The cover says it all.
With the publication of The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975-1985, the word “Cartoon” makes its second appearance on an Album cover and in an Album title (the first was on the cover of The Album of Sports and Games: Cartoons of Three Decades). The magazine’s 60th anniversary not only saw this anthology published, but the magazine’s fans were treated to a fabulous show of cartoons and covers, curated by Barbara Nicholls, a former art assistant to James Geraghty (Ms. Nicholls went on to establish a gallery representing many of the New Yorker’s artists).
Mounted at the New York Public Library, this was the show for anyone who loved the magazine’s art. Following its run in New York, the exhibit went on the road across the country, and across the big pond. Here’s the brochure:
But now back to the anthology. You can see by the cover that the design is solidly in the school of the understated. The is no introduction within, no foreword, no dedication. Compare the cover to the cover of the 90th Anniversary Book of Cartoons (the Spill will eventually get to that on another Sunday) — you’ll see how graphic decision-making has changed.
The 1975- 1985 Album leads off with a spectacular full page drawing by Robert Weber, and it ends with a full page Charles Addams drawing. In between you’ll find a rich array of the grand masters of the form: Steig, Steinberg, George Price, Dana Fradon, Warren Miller, Frank Modell, the aforementioned Weber and Addams, Henry Martin, Booth, Koren, Ed Arno ( but not Peter Arno, who had passed away in 1968), Whitney Darrow, Jr., James Stevenson, Ed Fisher…the list couldn’t go on and on — it was, after all, finite, but you get the idea. Also in the Album, a new wave of cartoonists, including Mick Stevens, Leo Cullum, Liza Donnelly, the two Roz’s: Zanengo and Chast, Tom Cheney, Michael Crawford, Richard Cline, Bill Woodman, Peter Steiner, and Mike Twohy, among others (including yours truly). Jack Ziegler, who I’ve dubbed “The Godfather of Contemporary New Yorker Cartoonists” was a late entry in the 1925-1975 Album (his first New Yorker cartoon was published in 1974. He’s represented in the 1925-1975 Album by one cartoon). Here, in the 1975-1985 Album his genius is on full display.
This Album would be the last published during William Shawn’s editorship. The next Album would not appear until the year 2000, the magazine’s 75th anniversary (in between was Lee Lorenz’s Art of The New Yorker: 1925- 1995).
Below: the back cover of the The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975-1985:
And the inside flap copy:
After spending time in the early years of the New Yorker Albums these past few Sundays I thought it would be fun to skip a few decades and look at how the magazine celebrated its 50th anniversary. I love the simplicity of this Album, its no-frills approach. Beginning with the no-nonsense cover featuring the title (set in the so-called Irvin typeface) and Rea Irvin’s bowing Eustace Tilleys. I look at these Tilleys as time period bookends, greeting each other from two very different eras. They are not quite mirror images of each other: the one bowing from 1975 is microscopically different than the one from 1925. If there’s any intended symbolism in that (and I doubt it), my guess would be that the magazine mascot was shown as true to its roots while allowing for subtle change (glacial change in those years).
The only introductory text is found on the inside front flap. It’s as if the magazine’s editor (William Shawn at that time) wanted to say that whatever needed to be said about this amazing body of work was going to be said by the work itself and not by “opinionaters.”
In a first for one of the Albums, there’s a dedication (Lee Lorenz had succeeded Mr, Geraghty in 1973):
The back cover lists the contributors (“Artists”) from Charles Addams to the new kid on the block, Jack Ziegler.
Appropriately enough, the Album leads off with a full page drawing by Peter Arno (one of his drawings led off the very first Album). The volume ends with a small drawing by William Steig; a first drawing and a last by artists whose work was, in the words of the flap copy above, visually beautiful. The work in between is, of course, also visually beautiful, as well as funny. In more modern times, in the era post-Geraghty, post-Lee Lorenz, a different approach to the magazine’s cartoons was espoused: “it’s the think, not the ink.” But for the first 72 years of New Yorker‘s existence, it was the magazine’s dedication to the think and the ink, that allowed the New Yorker cartoon to make its considerable mark.
The Monday Tilley Watch is a meandering take on the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker.
