Above: The New Yorker artist,Charles Saxon; James Geraghty,The New Yorker’s art editor from 1939-1973; The New Yorker artist, Dana Fradon, and New Yorker artist, Whitney Darrow, Jr.. Photo: Sara Geraghty Herndon.
Dana Fradon, the last surviving New Yorker cartoonist of Harold Ross’s era (he was the last cartoonist contracted under Mr. Ross’s editorship), and one of The New Yorker‘s most prolific cartoonists (he is in the top twenty of the magazine’s artists who have contributed over a thousand drawings), passed away October 3 in Woodstock, New York. He was 97. Mr. Fradon’s first cartoon appeared in the issue of May 1, 1948 (it appears below). His last New Yorker drawing appeared April 21, 2003. Mr. Fradon was born April 14, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois.
In the Spill‘s interview with Mr. Fradon in the Fall of 2013, I asked him how he worked:
I had a big pad of paper, 14” x 17” bond paper; I’d make little notes and sketches and see where they’d lead me. Once, when I was giving a talk I said the important thing of thinking of ideas is knowing when to pounce. You kick ideas around in your subconscious and then this one is a straggler and you pounce on it because it seems funny. And that’s the one you draw up. I drew up a lot of rejections too of course [laughing].
When I think of Mr. Fradon’s work for the magazine, I think of the utility player in baseball, who plays many positions well. If you look through Mr. Fradon’s nearly fourteen hundred New Yorker cartoons you’ll see how well he played. His line was effortless, his subject matter both timely and often timeless, as in his New Yorker drawing below from the issue of September 23, 1991.
In a funny telling moment from my interview with him, he said, “I’m not really a cartoonist. I’m a misplaced baseball player or something like that.”
I had occasion to call Mr. Fradon over the years when I had some New Yorker cartoonist history that needed fleshing out. He was, after all, a direct link to the magazine’s golden age of cartooning. His recall of New Yorker events and characters was impressive (about seeing Peter Arno at The New Yorker‘s 25th anniversary party: “Arno was the star…he danced all night.“). His sense of humor remained impressive as well. In one of our last conversations, I called asking him for some insight on a recently departed cartoonist colleague. Mr. Fradon’s first question to me was, “Are you calling because you think I’m next?”
Above, two Fradon cartoon collections. Insincerely Yours (Scribner, 1978) and Breaking The Laugh Barrier (Dell, 1961)
To see some of Dana Fradon’s New Yorker work, go the the magazine’s website here.
An obituary appears in The Newtown Bee. Read it here.