James Thurber, Cartoon Critic; William Steig Drawings At Auction; Meet The Artist (1943): Gluyas Williams

James Thurber, Cartoon Critic

On a recent search through Thurber biographies in the Spill library I happened upon a Thurber letter I’d forgotten about. Written to Harold Ross, and dated October 20, 1941, it appears in the mother ship of all Thurber biographies, Harrison Kinney’s twelve hundred and thirty-eight page Thurber: His Life And Times (Henry Holt, 1995).

Thurber, unhappy his ideas supplied for the artist, Mary Petty have been rejected, takes issue with five drawings in the current issue — the issue of October 18, 1941.  After Thurber reminds Ross that this letter is not his first complaint (all Thurber quotes in this post are bolded):

You already have filed away for your autobiography some 50 or 100 blasphemous notes from me on what is the matter with the magazine.

he goes on to say:

The really great New Yorker drawings have had to do with people sitting in chairs, lying on the beach, or walking along the street.  The easy answer the art meeting always gives to the dearth of ideas like the ones I am trying to describe is that they are hard to get or that nobody sends them in anymore. It seems to me that the principle reason for this is that the artists take their cue from the type of drawing which they see constantly published in the magazine.

Here are those first three drawings, by Richard Decker, Alan Dunn, and Ned Hilton. (Mr. Decker’s caption, difficult to read in the scan, is: “Where have you been. Your plane crashed half an hour ago.”)

Thurber writes of these drawings:

Years ago I wrote a story for The New Yorker in which a woman who tried to put together a cream separator suddenly snarled at those who were looking at her and said, “Why doesn’t somebody take this god damned thing away from me?”  I want to help take the cream separators, parachutes, fire extinguishers, paint brushes and tomahawks away from four-fifths of the characters that appear in the The New Yorker idea drawings…

Thurber goes on to talk about two other drawings in the issue. Here’s Thurber on this drawing by  Leonard Dove:

It must have been six years ago you told me drawings about psychoanalysts were terribly out of date. The next week I turned in one in which the analyst says, “A moment ago, Mrs. Ridgway, you said that everybody you looked at seemed to be a rabbit. Now just what did you mean by that?”* …But you can’t publish a drawing about an analyst and a woman with the caption, “Your only trouble is, Mrs. Markham, that you’re so horribly normal.” This is one of the oldest, tritest, and most often repeated lines in the world.

And then Thurber moved on to this Chon Day drawing:

…this is such an extravagant distortion of reality, it is so far removed from what any salesman would ever say, that to be successful it has to be fantastic. But since the situation is not fantastic, it ends up simply being a bad gag…No sales man ever said to any housewife what you have him saying in the cartoon I am talking about. That is a gag man’s idea.

*Thurber didn’t quite get his own caption right. The actual caption: “You said just a moment ago that everybody you look at seems to be a rabbit.  Now just what do you mean by that, Mrs. Sprague?” It appeared in The New Yorker February 13, 1937.

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William Steig Drawings At Auction

The other day it was noted here that the Swann Galleries will auction New Yorker work December 10th. Yesterday a Spill visitor sent me this listing of Steig drawings to be auctioned December 5th by Bonhams. Some beautiful work by one of The New Yorker‘s Cartoon Gods!

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Meet The Artist (1943): Gluyas Williams

Speaking of NYer Cartoon Gods, here’s a self portrait of Gluyas Williams from the 1943 catalog published by the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum.

…and here’s Mr. Williams’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Gluyas Williams (above left undated; right: 1 975) Born, San Francisco, 1888. Died, Boston, Mass., 1982. One of the pillars of Harold Ross’s stable of artists, and one of Ross’s favorite cartoonists. His beautiful full page drawings were a regular feature in the magazine. Mr. Williams illustrated a number of Robert Benchley’s collections, providing the cover art as well as illustrations. New Yorker work: March 13, 1926 – Aug 25, 1951. Key collections: The Gluyas Williams Book ( Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1929), The Gluyas Williams Gallery (Harper, 1956). Website: http://www.gluyaswilliams.com/

 

 

 

Weekend Spill: 64 Works By Steinberg Go To Long Island Museum; The Tilley Watch Online; Meet The Artist (1943): Alan Dunn; Liza Donnelly Speaks on Drawing For Change; Upcoming Swann Auction Loaded With New Yorker Art

64 Steinberg Works To Long Island Museum

From ArtNews, November 15, 2019, “Parrish Art Museum Acquires 64 Works By Famed Cartoonist Saul Steinberg” 

Mr. Steinberg’s entry on the Spill’s A-Z:

Saul Steinberg Born, June 15, 1914, Ramnic-Sarat, Rumania. Died in 1999. New Yorker work: 1941 – (The New Yorker publishes his work posthumously). Steinberg is one of the giants of The New Yorker.  Go here to visit the saulsteinbergfoundation where you’ll find  much essential information and examples of his work.

