A Rafter of Kovarsky Turkeys; A Favorite Thanksgiving Cartoon Revisited

A Rafter of Kovarsky Turkeys

Thanks to the generosity of Anatol Kovarsky’s family, here are a number of the artist’s unpublished sketches (mostly turkeys, plus a few chickens) as well as an unpublished sketch of his Thanksgiving New Yorker cover of November 24, 1962 ( the finished cover art appears as well). Mr. Kovarsky’s work will be celebrated this coming January in an exhibition at the Society of Illustrators.

 

For more on Mr. Kovarsky, who passed away in 2016, here’s a Spill piece from 2013, “Anatol Kovarsky at 94: Still Drawing After All These Years”  (this piece also appeared on the New Yorker‘s website in a slightly edited form).

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A Favorite Thanksgiving Cartoon Revisited

The above drawing by Bob Eckstein appeared in The New Yorker, November 26, 2012. It remains one of my all-time favorite Thanksgiving cartoons.  When it appeared I asked Mr. Eckstein a few questions about it:

Michael Maslin: Bob, your drawing, The First 3-D Thanksgiving, is, I believe, the first 3-D cartoon in the magazine’s history (if anyone out there finds another, please bring it to my attention).  Is it actually 3-D?  If I was wearing 3-D glasses right now, and looking at your drawing, would it be appear three-dimensional?

Bob Eckstein: It works, but not as well as it could, but that is by design.  It is 3-D but we reeled it back.  Knowing the reader wouldn’t have glasses, I went for the most readable degree of 3-Ding the cartoon so it still looked like a cartoon and not this heavy ominous image on the page which would have distracted from the joke.

MM: We should probably give a shout-out to Norman Rockwell, whose famous 1942 Saturday Evening Post “Freedom From Want”  piece is obviously referenced in your drawing.  Did you have Rockwell’s work in front of you when you were working on your finished piece?

BE: I had it in front of me, and underneath me, as I did trace most of the guy in the back and then glanced over to draw the rest of the set-up.  My initial sketch had the whole family shocked at the dancing turkey but it looked too forced and too different from the Rockwell iconic piece.  I realized Rockwell had it right the first time except he forgot the glasses.

 

 

 

The Thanksgiving Turkey’s New Yorker Cover & Cartoon Debut

rea-irvin-thanksgiving-cover-1927Two Thanksgivings passed by in the New Yorker‘s earliest years before a turkey made the cover.  The artist for the issue of November 19, 1927: the one-and-only Rea Irvin.

Here’s Mr. 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.

 

And what about the first Thanksgiving-themed cartoon in the magazine?  That honor seems to belong to I. Klein, whose drawing appeared in the issue of November 21, 1925 (a cartoon in the issue the week before by Donald McKee does include a turkey, but it’s unclear if it is a Thanksgiving turkey).

The meaning of Mr. Klein’s drawing: from a quick history lesson this morning, I learned that President Coolidge upon taking office in 1923 decided to forgo the custom of receiving Thanksgiving turkeys from around the country, preferring to have only local turkeys.  By Thanksgiving of 1925 he changed his mind. The drawing reflects the reversal; we see lines of gift-givers from around the country bringing the President a turkey to taste.

 

 

i-klein-thanksgiving-1925i-kleins-thanksgiving-1925-close-up

 

 

Mr. Klein’s A-Z Ink Spill entry:

I. (“Izzy”) Klein (pictured above)  Born Isidore Klein, Newark, New Jersey, October 12,1897.  Died, 1986.  His papers can be found at Syracuse University. NYer work, over 200 drawings from 1925 through 1937.