publication this coming February of It’s Not Easy Being Number 3, Drew Dernavich continues the long tradition of New Yorker cartoonists venturing into the children’s book world (the list includes, among many others, Rea Irvin, Lee Lorenz, James Stevenson, Robert Kraus, James Thurber, William Steig, Frank Modell, Ed Arno, Edward Koren, Henry Martin, Syd Hoff, Dana Fradon, Jack Ziegler, Liza Donnelly, Danny Shanahan, Harry Bliss, and Roz Chast).
[It’s Not Easy Being Number 3, Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano, February 2016]
On this momentous Mad Men weekend, it gives me great pleasure to post an Ink Spill exclusive from my New Yorker colleague, Joe Dator. I can’t think of a better cartoon-related way to salute this classic series. My thanks to Joe for bringing this terrific piece to the Spill. [click on the cartoons to enlarge them ]
And now, without further ado…
“The Cartoons on Peggy Olson’s Wall”
Is there a clever nickname for Mad Men fans? “Maddies” doesn’t seem right, and “Mennies” is even worse (How about “Trekkies”? The Star Trek people aren’t using it anymore. I say we make them an offer). Whatever the word for it is, I am one. I’m completely enthralled by the writing, the acting and the incredible attention to period detail. For me, these characters seem absolutely real, and I’ve met some future older version of just about all of them.
One of those is copy chief Peggy Olson, played by Elisabeth Moss. In the fifth season episode “Dark Shadows”, which takes place in 1966, Peggy opens a pitch meeting for a soft drink with “Everyone loves the cartoons in The New Yorker, and I thought we could do that kind with the guy crawling across the Sahara dying of thirst”. Her idea doesn’t fit the campaign, but it fits her character. Peggy’s come a long way (vintage advertising reference!) since starting at Sterling Cooper, working her way up to copywriter when few women were anything other than secretaries. She’s an upward striver who would have reveled in her new found metropolitan lifestyle (although as a young professional she might not have been the ideal demographic for The New Yorker at that time- its ads from those days seemed to mostly target the kind of people who buy furs and travel to India for the food).
Three fictional years later, Peggy has a bit more office real estate and she decorates it partly with cartoons. In the seventh season episodes “Severance” and “New Business” there are four New Yorker cartoons visible on the wall (I couldn’t identify the other four- it’s likely they were culled from one of the other magazines that ran cartoons back then, of which there were still many).
True to the production’s meticulous attention to detail, all of them were published prior to those episodes April 1970 setting. Let’s take a closer look.
First up is this William Steig cartoon from March 22nd, 1969. It’s funny, but why would Peggy want to clip it out and save it? I think it would have struck a nerve with any woman of that era. Despite revisionist nostalgia for the 60s as a time for acceptance of curvier figures, the reality is that weight-loss, or “reducing” products were sold exclusively and aggressively to women back then. Peggy wrote copy for a few of those, like “Patio”, a kind of proto Diet Pepsi, and “The Electrosizer”, a baffling vibrating harness contraption (which proved to have benefits for women that were very far away from weight loss).
Of course, I think this cartoon may have resonated with Peggy for a different reason. Is that hen just stout or is she pregnant? Peggy spent the better part of Season 1 carrying Pete Campbell’s baby, unaware or more likely in willful denial of her condition and her growing shape. Her boss Don Draper chillingly says to her, after she’s given the child up for adoption, that “This never happened.” Don is a shape-shifter, and this cartoon may be a reminder to Peggy of how much she is like her mentor after all.
At the time this Dana Fradon cartoon was published, on February 22nd, 1969, the Cold War was still in full swing, and the Paris Peace Talks were entering their second year. It’s safe to say the public was losing some confidence in its leaders’ and diplomats’ ability to talk through their problems. But I’d like to think Peggy taped this one up because it reminded her of all the time she spent in places where “the ladies have to sit and listen to the men talk”. She’s heard a lot of important men saying a lot of important things, and she knows better than anyone else how much of it is just pure gobbledegook.
This Warren Miller cartoon, from February 15th, 1969, in which animals have occupied a zoo administrator’s office, is clearly a reference to student protests at universities in 1968 and 69. It’s a snapshot of the power struggle that was going on between the establishment and the counter culture at that time. Peggy’s a part of that menagerie that has wrestled control of the institution away from the stuffy pipe-smokers that run it, although I imagine she feels more like the zoo director- in constant danger of being pushed out of her hard-won position by the animals of the firm. That lion looks a lot like Don, the giraffe like the statuesque Joan and the ostrich could easily be mistaken for Roger Sterling (I don’t see a duck in there, but if there was one I guess it would be… Duck?).
