The news that the Hostess company has filed for bankruptcy reminded me of one of the drawings I did ages ago poking at the super rich, “That will be Williams with your Twinkie” (it appeared in The New Yorker, September 5, 1983). For the record: I love Twinkies. Should they disappear, we will all be the poorer for it.
Tis the season for birthdays of great cartoonists:
Charles Addams born January 7, 1912; Peter Arno born January 8, 1904; John Held, Jr., born January 10, 1889; Leo Cullum, January 11, 1942.
William Grimes, writing in The New York Times said of Leo Cullum, “[he] was a classic gag cartoonist whose visual absurdities were underlined, in most cases, by a caption reeled in from deep left field.” And , Roz Chast, in a “Postscript” for The New Yorker, concurred: “…his gags were truly out there: unexpected and completely loopy.”
Leo, who passed away in the Fall of 2010, would’ve turned 70 today.
REMINDER! A number of cartoonists whose work appears in the recently published Best of the Rejection Collection are gathering at Manhattan’s Strand bookstore on Broadway and 12th St., Jan. 12th, 7:00pm – 8:00pm. Among the participants: Julia Suits, Carolita Johnson, Matthew Diffee, Christopher Weyant, David Sipress, and Arnie Levin. For details click here.
The New Yorker’s brand new website feature, “The Political Scene” offers a political cartoon of the day (today’s is by Joseph Farris) as well as an offering of politically themed cartoons from the magazine’s archives. Link here for laughs.
Above: “And now you must meet my bosom friend.” (rough version of the drawing published in The New Yorker, October 10, 1931)
An Arno on My Desk
Not too long ago I took an original Peter Arno drawing we own, popped it out of its frame, and placed it on my desk. My thinking was that the drawing, unadorned by glass and metal, might bring me somehow closer to Arno.
His work up close is even more graphically powerful than it appeared in the pages of The New Yorker, and that’s saying something. No one commanded the magazine’s pages like Arno: not Steinberg, not Gluyas Williams, not Addams. While Steinberg’s work played and soared and amazed, it never got right up in your face like Arno’s. Williams’ full pages were delights of subtle construction, and Addams’ draftsmanship ominously hilarious (as the veteran New Yorker cartoonist, Henry Martin, might say, “he drew funny.”) but Arno’s work overpowered, and demanded attention.
Arno drew large in a fairly small space. The 10” x 15” Bainbridge board holding this particular drawing seems barely big enough to hold his patented swooping brushstrokes. Like the man himself, the work presents itself all at once, and not, as Frank Sinatra once sang, “in a shy way.”
Obviously not pleased with the rough, Arno went on to do god-knows-how-many-more versions before deciding on the piece eventually published. The major change (improvement?) is that the two central women have become bustier, playing more obviously on the word “bosom’ in the caption. (In The New Yorker’s archives I found this drawing’s caption on a list of “Ideas which Have Been Assigned to Peter Arno.” Unfortunately, the person who wrote the caption is not identified).
Looking very close at the rough version, the pencil lines can be seen cutting beneath the brushstrokes. Arno’s brushstrokes are deceptive; they look as if he brushed with abandon; it was anything but. Each stroke was plotted in advance. And yet, we know that as he worked, he sometimes sang and tapped his feet to a personal rhythm. A man who knew exactly what he wanted to do on the page, and who had a hell of a time doing it.
For now, the 81 year old Arno drawing remains on my desk. There’s definitely a vibe surrounding it –- especially today, on what would’ve been his 108th birthday.
From The Telegraph, January 6, 2012, “Charles Addams: Master of black humour”
From uk.reuters, January 3, 2012, “St. Trinian’s creator Searle dies aged 91”
Searle’s work appeared close to 100 times since he first began contributing to The New Yorker in 1966. His covers, which usually included a burst or bursts of color, often had a cat as the subject, but there were also variations on aged flower children/artists, and the occasional butterfly or dog. I always thought that if you could toss Ralph Steadman’s style into a blender along with Al Hirschfeld’s and Arnold Roth’s you just might end up with a distant relation to Searle’s.