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.