The New Yorker has gone through a number of survivable events in its 92 year history. It nearly folded in its first six months of existence, but survived when Raoul Fleischmann, its original backer, suddenly turned white knight, decided to pump more money into it. The magazine survived when the magazine’s founder and first editor Harold Ross died too soon. The magazine survived its transition from the Fleischmann family to the Newhouse family in the late 1980s, and all the hooplah that ensued when William Shawn was succeeded by Robert Gottlieb, and when Gottlieb was in turn succeeded by Tina Brown, who was then succeeded by its current editor, David Remnick. It won’t go without saying that yesterday’s news of the passing of Si Newhouse, owner of The New Yorker caused a lot of ink to begin flowing (online as well as print) about what his passing means for the future of the magazine. Perhaps it’s best to acknowledge that the crystal ball is cloudiest just when we want it to be crystal clear.
And now on to the cartoons in the latest issue.
Two BEK covers in the last six issues of The New Yorker. Amazing. I’m always thrilled to see a cartoonist colleague’s work on the cover, and am ever hopeful more and more will be added into the mix.
Following all the up front of the book graphics (ads, of course, and illustrations) we come to the calm spread of pages 28 & 29 with a well placed Liana Finck drawing on the upper right. I like the use of the word “monsters” in the caption. I think the word has also suggested (at least to me) that the fellow Ms. Finck has pictured resembles ever-so-slightly the Frankenstein monster (as played by Boris Karloff).
Six pages later we come to a Jon Adams drawing (his first New Yorker cartoon appeared last week). The desert island cartoon, once seemingly on the verge of retirement is as present as ever in the magazine. I’ll be curious as to how the Cartoon Companion guys dissect this drawing (we’ll find out later in the week when they post). I’m reluctant to step on their turf, but can’t help but be concerned that the angle of the palm tree which is about to catapult one of the islanders into the ocean (presumably to safety) will throw the fellow away from the container ship off in the distance. This is part of what cartoonists do, I guess. We worry about the fate of stranded cartoon characters on a cartoon desert island.
On the very next page is a Michelangelo moment courtesy of Julia Suits. Her drawing is based on one of the master’s greatest hits within one of his greatest hits: the “Creation of Adam” (seen below) on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Ms. Suits has given us the origin story of a slightly shocking moment we’ve all experienced at one time or another.
A couple of pages past the beginning of a Janet Malcolm piece on Rachel Maddow we come to a two-fer spread: an Edward Koren drawing on the left side and a Matthew Diffee on the right. Mr. Koren is our longest serving cartoon contributor, having first been published in 1962. It’s always a good week when one of his drawings graces the pages of the magazine. Selfishly, I would’ve loved to see this drawing run at least half-a-page. But as the Rolling Stones so memorably sang, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you find you get what you need.”
A quartet of pages later we come to a drawing by newbie, Maddie Dai; the drawing itself carries a candidate for longest caption in a New Yorker cartoon. I think of George Booth when I see a lot of caption. Here’s an example of a long-form Boothian caption from The New Yorker, February 18th, 1985:
Strangely enough, on the page following Ms. Dai’s fortune teller drawing is another longish captioned drawing — this one by David Sipress. I like the whiskerless cat(?) on the floor of this drawing. It looks a bit distressed. Four pages later a Roz Chast triptych incorporating the word “illuminati”; I’m beginning to get the feeling this issue is thematic in a mystical, monstrous, space agey way (Ms. Finck’s monster, Ms. Suits Michelangelo drawing, Maddie Dai’s fortune teller, Mr. Sipress’s a newly discovered planet drawing, and now Ms. Chast’s illuminati). Probably just coincidence.
Two pages later, the theme goes up in smoke as P.C. Vey takes us shopping. I note that none of the products on the shelves carry labeling. I’m reminded of the books in Chairman Mao’s library. On closer inspection, there is writing present on Mao’s books, but the first impression is similar (for me anyway) to Mr. Vey’s supermarket shelving.
On the very next page after Mr. Vey’s shopping expedition we’re thematically back to religion with an Adam and Eve drawing courtesy of Will McPhail. I suppose it’s possible it’s not Adam and Eve as the female here has to my eyes a contemporary haircut. You can’t see much of Adam, as he’s behind a giant leaf that doesn’t quite cover the “all” mentioned in his caption. Someone who knows leaves can set me straight if Mr. McPhail’s leaf is similar to this maple leaf I grabbed off of Google images.
