Frank Modell’s Brendan Gill; Today’s Daily Cartoonist: Christopher Weyant; More Steinberg

Frank Modell’s Brendan Gill

I came away from a recent visit to my favorite (used) book store, Rodgers Book Barn in Hillsdale, New York with the brochure handed out at Brendan Gill’s memorial back in 1998 (see the details of the tribute below). I’m indebted to one of my book store haunting friends, Mark Burns for digging the brochure out of a box of ephemera and placing it right in front of my face (for the record, my other co-haunters were Danny Shanahan and John Cuneo). Frank Modell’s drawing of an exuberant Brendan Gill was new to me, and an obvious must-have, must-buy. 

For more on Mr. Gill, I highly recommend his oft-reprinted Here At The New Yorker (the William Heinemann 1990 edition shown below)And for more on Mr. Modell there’s his collection Stop Trying To Cheer Me Up! as well as James Stevenson’s terrific The Life, Loves and Laughs of Frank Modell.

Further Reading: An earlier Spill piece on cartoonists and Rodgers Book Barn.

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Today’s Daily Cartoonist/Cartoon

The lack of White House press briefings has been in the news. Chris Weyant comments via castle cartoon.  Mr. Weyant has been contributing to The New Yorker since 1998. Visit his website here.

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More Steinberg

From The Brooklyn Rail, “Saul Steinberg: Untitled” 

Comments on the Steinberg exhibit currently showing at Totah (til April 28th — hurry!)

 

 

A New Yorker State Of Mind: James Thurber’s Art Debuts In The New Yorker; Two New Yorker Cartoonists Cover Cold Comfort Farm; Karl Stevens at The Gardner Museum; Today’s New Yorker Daily Cartoonist: Barry Blitt

The must-read blog, A New Yorker State of Mind on the debut of Thurber art in The New Yorker.  Read here.

… And as the subject is Thurber New Yorker firsts, here are others:

Thurber’s New Yorker debut, in the issue of February 26, 1927: two pieces of verse.  The first,  Villanelle Of Horatio Street, Manhattan (19 lines, signed James Grover Thurber); the second, Street Song (10 lines, signed J .G. T.)

Thurber’s first cartoon appeared  in the issue of January 3, 1931, “Take a good look at these fellows, Tony, so you’ll remember ’em next time.” 

Thurber’s first cover: February 29, 1936.

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Covering Cold Comfort Farm: Saxon & Chast

Two New Yorker cartoonists on the cover of the same title: how often does that happen? I’ve never seen it before (if anyone can come up with another duo please forward*).  In this case we see Charles Saxon’s art on the cover of Stella Gibbons Cold Comfort Farm, published in 1964, and on the right, Roz Chast’s cover art in 2006.

*Stephen Nadler of Attempted Bloggery has brought to my attention my own piece concerning three New Yorker artists (Addams, Steig, and Modell) covering Brendan Gill’s Here At The New Yorker.

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Karl Stevens At the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

From artnet.com, February 27, 2019, “Botticelli’s Beauties Meet Contemporary Cartoons at The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum — See Works From the Show Here” — this piece on newbie New Yorker cartoonist Karl Stevens’ work at the above mentioned museum. Mr. Stevens first New Yorker cartoon appeared in the issue of  January 21, 2019.  Link here for more of his work.

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Today’s Daily Cartoon

Today’s Daily cartoon, Trumpish, of course, is by Barry Blitt. Mr. Blitt began contributing to the New Yorker in 1994. Link here to his website.

Well-Thumbed: Thurber. A Biography by Burton Bernstein

There are three New Yorker-related books that have stood the test of interest for me since the mid 1970s when the New Yorker became the place I wanted and had to be: The Thurber Carnival, Brendan Gill’s Here At The New Yorker, and Burton Bernstein’s Thurber.  A box-ful of New Yorker-related books have been published since (and a smaller box-ful were published before), but these three forever fascinate and educate. The Thurber Carnival came first — it was my entry point for his drawings and writing. Luckily for me, both Gill’s book and Bernstein’s were published soon after I first devoured Carnival — both, in fact,  came out in 1975 — coincidentally(?) the year the New Yorker celebrated its 50th anniversary) and not-so-coincidentally, exactly at the time I was ready for them to take over my world. Bernstein’s book, read while I was still in college, helped push me forward to living in the big city and going all out to break into the New Yorker.  I had already decided I needed to be part of what Thurber was part of — reading his biography only made it more imperative (as there was no plan “b”).

Luckily, I had a chance to meet Mr. Bernstein just a few years ago and tell him how important his book was/is to me. I explained how tattered my copy has become, and how, like Gill’s book and my first copy of Thurber Carnival, it is never far from where I work. True then, true today. 

