Rea Irvin’s Talk of The Town Town Masthead: “A Mere Reassuring Blur”

I’m devoting today’s Spill to Rea Irvin’s long-running Talk of The Town masthead —  the one that appeared for 92 years, before being replaced this past May by a redrawn effort.   Tune out if you wish — at least I’m not talking about the two dots that sometime appear below certain cartoons.

I happened upon this passage about the Irvin masthead  (shown above) in Brendan Gill’s must-read memoir, Here At The New Yorker.  I haven’t read a better description. We pick up just after Gill has discussed Eustace Tilley:

“The drawing at the head of “Talk’ is in some ways ways more mysterious even than the cover and deserves examination.  The dandy is shown at the left-hand side of the drawing; he is in profile, wearing a high stock, with a monocle on on a ribbon screwed into his left eye. He is engaged in writing a missive of some length with a grotesquely exaggerated quill pen.  On the right-hand side of the drawing, full-face to the viewer, perches a plump black owl, roguishly winking.  Between the dandy and the owl rise some peculiar skyscrapers, topped by cupolas unlike any any to be seen in New York.  Rays of sunlight, or perhaps moonlight (for the owl’s unwinking eye is wide-open), stream from behind the skyscrapers.  Dandy, owl, and sky-scrapers are drawn along a single notched, curving line, under and over which float a number of wheels with sawtoothed  rims. What is this incoherent jumble? Nobody alive any longer remembers, and it doesn’t matter. There the heading is, and every week we see it and yet take care not to see it.; it is a mere reassuring blur at the top of the page as we settle down to our reading of Notes and Comment. As such, it remains a continuing witness to the almost total confusion  of purpose manifested in those early days by Ross…”

The new masthead — and I have to stress it is new — appears below.

 

As I wrote on the Spill back in May when this new masthead was installed (the redesign first appeared in the issue of May 22, 2017),  Mr. Irvin’s charmingly imperfect scroll-like line has met a white-out brush.  His owl has been re-drawn, his buildings re-drawn too (with the inclusion of One World Trade Center in this new assortment).  Tilley himself has changed just a bit.  The designery horizontal line running over the drawing (added in the issue of February 21, 2000) remains.

Let’s compare and contrast the Irvin masthead with this new one, which we’ll call the Niemann version (after Christoph Niemann, who was hired to redraw the masthead), incorporating some of what Mr. Gill spoke of.  The 92 year old masthead segments below will always appear on the left (you’ll be able to tell the difference because of the slight amber color of the older version); the Niemann redrawn masthead segments are to the right. 

Brendan Gill: “The dandy is shown at the left hand side…he is engaged at writing a missive of some length”

The dandy remains in Niemann’s version, although he’s lost many of the character lines in his hair, on his jacket and even his face. The white dots on his lapel have disappeared. His body has narrowed as well.  Tilley’s new face is smoother — not yet approaching the cartoony Tilley look the magazine has incorporated on its various online features, as seen here:

 

Brendan Gill: The “plump owl”:

The Irvin owl as been replaced by a slimmed down version and losing some of the woodcut-esque lines around its face. It somewhat resembles a rubber stamp.

Brendan Gill: The “peculiar skyscrapers topped by cupolas unlike any to be seen in New York”:

The new skyscrapers (seen on the right) are no longer peculiar; they are now a generic skyline, identifiable as Manhattan’s only by the addition of the World Trade Center, which, if we’re going to get technical (and I wish we wouldn’t) would rise far above its neighboring buildings. The cupolas are gone, as is the spacing of the buildings. The new buildings are huddled together. The building to the far left in the new version looks somewhat like Pisa’s Leaning Tower, except it’s not leaning. Irvin’s buildings had breathing space — something city dwellers cherish.

 

Brendan Gill: “Rays of sunlight, or perhaps moonlight…stream from behind the skyscrapers”

 In the 92 year old version, each of Irvin’s rays can be seen as an actual drawn line, with imperfections, even a blob or two of ink just above the owl. In the new version (on the right) the beautiful symmetry of the streaming lines has been off-set by the disappearance of a line shown behind the owl’s head. The hand-drawn quality of the lines has disappeared, replaced by perfect spear-like lines, each one just like the other.