Another Dana Fradon cartoon, from March 22nd 1969. On numerous occasions throughout the series Peggy expressed a desire to go to Paris but couldn’t get there. Another time she accepted a job at a rival firm that she thought would take her to new places (Paris included) and within months was back working for Don due to an impromptu merger. That could be what she sees in this cartoon, or maybe, as we saw from her measured response to the complete dissolution of the firm in Season 7, she just has the right attitude about her climb up the corporate ladder- she takes it all in stride because she knows all roads really lead to nowhere, anyway.
I imagine Peggy Olson today, still healthy in her mid-70s, owner of numerous cats in a cavernous rent-controlled apartment on Columbus Avenue. She’s still witty and caustic, yet still sweet and filled with wonder. She still subscribes to The New Yorker, but I don’t think she’s one of those people who only reads it for the cartoons. She likes the ads, too.
(Thanks to Leigh Montville for help with research)
Credits, in order of appearance:
Cartoon by William Steig / The New Yorker Collection / www.cartoonbank.com
Cartoon by Dana Fradon / The New Yorker Collection / www.cartoonbank.com
Cartoon by Warren Miller / The New Yorker Collection / www.cartoonbank.com
Cartoon by Dana Fradon / The New Yorker Collection /www.cartoonbank.com
Back in February, Ink Spill noted an exhibit of illustrated album covers at the Rhode Island School of Design. Paul Karasik(who teaches at RISD) sent in these photos of the William Steig covers on display.
(photo by Meg Handler Photography)
From The Providence Journal, February 8, 2015, “RISD exhibit: Album covers were just another canvas for artists” — this story about a current exhibition of album cover art. The exhibit includes work by William Steig, Arnold Roth,and Edward Sorel.
( left: A Sorel album cover)
I’m pleased to announce that Mad At Something, my biography of the late and very great New Yorker cartoonist, Peter Arno will be published by Regan Arts.
Arno is one of the pillars of The New Yorker‘s earliest days, a group that includes Harold Ross, E.B. White, Katharine White, and James Thurber. Ross, the magazine’s founder and first editor called Arno “our pathfinder artist” and “the greatest artist in the world.” It is indeed the case that Arno’s work for the magazine raised the graphic bar so high that “New Yorker cartoon” became synonymous with excellence in the field.
The idea for an Arno biography began back in 1999 in true cartoonist fashion: as an A-Ha! moment as I was driving in the vicinity of Arno’s home just outside of Manhattan; I realized that he had never been the subject of a biography. Since that moment I’ve spent the past fifteen years researching and writing about his life.
Mad At Something is not just an examination of Arno’s life and work, it is also an exploration of the birth and development of the New Yorker cartoon, as well as the magazine’s fabled art department, and its artists. One of the many wonderful things about being a New Yorker cartoonist is the opportunity it’s afforded me to meet other New Yorker cartoonists. Since beginning the biography I’ve reached out to my colleagues asking them to share their thoughts on Arno’s work. The list includes Arno contemporaries such as William Steig, Syd Hoff, Robert Weber, Frank Modell, Eldon Dedini, Ed Fisher, through post-Arno contributors such as Jack Ziegler, Roz Chast, Peter Steiner, Bruce Eric Kaplan and Edward Sorel. I am especially pleased that the book’s curtain closer is composed of their contributions.
Mad At Something will be published in 2016.
Cartoons on the block by Steinberg, Mischa Richter, Barbara Shermund, William Steig, Richard Taylor, Edward Sorel, Victoria Roberts, Charles Addams, Helen Hokinson, Rea Irvin, and Peter Arno.
Below: a beautiful early Steig included in the auction.
Ordinarily, New Yorker cartoon calendars, diaries, and the like aren’t listed here, but this sounds like it’s not your ordinary calendar, so I’m making an exception.
Here’s an excerpt from the publisher’s blurb for The New Yorker 365 Days of Covers Page-A-Day Gallery Calendar 2016:
“…this calendar features hundreds of the very best examples, all beautifully reproduced in full color. Here are iconic covers from Jean-Jacques Sempé, George Booth, Maira Kalman, Arthur Getz, Roz Chast, and the other illustrators whose work has helped shape The New Yorker’s inimitable style. Unprecedented quality with its exceptional art, coated paper, and exacting standards of color printing, this calendar is a gallery for your desk.”
