Short Video Of Interest: Setting Up The Bruce Museum’s Masterpieces From The Museum Of Comic Art Exhibit; Attempted Bloggery Looks At George Price

Here’s a short (3 minute) video showing some decision-making for the Bruce Museum’s “Masterpieces From The Museum of Comic Art” exhibit. More info here.

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Attempted Bloggery Looks At George Price

Attempted Bloggery, a Spill go-to website has begun spotlighting some interesting George Price work, including the oddity above. See it all here.

George Price’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

George Price (above) Born in Coytesville, New Jersey, June 9, 1901. Died January 12, 1995, Engelwood, New Jersey. New Yorker work: 1929 – 1991. Lee Lorenz, the New Yorker’s former Art/Cartoon editor, called Price one of the magazine’s great stylists (along with Peter Arno, Helen Hokinson, James Thurber, and William Steig). Of the many Price collections here are two favorites:  Browse At Your Own Risk (1977), and The World of George Price: A 55-Year Retrospective (1988)

Below: I’ve always loved the cover of Price’s 1963 collection, My Dear 500 Friends.

Liza Donnelly To Speak On Barbara Shermund At The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

On February 7th, Liza Donnelly will speak at Ohio’s Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum about Barbara Shermund, a major contributor of cartoons during The New Yorker’s early years. Details here.

Here’s Ms. Shermund’s entry on The Spill‘s A-Z:

Barbara Shermund (self portrait, to the left) Born, San Francisco. 1899. Studied at The California School of Fine Arts. Died, 1978, New Jersey. New Yorker work: June 13, 1925 thru September 16, 1944. 8 covers and 599 cartoons. Shermund’s post-New Yorker work was featured in Esquire. (See Liza Donnelly’s book, Funny Ladies — a history of The New Yorker’s women cartoonists — for more on Shermund’s life and work)

Thanks For The High Bar, Peter Arno

An Arno anthology from 1930

From 1999 through 2016 I happily threw a good percentage of my days into digging up whatever I could about Peter Arno, who was born 115 years ago this very day. All of that hunting and gathering turned into a book (I will be forever grateful to my agent and publisher for making that happen).

One of the most helpful elements in my research was Arno’s unpublished scattershot memoir, titled I Reached For The Moon. The sixty-some pages of material is mostly disconnected pieces, a very loose attempt at a timeline, and jotted down thoughts about his work, or his parents, or television, or “names” he ran into during his adventures in the city that never sleeps. One passage of strung together thoughts stayed with me during my years writing the book and has continued to stay with me:

“What many don’t realize is that I’m primarily an artist – though I had a natural urge toward the comic from school days on.… I’ve spent hundreds of hours painting in oils and other media.  The black and white [cartoons] are a synthesis of all these efforts…To be a great cartoonist, a man should be first a first-class great artist.  He should be capable of producing a minor masterpiece in any medium.”

I suppose the passage has stuck with me because it neatly sums-up the high bar Arno demanded of himself and hoped for from his colleagues as the New Yorker was taking baby steps in its earliest days. That high bar was no small thing. Think about what people think about when they think of New Yorker cartoons. Think about the well-worn expression, The first thing people turn to in The New Yorker are the cartoons. If that is true (and I believe it has truth to it) Peter Arno deserves a Mack truck full of credit for driving the readership to the magazine and, no less a thing, driving his colleagues to excellence.

Look through any issue of The New Yorker from Arno’s run there during the magazine’s so-called Golden Age and you will see a magazine overjoyed with the cartoons it had to show the readership; cartoons played across the page; cartoons ran full page; cartoons ran in spreads that took up multiple pages; cartoonists provided the majority of cover art. Arno’s art, and Arno’s influence on the art was central to the magazine’s exuberance. He was, in the words of the New Yorker‘s founder, Harold Ross:

“The greatest artist in the world.”

“Our first pathfinder.”

“Our spark plug.”

Happy birthday, Arno — and thanks for the high bar.



The Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue Of January 14, 2019; A Charles Addams Birthday Tribute

Two weeks in to the new year without a Trump cover! Anna Parini makes her cover debut (it’s titled “A New Leaf”; not for the last time, I wonder why we need titles for the covers.

