50 Years Ago This Week: Peter Arno’s Last New Yorker Cartoon

Every so often the Spill likes to take a look at the last cartoon published by one of the magazine’s artists. This week it’s a drawing by Peter Arno — the cartoonist the New Yorker‘s Roger Angell called “the magazine’s first genius.”  I won’t go on and on here about why Arno is one of the magazine’s greatest — some say the greatest of the magazine’s artists, but if you want more on the subject there is a biography of him floating around (forgive me for lifting the bolded passage below from the aforementioned biography). 

(Above: Arno’s drawing as it appeared in the issue)

Sometime in the fall of 1967, Arno finished working on a full-page drawing of Pan blowing on his pipes as he frolicked through a glade.  In the forefront of the picture is a young, well-endowed woman, who says to him, “Oh, grow up!”  Brendan Gill [in his wonderful book, Here At The New Yorker] described the drawing this way:

“…in content and composition it was a characteristic piece of work…the drawing is a matter of some forty or fifty bold strokes of black against white, bound together by a gray wash; it has been built up as solidly as a fortress, though built in fun, and its dominant note is one of youthful zest.  Nobody could ever tell that it was the work of an aging man, let alone a dying one.”

“Oh, grow up!” wasn’t the last Arno published by the New Yorker.  His last cover appeared the following June, and the magazine has, from time-to-time brought out one of his older covers or drawings. But it was certainly the last published in his lifetime. The drawing appeared in the anniversary issue, dated February 24th, 1968. It would’ve been out on the newsstands a week earlier, the week of February 18.  Arno died on February 22. 

If you have access to the New Yorker‘s digital edition or happen to have a print copy, it’s certainly worth a visit to this issue — it’s a gem.  Rea Irvin’s Eustace Tilley is, of course, on the cover (and Mr. Irvin’s classic masthead for the Talk of The Town is in its place). The issue’s cartoons are by some of the greatest names on the magazine’s roster of artists (the magazine had a history of making sure the anniversary issue was loaded up with a good number of its big guns. In my Arno research I came across a note to Arno from the New Yorker‘s founder and first editor, Harold Ross expressing concern he (Ross) did not have a Arno drawing available for the upcoming anniversary issue). 

In this issue you’ll find terrific cartoons by Robert Weber, Alan Dunn, George Price, James Stevenson, William Steig, Steinberg, Richard Decker, Warren Miller, Frank Modell, Syd Hoff, Charles Addams, Whitney Darrow, Jr., Lee Lorenz, Mischa Richter, and Barney Tobey. (At this particular time the magazine’s stable of cartoonists was all male. Mary Petty’s piece appeared in 1966, and Nurit Karlin’s work did not begin appearing until 1974).

Next week, the Spill will return with its usual Monday Tilley Watch.   


“Not Only A Funny Book For Today, But A Funny Book for Tomorrow”: The New Yorker 1955-1965 Album: Fortieth Anniversary

The first time I saw this album I was rooting through boxes of books at a yard sale. My first thought, just seeing the cover (and before picking up the book)  was that this was a galley. The cover, mostly white and devoid of drawings except for Rea Irvin’s Eustace Tilley floating in an orange oval frame, reminded me of a New Yorkery version of the Beatles so-called White Album. The back cover, however, doesn’t continue the Beatles’ theme — as you see below it’s chock full of drawings. Captionless drawings are scattered about among the captioned (but the captions aren’t shown). So what you focus on is the art itself — the art of the drawing. And of course it’s great stuff.   

Looking at the list of contributors, one might notice that James Thurber’s name doesn’t appear.  The first time in this string of Albums that’s happened.  Thurberites will know that the master had pretty much stopped drawing by the mid 1950s. His last published drawing in his lifetime is said to have graced the Thurber cover story of TIME magazine in July 9, 1951. 

Also missing from the line-up is Rea Irvin.  Mr. Irvin’s remarkable presence as an ongoing contributor and art supervisor ended with the arrival of William Shawn as editor in early 1952 (for more on the evolution of the Art Meeting, please go to the Spill’s Posted Notes and scroll way way down to the February 18, 2012 entry: “The New Yorker’s Art Meeting: A Potted History”).   The decade of 1955-1965 saw a good number of additions to the New Yorker‘s stable of artists under the art editorship of James Geraghty: Robert Censoni (1963), Joseph Farris (1956), Robert Grossman (1962), J.B. “Bud” Handelsman (1961), Stan Hunt (1956), B. Kliban (1963), Edward Koren (1962), Fernando Krahn (1962), Lee Lorenz (1955), Henry Martin (1964), Warren Miller (1959), Robert Muccio (1964), Alphonse Normandia ((1957), Charles O’Glass (1960), Bruce Petty (1959), Donald Reilly (1964), Charles Sauers (1956), Francis Smilby (1962), James Stevenson (1956), Jack Tippet (1963), Robert Weber (1962), and Rowland Wilson (1961).  Some of these newbies only appeared once, while others went on to become core contributors.  Six of them are part of the Spill‘s K club ( a club of 23 members at present) with cartoons appearing in the magazine over a thousand times (Koren, Lorenz, Miller, Reilly, Stevenson, and Weber).

