The New Yorker section of the upcoming Swann auction is an awful lot of fun. The Addams cover shown above is just one of the gems listed. To see the “3D catalog” go here. Other New Yorker artists whose work is going under the gavel include Charles Barsotti, Bemelmans, Abe Birnbaum, Whitney Darrow, Jr., Richard Decker, Ed Fisher, Heidi Goennel, Edward Gorey, Theodore Haupt, John Held, Jr., Helen Hokinson, Maira Kalman, Arnie Levin, Rick Meyerowitz, Bill Mauldin, Donald Reilly, Mischa Richter, Arnold Roth, Charles Saxon, Ronald Searle, Seth, Steinberg, Tom Toro, and Gahan Wilson.
Every so often I like to take a look at a random issue of The New Yorker from well before my time there, or well before my time, period. This issue, of April 29, 1967 is solidly in the former category. The New Yorker was not yet on my mind — I was in fact, just about to begin transitioning out of comic books, and into underground comics. My last (non-underground) comic book bought at the time of its release was this one, Superman and The Flash, December 1970 (yes, I still have it — I don’t throw much away).
Flipping through this Spring-time issue of The New Yorker, the first thing I noticed, besides the lovely Abe Birnbaum cover, was the very simple Table of Contents, when the magazine seemed intent on just offering up a few clues as to what was inside. No listing of artists or writers, just column headings such as “The Air” and “Current Cinema” — we’ve come a very long way since then.
Of the seventeen cartoonists represented in this issue, not one was a woman. This was a time when only one veteran female cartoonist was still on the scene, the great Mary Petty. But her run at the magazine had ended a year before in the issue of March 19, 1966 (she died in 1976). The next female cartoonist to show up was Nurit Karlin, and she wouldn’t begin publishing until 1974.
These are the seventeen cartoonists in this issue: Charles Saxon, Warren Miller, Lee Lorenz, William Hamilton, James Mulligan, Dana Fradon, William O’Brien, Edward Koren, Ton Smits, James Stevenson, Robert Kraus, Donald Reilly, J. B. “Bud” Handelsman, Carl Rose, Barney Tobey, Robert Weber, and William Steig. Many of these names will ring a bell with New Yorker cartoon aficionados, and some names will ring a very large bell. Edward Koren and Lee Lorenz are still contributing to the magazine. Dana Fradon and Warren Miller are still hail and hearty. James Stevenson, Robert Weber, and William Hamilton were among the recently departed slew of New Yorker cartoonists this past year.
For me, the most surprising cartoonist to see in the issue was Carl Rose (“surprising” because I unfairly tend to place his work more in the 1920s – 1940s). Mr. Rose contributed his very first cartoon to The New Yorker in the Halloween issue of 1925, when the magazine was about nine months old; his last cartoon appeared in the summer of 1971. (Below: Mr. Rose’s April ’67 drawing)
And here, for a little more on One Dozen Roses and other noteworthy New Yorker cartoon moments in Mr. Rose’s career, I’m going to lift some of the info from his entry on the Spill‘s “New Yorker Cartoonist A-Z” section:
…this collection contains essays by Rose on cartoon themes. Especially of interest is his essay concerning Harold Ross, “An Artist’s Best Friend is His Editor”. Carl Rose will forever be linked to E.B. White for the December 8, 1928 New Yorker cartoon of the mother saying to her child, “It’s broccoli, dear.” and the child responding, “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.” The drawing was by Rose, the caption was adapted by White from Rose’s original idea (for a slighty expanded explanation go here). Rose also had a Thurber connection. In 1932, Rose submitted a drawing captioned, “Touche!” of two fencers, one of whom has just cut off the head of the other. Harold Ross ( according to Thurber in The Years With Ross) thinking the Rose version “too bloody” suggested Thurber do the drawing because “Thurber’s people have no blood. You can put their heads back on and they’re as good as new.” The drawing appeared December 3, 1932.