From Business Insider, December 31, 2014, this short video featuring The New Yorker’s Cartoon Editor, Bob Mankoff: “Scientists Discovered What Makes Something Funny”
Our friend over at Attempted Bloggery has a fun post about William Steig’s crying chickens (recently auctioned for a song…or a cluck?)
A very happy 89th birthday to The New Yorker. While there’s no classic Eustace Tilley cover this year (the last time we saw Tilley as Rea Irvin* intended was in 2011, we do have, according to the Art Editor, Francoise Mouly, “the first published Tilley painted on an iPhone”; inside the magazine, not including the drawings on the Caption Contest page, are sixteen cartoons by fifteen cartoonists (Joe Dator‘s work appears twice). Two of the drawings contain some color (a cartoon by Ben Schwartz & one by Edward Steed). Color cartoons were once so unusual in the magazine that when they appeared in The New Yorker‘s 64th anniversary issue in 1989, N.R. Kleinfield wrote a piece about it for The New York Times (“Inside New Yorker, a Splash of Color”). The color appeared in a four page spread by William Steig.
*Below: Rea Irvin’s entry on Ink Spill‘s New Yorker Cartoonists A-Z:
Rea Irvin (pictured above. Self portrait above from Meet the Artist) *Born, San Francisco, 1881; died in the Virgin Islands,1972. Irvin was the cover artist for the New Yorker’s first issue, February 21, 1925. He was the magazine’s first art editor, holding the position from 1925 until 1939 when James Geraghty assumed the title. Irvin became art director and remained in that position until William Shawn succeeded Harold Ross. Irvin’s last original work for the magazine was the magazine’s cover of July 12, 1958. The February 21, 1925 Eustace Tilley cover had been reproduced every year on the magazine’s anniversary until 1994, when R. Crumb’s Tilley-inspired cover appeared. Tilley has since reappeared, with other artists substituting from time-to-time.
Below: the first issue of The New Yorker, February 21, 1925. Cover by Rea Irvin.
The late great New Yorker artist, Peter Arno was born 110 years ago today at home in Morningside Heights, New York. As many regular visitors to Ink Spill know, I began a biography of Mr. Arno back in 1999. Someday, a publisher willing, Mad At Something: The Life and Times of Peter Arno will be available to all those wishing to know a whole lot more about him.
Arno began contributing to The New Yorker in June of 1925 and continued contributing until his death in 1968 (his last cover for the magazine appears above). Over the past fifteen years I’ve asked New Yorker cartoonists to talk to me about Arno. Today I’ve decided to run a handful of their responses. Some of these cartoonists were contemporaries of Arno’s, and some are in the early phase of their New Yorker cartoonist adventure.
Frank Modell began contributing cartoons to The New Yorker in 1946. I first interviewed Frank in February of 2000 and then again this past Fall.At 95 he is one of the two New Yorker contributors still with us who actually met Arno (Lillian Ross is the other. Roger Angell told me he spoke with Arno on the phone, but never actually met him).
“Let me tell you something about [Arno] – he was a worrier. As good as he was, and as strong an artist as he was, surprisingly he was the most worried of all the cartoonists about his drawing. He would call up [The New Yorker’s Art Department] and say, ‘Did you get that drawing, the finish I sent in – did you print it yet?’ And I’d say no, then he’d say, ‘Don’t print it! Tell Geraghty I’m doing another one – I don’t want him to print it until I do another one.’ Then he’d send in another version that didn’t look any different than the first.”
“Arno belonged to the great era of Benchley, E.B. White, Perelman, etc., the era of the Great Depression and two emerging classes, upper and lower. Arno belonged to the upper. Who’ll ever forget his Park Avenue types, on their way to a newsreel theater ‘to hiss Roosevelt’? Those bold drawings! Nobody could imitate them. They had to come out of the bourgeoisie! I remember him standing outside 25 West 43rd Street! He was big and narrow, just like his men, without [the] handlebar mustaches…”
Robert Weber. If you ask 20 cartoonists to name the top ten cartoonists to come out of the post-Harold Ross years, Robert Weber’s name will surely be on that list. Mr. Weber’s distinctive bold effortless line is a thing to behold. Mr. Weber will be 90 this coming April. He began contributing to The New Yorker in 1962.