 

Brendan Gill: The “single notched curvy line”:

The curvy line has completely lost its notches. The bare line in the new version seems drawn by a chiseled felt tip marker. Its end on the right  just tapers off. Irvin’s 92 year old version ends with a mysterious irregular line, that runs thin to thick, ending with what looks like the bumper at the end of a subway line. It’s quite beautiful in its own peculiar way.

Brendan Gill: “…a number of wheels with sawtoothed rims”

The wheels remain, yet they have been re-drawn. (Irvin’s on the left, Niemann’s on the right). Note how Irvin’s scroll has lost its flair as well as a couple of tiny scratchy lines just to the left of Tilley’s elbow.

The cleaned up wheels, shown in the screen grab below right are puzzling.  In the Irvin drawing on the left, we see what look like the artist’s expressions of the moment — stray pen marks around the small circle floating off to the right.  I’m a fan of imperfection.

 

And there we have it. Irvin’s “reassuring blur” has been transformed into something far less blurry, featuring crisp lines, a defined skyline with at least one identifiable building in it, and an 86ing of character lines.  Rea Irvin created a masthead drawing with charm, mystery, and grace.  It’s a pity that it no longer “remains a continuing witness to the almost total confusion of purpose manifested in those early days by Ross…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P. G. Garetto Added to the Spill’s One Club; Advertising Work by New Yorker Cartoonists, Part 9: Mary Gibson; Latest New Yorker Cartoons Rated; Talkin’ Bout Art Young

I have Joe Dator’s latest New Yorker cartoon to thank for my coming upon the cartoon shown by P. G. Garetto. Found in the issue of September 3, 1938, this was the first and last time (Ms. or Mr.) Garetto’s work appeared in the New Yorker, thus an immediate qualifier for the Spill’s One Club. The club is limited to cartoonists who have contributed just one drawing to the magazine in their career.  Every member is identified on the Spill’s A-Z by the red top-hatted  fellow you see below. 

But back to Mr. Dator.  After seeing his drawing I wanted to know how many other zebra drawings had appeared in The New Yorker (less than two dozen). I was looking through the magazine’s database when P.G. Garetto’s name showed up.  I knew I’d never seen it before. A further New Yorker database search turned up no other contributions from this artist.  So welcome to the One Club, P.G. Garetto!

I’ve shown some of the text surrounding the cartoon because of the unusual placement of the two dots just above the drawing.  These two dots have been appearing below the magazine’s cartoons every now and then since the magazine began. I’ve never seen them appear above a cartoon,  until now.  Brendan Gill, in his book Here At The New Yorker, wrote about the dots:

“…unless I have been deliberately kept in ignorance of their true meaning throughout all these years, the dots (which can indeed be found under some of our drawings) are, like so many other things in the magazine, vestiges of notions of design that originated in the twenties and that have survived…”

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Advertising Work by New Yorker Cartoonists, Part 9: Mary Gibson

Mary Gibson had a brief run in the New Yorker, with eight drawings published in  seven years.

In Liza Donnelly’s Funny Ladies, a history of women cartoonists in the New Yorker, she says of Ms. Gibson’s work: “She…began by drawing cartoons about women in the military, which included subjects ranging from the stocking shortage to WACs needing a hairdresser…after the war was over, Gibson’s cartoons looked more like Hokinson imitations and were concerned with insecure, middle-aged women.” 

Dates for these ads: 1950 for the upper row; 1951 for the bottom row.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Gibson’s entry on the Spill’s A-Z:

Mary Gibson (self portrait from Best Cartoons of the Year 1947) New Yorker work: eight drawings, June 26, 1943 – April 29, 1950.

Note: My thanks to Warren Bernard, the Executive Director of SPX, for allowing Ink Spill access to his collection of advertisements by New Yorker artists.