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An end of the week listing of New Yorker artists who contributed to the Daily Cartoon and/or Daily Shouts, November 11-15, 2019.

The Daily Cartoon: Kim Warp, Emily Flake, Ellis Rosen, Elisabeth McNair, Christopher Weyant.

Daily Shouts: Teresa Burns Parkhurst, Liana Finck (another in her Dear Pepper series), Tim Hamilton.

…and Barry Blitt’s Kvetchbook.

See all of the above and more here.

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Liza Donnelly Speaks On Drawing For Change

From Elon University, November 15, 2019, “Cartoonist Liza Donnelly offers look at using visual humor to affect change” — a piece on Ms. Donnelly’s recent talk at the university.

Ms. Donnelly began contributing to The New Yorker in 1982. Visit her website here.

 

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Meet The Artist (1943): Alan Dunn

One of a number of self portraits of New Yorker artists included in the catalog Meet The Artist, published in 1943 by the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum.

Alan Dunn’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Alan Dunn Born in Belmar, New Jersey, August 11, 1900, died in New York City, 1975. New Yorker work: 1926 – 1974 Key collections: Rejections (Knopf, 1931), Who’s Paying For This Cab? (Simon & Schuster, 1945), A Portfolio of Social Cartoons ( Simon & Schuster, 1968). One of the most published New Yorker cartoonists (1,906 cartoons) , Mr. Dunn was married to Mary Petty — together they lived and worked at 12 East 88th Street, where, according to the NYTs, Alan worked “seated in a small chair at a card table, drawing in charcoal and grease pencil.”

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Upcoming Swann Auction Abounds With New Yorker Art

The December 10th Swann Illustration Auction catalog is now available online and, as usual, there is a New Yorker section loaded with original pieces.  This particular offering includes a large number of contemporary contributors as well as work by such Golden Age luminaries as Peter Arno, Charles Saxon, Charles Addams, and Steinberg.

See it all here.

Happy bidding!

The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue of July 2, 2018

  Link here to read what Barry Blitt had to say about his tied-in to the headlines cover (shown above).

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One of these days I’m going to gather all the New Yorker covers that’ve incorporated the Statue of Liberty. For now, I took a look back to see when Lady Liberty first appeared on a New Yorker cover. Surprisingly, it took awhile to show up what with the the magazine being, in those earliest of issues, so New York City-centric. Its debut was on the Sue Williams cover of September 7, 1929:

 The Statue’s next appearance was on the cover of June 24, 1939, when artist Leonard Dove incorporated it humorously:

It wasn’t until the end of WW2 that the statue appeared again — in the issue dated the week the war ended with Japan’s surrender. Alan Dunn shows us a troop ship arriving home in New York Harbor; soldiers are sticking their heads out of portholes, looking to see Lady Liberty way off in the distance, her silhouette just barely decipherable. Graphically speaking, in this instance less is powerfully more.

And now on to the current issue, close to seventy-three years later.  From the Dept. of Just Sayin’:  21 illustrations this week, 3 of them full pages. Just 10 cartoons (plus one full page by Ed Steed).

Noting two of the ten this week: Roz Chast makes excellent use of one of the cartoonist’s handiest tools: the hot dog cart. In this case it’s floss being sold not franks. What I really like about Ms. Chast’s cartoon is that it falls into the wonderful New Yorker cartoon vein of being both surprising and highly relatable. It delivers on Peter Arno’s definition of a good cartoon: a drawing that deals a one-two punch.  If the Spill handed out ribbons like they do over on the Cartoon Companion site, this cartoon would be awarded one. The Spill does, however, applaud.