“I wish I had known or even just met Arno and I regret I didn’t. I’ve always admired his work, particularly his later work for The New Yorker. I don’t think I ever consciously tried to emulate him, although I’ve learned a lot from his superb sense of composition and drama. He had a marvelous ability to simplify. He never permitted anything extraneous, and he developed a powerful style unlike anyone else. And, of course, he was funny. Put me down as a big fan.”
Alex Gregory began contributing to The New Yorker in 1999. Besides his work for the magazine he works in television and film.
“As far as Arno’s impact on me personally, I grew up looking enviously at his drawings in anthologies. I would say that Arno is the New Yorker artist that I would most like to have emulated yet had the least capacity to do so. His cartoons are like black-and-white Matisses. but in some ways even more accomplished. – they capture a person’s mood, character, and breeding with just a few thick supremely confident brush strokes. The art direction in each panel is flawless; characters are placed perfectly, and the action is always expressive without being broad. And as rich as each image is, he never gets bogged down in any details that could slow down the joke. His drawings appear to be done by a man who has never known a moment of fear or self-doubt in his life. I suppose it was Arno more than any other cartoonist save Thurber that made me think of cartooning as an actual art form.”
“Arno was special. He was special like Charles Addams was special, and Price was special. You know what I mean?”
George Booth began sharing his wonderful world of dogs, cats and characters with The New Yorker’s readership in 1969.
“Peter Arno’s work stands out and holds up in the test of time. His drawings and words were never timid, or just clever. They stated high quality, joy, confidence, strength, style, humor, idea, life, simplicity. His color was right; black and white became color. His cartoons were researched, with words well applied. The communication was clear and timely. He knew what he was doing. Peter Arno was an artist worthy who gave something of value to the world. A hero.”
“[Arno’s] cartoons were a major inspiration to me. His staging of a gag was masterful in its simplicity. No extra crap — the point -bang! Even today when I have trouble with a drawing I ask myself ‘How would Arno do it?’ and look in collections of his for the answer…Arno is still the model for me and for any thinking cartoonist.”
Paul Noth began contributing to The New Yorker in 2004. Besides his work for the magazine he has also written for television.
“I was attracted to library books of his when I was a kid because of the sexy ladies (I was raised a strict Catholic, so actual nudity was too much for me, but cartoons like his were somehow okay).
“A modern Daumier.”
Barbara Smaller began contributing to The New Yorker in 1996.
“Arno’s sophisticated bad boy sensibilities never resonated with me in the way a William Steig or George Price’s more plebian ones did. Still there is much I admire about his drawings, particularly his wonderful deep blacks and dramatic compositions. I also admit to enjoying the People magazine aspects of his private life; the high highs and the satisfying low lows. They are an object lesson to all wayward cartoonists!”
Henry Martin began contributing to The New Yorker in 1964
“… Jim Geraghty bought three ideas from me for Arno in 1964 and 1965. He was the master, but like so many of the greats the idea wells ran dry, but, lord, how they could create memorable drawings.”
Kim Warp began contributing to The New Yorker in 1999.
“Peter Arno wasn’t the reason I became a cartoonist in particular but he was always part of the cartoon collections that fascinated me as a child…I was impressed by the graphic power of his drawings ( although I wouldn’t have called it that at the time of course) and by the world he portrayed. In particular I remember the “I’m checking up for the company, Madam. Have you any of our fuller Brush men.?” Cartoon which somehow melded in my mind with his man in the shower cartoon. This was a much more interesting world of possibility than I was being led to believe existed by 1960s TV shows. When I think of him now I’m struck by the grown-up playfulness and joy of life his cartoons portray which contrasts with the work-obsessedness of today. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t know too many people who have wild cocktail parties after work or fuller brush men hidden in their apartment. Everyone is at soccer practice with the kids.”
Edward Sorel began contributing to The New Yorker in 1990. Mr. Sorel, I believe, is the closest we’ve come to a modern day Arno.
“It was Arno, not John Held, Jr. who was the true artist of the Jazz Age. Not only was his canvas much larger—including not only the coeds in their yellow slickers, but rich clubmen, gold-diggers, Hollywood illiterates, the unemployed, and most especially, satyrs and other pursuers of sex. And beyond his subject matter, his style of drawing, so spontaneous looking, is much more in keeping with the spirit of the roaring, anything goes, twenties, than Held’s meticulous, carefully designed cartoons. Once the Jazz Age was over, Held seemed antique, whereas Arno’s style not only kept going, but attracted several imitators.”
And last, but certainly not least, William Steig. Mr. Steig, who died in 2003, began his New Yorker career in 1930.
“I like his work.”