Viewed online, various elements of the cover are animated. Snow blows, wind blows the woman’s hair and ruffles a few pages of her book. Silhouetted figures walk by in the background. It’s a lovely image but I found myself wondering if people really stand on city streets reading books on cold snowy windy wintry days.

The only image I can readily conjure up that incorporates a similar situation is of holiday carolers holding up their song books as they stand singing on street corners.

The Cartoons

I’m at a disadvantage this morning as the digital issue has yet to appear. That means we’ll dispense with counting illustrations as well as even beginning to think about how the cartoons are placed on the pages. A pity. Instead I’m relying on the slideshow of cartoons provided on newyorker.com.

The cartoonists in this issue: David Sipress, Will McPhail, Jason Adam Katzenstein, Pia Guerra, Zach Kanin, Roz Chast, Mike Twohy, P.C. Vey, Tom Cheney, Carolita Johnson, Sophia Warren, Frank Cotham, Trevor Spaulding, Danny Shanahan, Ben Schwartz, Liana Finck, Tom Toro.

Some thoughts on the cartoons:

Graphically, Frank Cotham’s drawing of the soldiers atop a castle tower is quite striking. As one who has studied the castle work of the master, Charles Addams, and as one who has drawn many a castle myself, I was taken by the dramatic angle Mr. Cotham has given us. Bravo!.

Of note is Danny Shanahan’s desert island drawing. It made me think about the resurgence of what once seemed a played-out scenario. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the recent past we’ve seen a number of desert island drawings, all clever as can be, and all proving that anything works in the cartoon universe if it works well. Mr. Shanahan’s works well (and lest we forget, a few years ago he had a cover of…a desert island). Here’s a quick look at some desert island cartoons courtesy of the BBC.

I really enjoyed Liana Finck’s damsel in distress tied to railroad tracks. Ms. Finck’s heavy use of black recalls Charles Barsotti’s expert use of contrast, and more recently, Seth Fleishman’s. I particularly like that she didn’t get involved in a detailed drawing of the tracks. She’s given us what looks like a ladder on the ground, and it works! Best of all: the eye contact she’s captured between the villain and the woman. Excellent.

Finally, here’s to Rea Irvin’s beautiful missing masthead, replaced in May of 2017. Read about it here, and see it below:

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A Charles Addams Birthday Tribute

To celebrate Charles Addams birthday, here’s a lovely piece by Steve Stoliar. My thanks to him for allowing it to appear here.

On this day in 1912, Charles Samuel Addams was born in Westfield, New Jersey – and I think we’re all more than a little better off because of it. Chas Addams’ delightfully dark cartoons brightened up innumerable issues of ‘The New Yorker” from 1932 (!) until his death in 1988 – a more than fifty-five-year run. And, of course, his family of macabre relatives was the basis for “The Addams Family” TV series and later films (though the characters had no names before the TV series, which was produced by Groucho’s longtime friend, writer Nat Perrin).

I first met Addams in 1978 – on the same day I first met Dick Cavett – backstage at the PBS Cavett show, when the subject of the show was “New Yorker” cartoonists. Addams signed a copy of “Addams and Evil” that I “happened to have” brought along in the event our paths crossed.

About five years later, when I was living in New York and writing for Cavett at HBO, I spotted Chas striding in my direction up Sixth Avenue. Another path-crossing! I stopped him and asked, “Excuse me – aren’t you Charles Addams?” He smiled and replied, “Yes, but how did you recognize me? Most people think I’m Walter Matthau!” [see photo below] I tossed off some sort of compliment and off we went in our separate directions.

Not long thereafter, I picked up this delightful original ink-and-wash Chas Addams drawing – for a whopping $300 – because some guy with a bunch of vintage original “New Yorker” cartoons was remarrying and his wife didn’t like “all those old cartoons” on their walls. His loss; my gain. I wrote to Addams about the drawing c/o “The New Yorker” and received this lovely note in return. He is missed – but at least we have his prolific outpouring of drawings to remember him by.