I’m happy to say Thurber’s influence runs through me daily.  There are days I’m aware I’m trying to do something in the spirit of what he has done. A drawing recently published was an homage to Thurber’s Seal in the Bedroom. Even more recently I sold a drawing (not yet published) to the New Yorker that was heavily influenced by my all-time favorite Thurber drawing, “What have you done with Dr. Millmoss.”  I’ll note it here on the Spill when it is published. Now in my 41st year of contributing to the magazine, my debt to Thurber is never paid.  The same can be said about the other two authors who assisted in bringing me here.   

 

   

Many Moons Ago At The New Yorker

A departure this Sunday from previous Sundays in that the book above contains only New Yorker covers, and zero cartoons. However, of the thirty-six cover artists represented in the book, twenty-eight also contributed cartoons. This seemingly lop-sided representation of the magazine’s cartoonists doubling as cover artists was not at all out of the ordinary in the pre-Tina Brown days (Ms. Brown inverted the cartoonist/strictly-cover artist ratio, reducing the percentage of cartoonists on the cover to a minimum. Non-contributing cartoonists have been in a wide majority since).   

The book, published in 1984 by United Technologies Corporation, with the heavy lifting done by the National Academy of Design, is a must have for any library stocked with New Yorker collections. It’s a coffee table book that doesn’t need a coffee table (measuring 10″ x 13″, but just 160 pages).

The folks at the National Academy did a splendid job of designing the book, taking great care to present us with not only the covers as they appeared as New Yorker covers, but full page, sans New Yorker logo. The book is divided into the four seasons; the only non-seasonal cover is the magazine’s very first (by the incomparable Rea Irvin) beautifully reproduced on the page just before we enter Spring. 

The bonus material is right up front of the book.  Two introductory pieces: Brendan Gill’s “A morning light” and Charles Saxon‘s “A special moment, fleetingly observed.”

A declaration of interest from Mr. Gill:

“There is…no such thing as a New Yorker cover…If one can say there is no such thing as a New Yorker cover, one can at least say that there are three or four types of art work that appear with considerable frequency on the covers of The New Yorker: those that are purely decorative, those that are topical or seasonal, and those that contain a mild satiric swipe or possibly a small, covert joke.”

My my, how times have changed.  The are still “three or four types of art work” but covers that “contain a mildly satiric swipe” are now a thing of the past.

And from Charles Saxon, another that was then declarative:

“Artists are invited to submit their work. Nothing is assigned, nothing is directed. The work is welcomed or it is not.”

 

 

On a personal note, I was just into my seventh year as a New Yorker contributor when I received an invitation to attend the gallery exhibit of some of the covers in the book. Here’s a very short excerpt about my visit to the opening from my still in-the-works/ongoing New Yorker journal.  At the time I was living in upstate New York after having somewhat recently moved from Greenwich Village.

May 31, 1984

Perhaps missing some of Manhattan’s hubbub, I decided to attend the Seasons At the New Yorker opening at the National Academy of Design on 5th Avenue hard by Central Park — new-ish territory for me, other than my infrequent visits to the Metropolitan Museum. I was half-a-block from the party when I noticed the New Yorker writer Brendan Gill holding court out on the sidewalk. He was wearing a dark suit and looked to be holding a glass of champagne. 5th Avenue! Champagne! Brendan Gill! THE Brendan Gill — the man whose book, Here At the New Yorker helped drive me to this magazine. The idea of introducing myself to him that evening was out of the question: just to be here at this party was more than enough excitement.  

Surveying the crowd as I walked into the gallery I immediately felt out-of-place — I was dressed casually, in sneakers, jeans, a faded red shirt and a thrift shop seersucker jacket. Everyone else  was dressed, as my mother would say “to the hilt.”

After rounding the exhibition looking at the framed covers, I sat down for a moment on a circular stuffed sofa next to a very nice woman, somewhat older than me.  After some initial pleasantries, I discovered that she had been married to Robert Kraus, a former New Yorker cartoonist (and later owner and editor in chief of his own publishing house, Windmill Press, publishers of William Steig’s children’s books).

Eventually I made one more pass around the gallery space and found myself walking into the New Yorker’s art editor, Lee Lorenz and his (then) wife. I knew Lee wouldn’t know me by sight — we’d only met once before, but I thought it would be silly not to speak with my editor. As I suspected, Lee looked confused and slightly unhappy when I walked up to him, but was relieved and seemingly amused when I told him my name. Lee looked me over and said, “You look like an ice cream salesman.”  And perhaps following up on the theme, his wife said, “Oh, you’re the one who does all the ice cream cartoons.” My self-confidence at once damaged and lifted, I made small talk, then drifted back out to 5th avenue, and back upstate.

Below: From the Spill‘s files, the invitation (my friend, Jack Ziegler didn’t call me the “boy archivist” for nuthin).

 

 

 

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.