As usual with any album designed by Carmine Peppe, the layout of the book is great.  There is no introduction, just inside front flap copy that includes the quote I placed in the heading of this post. Mr. Peppe, whose sense of graphic balance is more than admirable, managed to fill the pages without crowding them.

Without counting spreads in previous albums, I feel as if this album has plenty more than usual, with Steig, Stevenson, Steinberg, and Saxon well represented.  Peter Arno also has a spread in this album, originally presented as a double page spread in the issue of September 10, 1960.

I think of this album as the linchpin connecting the founders’ era to the present.  The very next album, an anthology celebrating the magazine’s first 50 years, introduced the beginning of the modern era that included the Godfather of Contemporary New Yorker Cartoonists, Jack Ziegler

A benefit of taking another look through all of these New Yorker albums is the occasional discovery of someone somehow missed in the Spill‘s decade of cartoon detective work.  In this case, two cartoonists popped up who are not on the A-Z: Anthony Scott and Alphonse Normandia. Anthony Scott signed his drawings “Anthony” — unfortunately, he does not appear in the Complete New Yorker database and so I’m left in the dark as to the arc of his New Yorker cartoon career (anyone out there with info, please advise).  As for Mr. Normandia, his work appeared in the magazine three times, between December 28, 1957 and December 5, 1959.  I’ll be adding this info to the A-Z this afternoon.  


The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker (Anniversary Issue) February 12, 2018

The Monday Tilley Watch is a meandering take on the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker. 

 The cover of the New Yorker‘s 93rd Anniversary issue is by Malika Favre. On newyorker.com  Ms. Favre says, “I wanted to capture the poise and pose of the original Eustace Tilley, but do it as something simple and modern.” (You can read more of what she had to say about it here).   

Rea Irvin’s Eustace Tilley hasn’t been on the cover of the magazine since 2011. Perhaps next year.

This anniversary issue includes more tampering with graphics.  Contributors and department headings article headings appear in a new font (i.e., not the so-called Irvin font).

For instance: in the screen grab above, “American Chronicles” and  “Jia Tolentino” appear in the new font. Is this some kind of slow motion move away from the Irvin typeface. Let’s hope not. Nicholas Blechman, the magazine’s creative director told Magculture in June of 2017:

The New Yorker is a magazine shaped by time. Very little has changed since the first issue in 1925, and that respect for legacy is part of our visual identity. Since I arrived in 2015, we’ve been fine tuning an incredibly resilient and elegant design. Our road map for design changes in the print magazine is mostly complete. I think the table of contents could be tweaked, and the design of the Fiction page could also be tinkered with. Most of the big innovations you will be seeing at The New Yorker will be online, as we contemplate a web redesign and introduce improvements to The New Yorker Today app.

One wonders why the “fine tuning” for a design Mr. Blechman called “incredibly resilient.” The design of the egg is incredibly resilient — is there a soul out there who believes the egg should be fine-tuned.

Alright, with all that out of the way, it’s on to the drawings. I’m keeping it short this week, just mentioning a handful of cartoons.  There’s a terrific drawing by Edward Koren, a nod to Valentine’s day with a drawing by Mick Stevens, A really funny Joe Dator drawing, another subway drawing — this one’s by P.C. Vey (hey, are subway drawings the new desert island drawings?). There’s a Farley Katz drawing from the school of film director instructing an actor (a lesser used theme, but still potent as ever.  See what Peter Arno did with it in an un-pc drawing back in 1952). 

In a break from recent tradition and a return to olden times, there are a whole lot of “spot” drawings by various illustrators (at least one is a cartoonist as well).  Each pays homage to Rea Irvin’s Tilley. For the record, here’s a screen grab of all the contributors:

For more on each drawing in the issue check out the Cartoon Companion at the end of the week, when they’ll post their ratings. 

Finally, here’s the classic Rea Irvin Talk masthead you won’t see in this anniversary issue:




“A Source of Very Special Delight” — The New Yorker Album of Sports & Games; An Ink Spill Super Bowl Tradition

Just in time for two giant sports happenings: the Super Bowl, and the Winter Olympics: The New Yorker Album of Sports & Games.  At the bottom of today’s post an Ink Spill Super Bowl Sunday tradition with a football-related drawing of mine from some time back. 