One last thing about Carl Rose: there aren’t a lot of photographs of him around but when Irving Penn (whose work is now being celebrated at New York’s Metropolitan Museum), photographed a number of The New Yorker‘s artists in 1947 for a spread in Vogue, an unassuming looking Carl Rose was right up there on the top-most platform with Otto Soglow and Alajalov, seated just behind Charles Addams. Among the others in the photo: Steinberg, Steig, Helen Hokinson, George Price, Richard Taylor, Perry Barlow, Barney Tobey, Barbara Shermund and Whitney Darrow, Jr. — an array, if ever there was one, of New Yorker cartoonist royalty.
Getting back to Mr. Rose’s colleagues work appearing in the April issue, the magazine was, in 1967, still laying-out the cartoons with the graphic gusto it always had: a beautiful full page by O’Brien , an equally beautiful half-page Warren Miller drawing; other drawings were run in various shapes and sizes. The subject matter seemed to be bridging the older New Yorker art with the new: businessmen and housewives appear, as do people dealing with obviously modern cultural keystones such as long-haired men and hip young woman; personal computers courtesy of Donald Reilly and politics via Lee Lorenz, whose drawing depicts Robert Kennedy photo bombing a couples vacation picture. Dana Fradon’s drawing, about recharging electric cars, could’ve run in modern times. Needless to say (so why am I saying it?) that the issue was a blast to look through. The cartoonists were in top form, providing us with a lot, a whole lot, to look at. As Jack Ziegler told me in an interview last year: “…it’s always nice when cartoonists know how to draw so that they can give us something pleasant and fun to look at.”
On this snowy Saturday afternoon (at least snowy here in upstate New York) it seemed a fine time to take a look at what was on the cover of The New Yorker exactly fifty years ago today. Was happy to find it was this beauty by Abe Birnbaum. I wrote a short piece on Mr. Birnbaum in April of this year. His specialty, as so nicely exhibited on this cover, was simplicity.
Thanks to the generosity of the illustrator Tom Bloom (who is an indefatigable collector of cartoon-related books & ephemera) Drawings of the Theatre 1927 has been added to the archives. I’d not heard of or seen this until a few weeks ago. Published just two years after Arno started at The New Yorker it’s an excellent example of how quickly his star was rising in the publishing world. New Yorker aficionados will also recognize some of the company he kept: the great cover artist, Ilonka Karasz (187 covers between 1925 and 1973) Abe Birnbaum (141 covers and 9 cartoons in a career that lasted from 1929 through 1974) and Miguel Covarrubias (7 cartoons, all published in 1925).
This is a small pamphlet, measuring 4″ x 6″, that opens up like a file folder. Four attached postcards are slipped into the right side, each postcard featuring one of these four New Yorker artists. . The work of the two non-New Yorker artists, Gil Spear and Samuel Rogers appear on the pamphlet itself — those portraits you see running vertically along the right edge.
…Bob Eckstein has posted on Facebook: “I hope you watch [tonight’s] debate along with The New York times website where they will have me doing commentary, doodles and cracking wise.” (Link to Mr. Eckstein’s exploits on the Times’ site here).
While you’re waiting to link to the Times, don’t forget to pre-order his forthcoming book, Footnotes From The World’s Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Book Sellers, and Book Lovers. Out October 4th.
and on Twitter:
Thanks to the treasure trove of scans the illustrator Tom Bloom has sent to this site, we are able to behold this beautiful Abe Birnbaum cover for New Yorker writer Philip Hamburger’s 1949 collection, The Oblong Blur.
Though Mr. Birnbaum (who died in 1966) was know principally for his New Yorker covers, he was, graphically-speaking, a jack-of-all trades at the magazine, contributing cartoons (nine in his earlier years), illustrations, and spot drawings.
According to Mr. Birnbaum’s New York Times obituary:
he contributed more portraits and drawings to the magazine’s Profile and Reporter At Large sections than any other artist.
Describing his work habits, the piece went on:
Mr. Birnbaum was an exacting craftsman. In the studio of his home in Croton, N.Y. surrounded by most of his 15 cats, he would draw an object such as a chair as much as 200 times or more to get it right.
“Nothing is ugly,” he said often. “Everything is what it is.”
From The New Yorker‘s obit of Birnbaum, here’s how Brendan Gill described him:
He was a burly black-browed man with dark bright eyes and a bantering affectionate nature. The older he became, the younger and more joyous his work became.
Above: a Birnbaum New Yorker drawing from the issue of May 24, 1930