The other cartoon noted is by Seth Fleishman.  Bulls driving racing cars at Pamplona, with the lead car driven by a person.  A lovely drawing. I believe there are at least two Charles Addams cartoons with a moose driving a car, but bulls driving cars is a rarity. One somewhat closer to Mr. Fleishman’s that comes readily to mind (forgive me) is a drawing of mine from the ancient times. It appeared in The New Yorker, March 7, 1989 — technically, those are steer.

 

For the record, your honor, here’s the list of cartoonists in the issue (the aforementioned Mr. Steed’s page is listed higher up on the Table of Contents):

Lastly, here’s Rea Irvin’s iconic masthead from The New Yorker.  It disappeared in May of 2017, bafflingly replaced by a redrawn version. For more on this, go here.

— See you next week

  

 

  

 

 

 

No Joke: Rea Irvin’s April 1947 Cover

The cover above has always been a favorite. The first time I came across it I thought I’d stumbled upon a printing error. But no, it’s yet another gift from Rea Irvin, cover artist, designer (as in his designs for the magazine’s masthead, as well as his adapted development of the typeface), cartoonist, “art supervisor” (his unofficial or official designation at the New Yorker). 

The rest of the issue is a lot of fun too. An Addams so-called “Addams Family” drawing (“We’ve had part of this floor finished off for Uncle Eimer”); a Richard Taylor strip that runs across the bottom of two pages; a half-page Hokinson “lunch club ladies” cartoon; a Sam Cobean shadow play drawing; a page and-a-half Steinberg spread under the heading “Berlin” and so much more (other cartoonists in the issue: Otto Soglow, Alan Dunn, Barney Tobey, Robert Day, Whitney Darrow, Jr., Alain, and Leonard Dove). Typical of the era, the cartoons dominated the pages, as if the text was secondary to the art.

50 Years Ago This Week: Peter Arno’s Last New Yorker Cartoon

Every so often the Spill likes to take a look at the last cartoon published by one of the magazine’s artists. This week it’s a drawing by Peter Arno — the cartoonist the New Yorker‘s Roger Angell called “the magazine’s first genius.”  I won’t go on and on here about why Arno is one of the magazine’s greatest — some say the greatest of the magazine’s artists, but if you want more on the subject there is a biography of him floating around (forgive me for lifting the bolded passage below from the aforementioned biography). 

(Above: Arno’s drawing as it appeared in the issue)

Sometime in the fall of 1967, Arno finished working on a full-page drawing of Pan blowing on his pipes as he frolicked through a glade.  In the forefront of the picture is a young, well-endowed woman, who says to him, “Oh, grow up!”  Brendan Gill [in his wonderful book, Here At The New Yorker] described the drawing this way:

“…in content and composition it was a characteristic piece of work…the drawing is a matter of some forty or fifty bold strokes of black against white, bound together by a gray wash; it has been built up as solidly as a fortress, though built in fun, and its dominant note is one of youthful zest.  Nobody could ever tell that it was the work of an aging man, let alone a dying one.”

“Oh, grow up!” wasn’t the last Arno published by the New Yorker.  His last cover appeared the following June, and the magazine has, from time-to-time brought out one of his older covers or drawings. But it was certainly the last published in his lifetime. The drawing appeared in the anniversary issue, dated February 24th, 1968. It would’ve been out on the newsstands a week earlier, the week of February 18.  Arno died on February 22. 

If you have access to the New Yorker‘s digital edition or happen to have a print copy, it’s certainly worth a visit to this issue — it’s a gem.  Rea Irvin’s Eustace Tilley is, of course, on the cover (and Mr. Irvin’s classic masthead for the Talk of The Town is in its place). The issue’s cartoons are by some of the greatest names on the magazine’s roster of artists (the magazine had a history of making sure the anniversary issue was loaded up with a good number of its big guns. In my Arno research I came across a note to Arno from the New Yorker‘s founder and first editor, Harold Ross expressing concern he (Ross) did not have a Arno drawing available for the upcoming anniversary issue). 

In this issue you’ll find terrific cartoons by Robert Weber, Alan Dunn, George Price, James Stevenson, William Steig, Steinberg, Richard Decker, Warren Miller, Frank Modell, Syd Hoff, Charles Addams, Whitney Darrow, Jr., Lee Lorenz, Mischa Richter, and Barney Tobey. (At this particular time the magazine’s stable of cartoonists was all male. Mary Petty’s piece appeared in 1966, and Nurit Karlin’s work did not begin appearing until 1974).

Next week, the Spill will return with its usual Monday Tilley Watch.