A couple pages later another relative newbie, Kate Curtis (her first drawing appeared in the New Yorker in January of 2016). Back to contemporary life with an airline check-in moment. The drawing looks vaguely Kim Warpian (it’s the airline employee’s fingers I think that bring Ms. Warp’s work to mind). Seven pages later we’re whip-lashed back to King Arthur’s big sword in the stone moment with a contemporary twist, courtesy of Ben Schwartz. Lars Kenseth had a sword and stone drawing recently. I wonder if sword and stone drawings are going to give desert island drawings a run for their money.
Nine pages later, we remain (somewhat) in ancient times with a couple of medieval towers (sans Rapunzel…possibly), and a dragon…and a lawn mower? All from Avi Steinberg’s pen. This drawing reminds me of the George Price classic below (published in The New Yorker June 3, 1939). Both Mr. Steinberg’s and Mr. Price’s have guys outdoors doing something in the yard; both have woman in the window calling out to the guys; both have something wrapped around a structure: Mr. Steinberg has a dragon, Mr. Price has ivy.
On the following page a talking clock from Eric Lewis. I’m always reluctant to favor a drawing in the Monday Tilley Watch (again, that’s what they do over on the Cartoon Companion site), but I’m going to favor this, the last drawing in the issue. I see shades of various artists in the drawing itself — this isn’t unusual: I see some vague hint of various cartoonists’ work in every cartoonist’s drawing (including my own). In this case it’s a little Stuart Leeds, a little Gahan Wilson, and a shadow of Pierre Le-Tan. Of course, the drawing itself is pure Eric Lewis — an excellent way to end the issue.
— see you next week.
Exhibit of Interest: Not OK
From the New York Times, September 21, 2017, “The New Yorker Said No, But These Cartoons Just May Make Your Day” — this piece on tomorrow’s sure-to-be-fun show of rejected work.
So what is an “OK”? It’s what every cartoonist submitting to The New Yorker hopes to see in their inbox at the end of the week (sent by the New Yorker‘s cartoon editor, Emma Allen). A drawing that has been OKed is a drawing that has been bought by the New Yorker.
Cartoon Companion Rates Latest New Yorker Cartoons
The CC boys (they call themselves “Max” and “Simon”) are back with a look at the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker. Among the cartoons dissected are those featuring beans, huddled football players, big shoes, E.T., and a hot air balloon. I don’t always see eye-to-eye (or cartoon-to-cartoon) with many of their evaluations, but that’s part of the fun. Read it all here.
Word went out yesterday that Lillian Ross, long time contributor to The New Yorker had passed away at age 99. Ms. Ross began her New Yorker career in 1945, and continued publishing there until 2012 (on the magazine’s blog). Her last piece in the print magazine, according to her New York Times obit, was 2011.
On a personal note, my interactions with Ms. Ross were always interesting. I first met her at a New Yorker party back in December of 1999. I summoned up my courage to walk over and introduce myself when I noticed she was sitting by herself at a small round-top table right behind me. I was on a mission in those years to interview everyone at the magazine who possibly could have known Peter Arno. She looked puzzled at first as I approached, but she broke into a grin when I mentioned I was working on a biography of Arno. She invited me to sit with her, and immediately launched into a wonderful very short Arno tale (it went into the Arno biography — she repeated the story elsewhere in print). In short, she was at the big party held (in February of 1952) to celebrate William Shawn’s official appointment as Harold Ross’s successor. Peter Arno, in attendance, asked Ms. Ross if she wanted a ride home. Mr. Shawn leaned over to her and whispered in her ear, “He’s dangerous.”
Some weeks after I’d introduced myself to Ms. Ross we were on the phone discussing all sorts of New Yorker “stuff”– but mostly Mr. Shawn’s feelings (according to her) about the magazine’s cartoons and cartoonists in general. “Ask me anything about what went on,” she said to me — “I know a lot.”
Beginning today, Ink Spill will every so often, and without warning, run the first New Yorker cartoon by one of its artists. Accompanying the drawing will be that issues Table of Contents, so we have an idea of the lay of the magazine’s cartoon land at that time. Starting things off is the first New Yorker cartoon by the late and exceptionally great Jack Ziegler, published in the issue of February 11, 1974. This is an evergreen drawing; it could run any week, any year and still work as well as it did back in 1974. When I interviewed Mr. Ziegler last Fall (here are links to part one and two) he said: “It’s always nice when cartoonists know how to draw so that they can give us something pleasant and fun to look at.”
Below: the Table of Contents from that issue. The New Yorker‘s editor then was William Shawn, and the art editor was Lee Lorenz.