 

 

 

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Latest New Yorker Cartoons Rated

Max and Simon, The Cartoon Companion’s anonymous duo, are back with a look at all the cartoons in the current double issue.  Among the drawings rated and inspected:  a case of leg-cast mistaken identity, concerned neighbors, mystery meat on sale, a musical jury, and an artist working, selectively, in 3-D. Read it all here.

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Talkin’ Bout Art Young

From the New Yorker’s Culture Desk, August 2, 2017,  “Art Young: Cartoonist For the Ages” — this piece by Francoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman in conjunction with the August 1st publication of  That We May Not Weep: The Life & Times of Art Young  (Fantagraphics) by Glenn Bray and Frank M. Young. (Mr. Spiegelman  contributes an essay to the book). 

Here’s Art Young’s entry on the Spill’s A-Z:

Art Young (above) Born January 14, 1866, Illinois. Died December 29, New York City at The Hotel Irving. An online biography. 1943. New Yorker work: 1925 -1933. The Art Young Gallery

 

 

 

About Thurber

My my my, there certainly are a lot of books about my cartoonist hero,  James Thurber. I thought it would be fun to show the ones in the Spill‘s library, but ran into two more while checking online for any current titles I’d missed ( #11, listed below, is out just this month…are there even more? Let me know). Three of the books below have been indispensable to me: Burton Bernstein’s biography,  Bowden’s bibliography, and Harrison Kinney’s massive biography.  I bought Mr. Bernstein’s biography while in college along with Brendan Gill’s Here At the New Yorker.  Those two books (along with The Thurber Carnival) were my rocket fuel to Manhattan and to the pages of the New Yorker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(pictured at the top of the post: a Thurber eraser)

 

1. James Morsberger.  James Thurber. Twaynes United States Authors Series, 1964.

2. Edwin T. Bowden.  James Thurber: A Bibliography. Ohio State University Press,  1968.

3. Richard C. Tobias. The Art of James Thurber. Ohio University Press, 1969.

4. Charles S. Holmes.  The Clocks of Columbus. Athenium, 1972.

5. Burton Bernstein. Thurber.  Dodd, Mead, 1975.

6. Robert Emmet Long.  James Thurber.  Continuum, 1988.

7. Thomas Fensch (Ed.). Conversations With James Thurber. University Press of Mississippi, 1989.

8. Neil A. Grauer.  Remember Laughter: A Life of James Thurber. University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

9. Harrison Kinney.  James Thurber: His Life and Times. Henry Holt, 1995.

10. Alan Vanneman.  James Thurber: A Readers Guide. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.

11. Bob Hunter.  Thurberville. Trillium, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steig Covers Brendan Gill’s Here At The New Yorker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few days ago I took a look at Charles Addams’s original cover for Brendan Gill’s Here At The New Yorker (Random House, 1975).  Today I’m adding the 1990 edition of that book to the Spill’s New Yorker Cartoonists Library. This edition, published in the UK by Heinemann, features  a William Steig cover originally published by the New Yorker, February 14, 1964.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An even later edition (De Capo Press, 1997) features a typically exuberant Frank Modell drawing:

 

 

 

Luckily, Mr. Gill kept adding new introductions as each edition appeared, giving us a kind of play-by-play as the New Yorker‘s editors and the magazine itself changed over time.

A bonus tucked away at the end of every edition: “Shawn On Ross” — nearly eight pages about Harold Ross written by his successor, William Shawn.

Krementz photographs of Addams, Steinberg, Brendan Gill, S.J. Perelman, Renata Adler, Donald Barthelme & more

 

 

I stumbled across this piece today: “Jill Krementz Covers Saul Steinberg” — it’s chock full of photographs by Krementz of Steinberg including shots of him with Charles Addams, Donald Barthelme, and Woody Allen (there’s also a photo of Charles Addams with Jackie Kennedy Onassis).  Other New Yorker contributors pictured include Brendan Gill (wearing a funny straw hat), Ian Frazier, Renata Adler, and S.J. Perelman.  Enjoy!