It only took sixteen years following the first themed New Yorker album of drawings  (that would be The War Album, published in 1942) for a second to appear.  Deftly designed by Carmine Peppe (spelled “Carmin” in this album for some reason), who William Shawn described as “the one make-up editor in the world who could provide [Harold Ross] with the chaste and lovely pages that would properly set off whatever we published.” I love how Mr. Peppe placed Rea Irvin‘s Tilley all over the place, on the front and on the back cover. He knew an icon when he saw one.

Curiously, although there are plenty of cartoons about sports featured in both Summer & Winter Olympics,  there is not one cartoon specifically related  to the Olympics. No matter. No one can fault an album delivering large doses of work by, among many others, Mary Petty, Charles Addams, Thurber, Steinberg, Steig, Helen Hokinson, Anatol Kovarsky, Peter Arno, Barbara Shermund, George Price, and Charles Saxon.  Looking through you’ll see at least two themes rarely seen in the magazine these days: mountain climbing and moose hunting (although Charles Addams’ drawing of a moose driving a car down a mountain road with a hunter tied to the front fender could surely appear now).  There are an awful lot of drawings about mountain climbing — I guess everyone took a shot at those back then.

From the inside flap copy (there is no Introduction):

“Almost anyone who has ever been involved in sports and games, either as a participant or from the sidelines, will find this collection a source of very special delight”

For those wanting to add this album to their collection, it’s easy to find.  I just went over to AbeBooks.com and found a copy with its dust jacket for about four bucks. Deal!


And here, continuing an Ink Spill  Super Bowl Sunday tradition, is a drawing of mine that appeared in the October 16, 2006 issue of The New Yorker.



The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of February 5, 2018

An ice skating cover (titled “Figured Skaters”) on this week before the magazine’s 93rd birthday issue. On the way to the cartoons I’m sensing less graphics and more text in the Goings On About Town section.  Or is it just my imagination. Take away the weekly near full page photograph and the magazine seems edging to its graphic roots. For an idea of what I’m getting at, here’s a GOAT section from the March 14, ’59 issue atop a couple of GOAT pages from the new issue.


Now on to the cartoons and cartoonists.  The very first cartoon, by Ellis Rosen, takes us to familiar territory for many a New Yorker cartoonist (including this one): the wise man on the mountaintop. Mr. Rosen gives us a competitive situation that includes further incentive for prospective wisdom seekers.  I would love to see what the other mountain top looks like once the pizza oven is installed.  

Four pages later, Liana Finck takes us to medieval times with another cartoonist favorite: King and castle.  Even better: King, castle and moat. I can’t quite make out what is in the castle window.  Is it the Queen, or a kitty? Maybe it doesn’t matter.  A drawing that looks as if it might be in color (the moat), but run in b&w.  

Five pages later, a Will McPhail drawing and it’s yet another cartoonist fave scenario: the house mouse.  This is the first white house mouse cartoon in my memory (versus the usual grey mouse) And I believe it’s also the first cartoon that shows a house mouse wearing what appears to be eye makeup (the makeup makes sense what with the lighted vanity mirror).  Then there are the high heels visible through the mouse baseboard hole. A lot of elements to pause and consider here, but I’ll leave that to the Cartoon Companion guys when they post their take on the new cartoons later this week. That minimal caption is short and sweet.

Ten pages later we are taken even further back in time than Ms. Finck’s drawing with a cave drawing by this cartoonist.  It’s a mash-up.  On the opposite page a William Haefeli drawing bookstore drawing. I’m a big fan of bookstores and bookstore drawings — glad to see this cartoon. On the very next page a David Sipress domestic scenario —  the subject is the upcoming Super Bowl.  I don’t know anything about the Eagles or the Patriots (other than the headlines)  but this drawing seems to be playing to the Greater Metropolitan NYC area football fan base. Could be wrong. (I feel badly for the child on the sofa. He doesn’t appear to have a drink or snacks for the big game). 

Five pages later, a Roz Chast woman on a sofa drawing. She shows us a stressful time, long long ago before we were able (sometimes) to know who was calling without answering the phone. Caller ID: great invention.

Three pages later perhaps my favorite Frank Cotham drawing ever.  Jack Ziegler once said to me  “it’s always nice when cartoonists know how to draw and give us something pleasant and fun to look at.”   Well Mr. Cotham has given us that.  Atmosphere to spare, and a splendid caption. Bravo.

