The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue Of May 4, 2020

The Cover: In Francoise Mouly’s Q&A with this week’s cover artist, Chris Ware, she informs us that the issue is anchored by “a kaleidoscopic account of a single day in New York.”  And so we see a cover, in Mr. Ware’s patented style, loaded with snapshots of the city —  a cover nearly devoid of people.

The Cartoonists:

Liza Donnelly, Robert Leighton, Amy Hwang, Roz Chast, Mick Stevens, Liana Finck, Julia Suits, Frank Cotham, Lars Kenseth, Peter Steiner, Karl Stevens, Edward Steed, Elisabeth McNair, Ali Solomon

The Cartoons:

First thing I noticed zipping through this week’s cartoons (via the slideshow on newyorker.com) is that 9 of the 14 drawings contain non-humans. Is this unusual? I don’t know; haven’t kept track of the human/non-human ratio of the cartoons over the years [if anyone has, please let me know — I’d love to see the numbers]. What may be unusual are the three drawings in a row containing two animals apiece: Ed Steed’s two cows, Elisabeth McNair’s pig and squirrel, and Ali Solomon’s two seals.

The remaining half-dozen cartoons featuring non-humans: Peter Steiner’s shark (fins), Lars Kenseth’s multitude of rabbits, Roz Chast’s cow, Liana Finck’s dog(?), and Amy Hwang’s snails. This week’s lead cartoon, by Liza Donnelly, is a direct nod to NYC’s shut-down (it features a none-too-pleased caged subway rat).

The high percentage of animals in the issue reminded me of this passage from Brendan Gill’s Here At The New Yorker:

“Once, Geraghty [the magazine’s Art editor from 1939-1973] mentioned to me that the art department ‘bank’ contained a deplorably high number of jokes featuring conversations between animals. I proposed that the artwork of an entire issue of the magazine be devoted to talking-animal jokes, thus reducing the bank and just possibly causing our readers to lose their minds.  My proposal was accepted, the issue came out, and as far as the magazine could judge, the prank went largely unobserved.” 

Other Cartoons That Caught My Eye:

It seemed pre-ordained that Roz Chast would do a panic buying drawing. Love her (signed) photo drawing of “Der Bingle.” Mick Stevens’s me time drawing is a fine/fun piece of work; applause applause for the way Frank Cotham handled the damned in his splendid media attention drawing. I’ve no idea how Mr. Cotham’s cartoon is sized (I don’t have access to the digital edition yet) but this cartoon would certainly work beautifully on a half-page.  (Update, now that the digital issue is available:  Mr. Cotham’s drawing has been run a bit larger than most of the issue’s cartoons…not a half-page tho.)

The Rea Irvin Talk Masthead Watch:

Without having the digital issue in front of me I’ve no idea if Mr. Irvin’s classic Talk masthead (below), shown the door, and replaced by a redraw in the Spring of 2017, has finally returned.  Here’s more information on it.(Update: the redraw still appears. The classic remains in storage)

Behold the real deal!

 

 

 

 

Frank Modell’s Brendan Gill; Tom Chitty Has A Question; Today’s Daily Cartoonist: Christopher Weyant; More Steinberg; Today’s Daily Shouts By…Seth Fleishman

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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Tom Chitty Has A Question

From Jane Mattimoe’s  fine Fine Case For Pencils, “Tom Chitty Has A Question About Dip Pens”

Mr. Chitty began contributing to The New Yorker in 2014.  Visit his website here.

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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 a 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!)

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Today’s Daily Shouts by…Seth Fleishman

A fish story from Seth Fleishman who began contributing to The New Yorker in 2016. See some of his work here on the New Yorker’s Cartoon Bank site.

 

 

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).