Five pages later a Bruce Eric Kaplan drawing.  Politics finally enters into a cartoon in the issue.  Mr. Kaplan’s caption well-honed, as usual. On the very next page is a Pia Guerra drawing (she’s a newbie, but not a brand new newbie).  Curiously, a Terminator drawing.  I confess I had to check on the name, Sarah Connor after initially forgetting that that is the name of a main character in the series (sorry, my Terminator recall is rusty). Two pages later, Emily Flake gets all religious with a priestly drawing.  Clergy drawings were once a staple in the cartoonists kit (think Charles Addams and Peter Arno, among many others).  As with looking up Sarah Connor I looked up “sleeve” as it’s used in the caption.  Never really thought about how communion wafers were packaged.  You live, you learn.

Three pages later, Jeremy Nguyen does a take on an iconic television ad.  I like the way Mr. Nguyen has approached this drawing: clean and simple: books, typewriter, the ubiquitous potted house plant, the writer(?) sprawled on the floor. 

Six pages later a debut drawing by Olivia de Recat, whose work has appeared in the Daily Shouts in very recent times. This has the feel of a postcard (see the cover of Bruce Springsteen’s first album, Greetings From Asbury Park).  It has ripped edges, so maybe an old post card?  Having just read the large NYTs piece on postcard collectors, I have them on my mind ( postcards and the collectors).  

Finally, the last cartoon (not counting the caption contest):  Paul Noth does a bang-up job on a ventriloquist drawing.  I love drawings that come outta nowhere (well, it actually came from Mr. Noth, but you all know what I mean).


–see you next week for the big double anniversary issue. Will Rea Irvin’s classic Eustace Tilley return to the cover?  Pressing our luck, wouldn’t it be great to see Mr. Irvin’s classic Talk of the Town masthead return.  Here’s what it looks like so you’ll know it when you see it:





Their First Tilley Issues: Ross, Shawn, Gottlieb, Brown, and Remnick

With the New Yorker’s 93rd Anniversary issue soon on the horizon I thought it would be fun to take a look at first Tilley covers by Harold Ross, William Shawn, Robert Gottlieb, Tina Brown and David Remnick. I’ve thrown in tidbits of Tilley trivia — mostly non-Tilley trivia —  along the way.    

February 21, 1925: Harold Ross

A no-brainer.   It was the very first issue of the magazine. We could’ve ended up with curtains being parted on a big stage (you know, sort of an unveiling thing), but Ross wisely decided to go with Rea Irvin’s mysterious dandy for the cover of his debut issue. 

February 23, 1952: William Shawn

Although Harold Ross passed away in early December of 1951, his successor, William Shawn wasn’t appointed until late January of 1952.  One of Mr. Shawn’s first issues following that stamp of approval from the magazine’s publisher, Raoul Fleischmann, was the magazine’s twenty-seventh anniversary edition. 

February 20, 1989: Robert Gottlieb

Robert Gottlieb officially began his tenure as the magazine’s editor, February 16, 1987. As the latest issue of the magazine is dated a week past its actual pub date (the day it appears on newsstands), the anniversary issue of 1988 would seem to have been the last edited by Mr. Shawn.  Thus Mr. Gottlieb’s first anniversary issue was the following year, the issue of February 20, 1989 (if anyone out there has a different take, please advise). What made news was the return of cartoons in color. Specifically, the cartoons in a four page spread by William Steig, “Scenes From The Thousand And One Nights.” As noted in the New York Times piece I linked to above, there hadn’t been color cartoons since a Rea Irvin double page spread in 1926.

February 22, 1993: Tina Brown

Ms. Brown allowed classic Tilley on a cover just once in her tenure at the magazine. The issue of 1993 was the last in an unbroken line of Tilley anniversary issues.  Ms. Brown’s choice for 1994 made news — how could it not.  It was a not-so-sly-nod to Eustace, titled “Elvis Tilley” courtesy of Robert Crumb.  Following Elvis we saw a gold(!) Tilley for the magazine’s 70th birthday; “Eustacia Tilley” by R.O. Blechman in 1996; “Dick Tilley” by Art Spiegelman in 1997, and finally, a complete departure from Tilley, Michael Roberts’ “California Sighting” cover in 1998.

February 19 & 26, 2001: David Remnick

Although David Remnick’s first shot at an anniversary cover came in 1999, it wasn’t until 2001 that he returned Rea Irvin’s classic Tilley to the cover.  What a long strange trip it had been for Tilley since we last saw him in 1993. 

Mr. Remnick’s first two anniversary covers belonged to Edward Sorel in 1999 and a William Wegman dog in 2000.

Since the classic Tilley cover in 2001, Mr. Remnick has put classic Tilley on the following covers: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007,2009, and 2011. 

For more on Eustace Tilley and the anniversary issues link here to “Tilley Over Time” a piece I wrote for newyorker.com in 2008, on the occasion of the magazine’s 83rd birthday.