“The Brightest Thought of Many Bright Minds”: The 1940 New Yorker Album

From the inside flap copy of this album: “The brightest thought of many bright minds”…well, heck, I’m not going to argue with that. Published by Random House in 1939, and using Peter Arno’s New Yorker cover from January 1938, this is the last of the Albums produced before the Unites States entered WWII.  The cover depicts a Cafe Society moment, an Arno specialty that faded as the war years began.


The flap copy shown below tells the story of what to expect, cartoon quality-wise (and “Spot” drawings–wise). These are the founding mothers & fathers of the New Yorker single panel.  In just a few years, and throughout the 1940s, they’d be joined by a number of additional giants of the field, including  Steinberg, Frank Modell, Sam Cobean, Dana Fradon, Anatol Kovarsky, Roberta MacDonald, Mischa Richter, and Charles Saxon. This album also, in a way, marks the end of the earlier incarnation of the magazine’s art department and the beginning of the editorship of James Geraghty. His hiring in 1939 led to the organization of the art department into an actual department, with an editor (Geraghty) devoted to the artists (all the artists: cartoonists, cover artists, spot artists). That model stayed intact under Mr. Geraghty, and then his successor, Lee Lorenz, until Tina Brown split the art department in 1993, creating  the titles, Cartoon Editor (Mr. Lorenz’s new title), and Art Editor (Francoise Mouly was hired and given that title, with the responsibility of overseeing the cover art).  

Being a Thurberite I can’t help but mentioning that two of my all-time favorite Thurber drawings (actually, I love all of his drawings) are included in this volume:

“Ooooo, guesties!” (shown in this link, upper right of the page).

“Well, if I called the wrong number, why did you answer the phone?”

There is no introduction to this album, nor any flap copy other than that shown above. The production is top-shelf, with heavy paper and a flawless lay-out. This album is easily found on Abebooks.com for very little. The back cover, shown below, is given over to a drawing by the great Helen Hokinson.


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.   


The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975 – 1985

With the publication of The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975-1985, the word “Cartoon” makes its second appearance on an Album cover and in an Album  title (the first was on the cover of The Album of Sports and Games: Cartoons of Three Decades).  The magazine’s 60th anniversary not only saw this anthology published, but the magazine’s fans were treated to a fabulous show of cartoons and covers, curated by Barbara Nicholls, a former art assistant to James Geraghty (Ms. Nicholls went on to establish a gallery representing many of the New Yorker’s artists). 

Mounted at the New York Public Library, this was the show for anyone who loved the magazine’s art.  Following its run in New York, the exhibit went on the road across the country, and across the big pond. Here’s the brochure:

But now back to the anthology. You can see by the cover that the design is solidly in the school of the understated. The is no introduction within, no foreword, no dedication. Compare the cover to the cover of the 90th Anniversary Book of Cartoons (the Spill will eventually get to that on another Sunday) — you’ll see how graphic decision-making has changed.

The 1975- 1985 Album leads off with a spectacular full page drawing by Robert Weber, and it ends with a full page Charles Addams drawing.  In between you’ll find a rich array of the grand masters of the form: Steig, Steinberg, George Price, Dana Fradon, Warren Miller, Frank Modell,  the aforementioned  Weber and Addams, Henry Martin, Booth, Koren, Ed Arno ( but not Peter Arno, who had passed away in 1968), Whitney Darrow, Jr., James Stevenson, Ed Fisher…the list couldn’t go on and on — it was, after all, finite, but you get the idea.  Also in the Album, a new wave of cartoonists, including Mick Stevens, Leo Cullum, Liza Donnelly, the two Roz’s: Zanengo and Chast, Tom Cheney, Michael Crawford, Richard Cline, Bill Woodman, Peter Steiner, and Mike Twohy, among others (including yours truly). Jack Ziegler, who I’ve dubbed “The Godfather of Contemporary New Yorker Cartoonists”  was a late entry in the 1925-1975 Album (his first New Yorker cartoon was published in 1974. He’s represented in the 1925-1975 Album by one cartoon)Here, in the 1975-1985 Album his genius is on full display.  

This Album would be the last published during William Shawn’s editorship.  The next Album would not appear until the year 2000, the magazine’s 75th anniversary (in between was Lee Lorenz’s Art of The New Yorker: 1925- 1995). 

Below: the back cover of the The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975-1985:

And the inside flap copy:



The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of November 27, 2017

The Monday Tilley Watch is a meandering take on the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker.

I’ve spent a little time this morning looking through New Yorker Thanksgiving covers over the years. My all-time favorite — it’s the only cover I ever detached from the magazine (for shame!) so I could hang it on the wall — was Steinberg’s from 1976 (the same year he produced the now iconic so-called view from New York cover). His Thanksgiving cover, to my way of thinking, was and is the New Yorker cover at its best (not including Rea Irvin’s very first cover) — and I believe it was Steinberg at his best.  Disagree with me if you’d like, but you’ll never change my mind.

There have been many other great New Yorker  Thanksgiving covers, so very many.  I saw some beauties this morning  by George Booth, one by Anatol Kovarsky, Arnie Levin, Peter Arno, Frank Modell(!), James Stevenson, CEM (Charles E. Martin), William Steig…and on and on.  Gems all. Someone should do a book of them.

This Monday Tilley Watch will be a little different than the ones that have come before. For most, this is a busy week, with a lot of rushing around.  I actually saw people rushing around while I was in a grocery store yesterday.  In that spirit (of rushing) I’m going to mention just five drawings in this new issue (there are 19, with a full page “Comic Strip” by Edward Steed making the total 20). For more on the others I suggest visiting the Cartoon Companion at week’s end [to those who have asked if the Spill is affiliated with the Companion, the answer is nay.  We’re in touch, but their numbered opinions are strictly their own]

And now on to the five:  the first is BEK’s (Bruce Eric Kaplan) drawing (it’s on page 39).  Wonderful caption, perfectly capturing the mood (for many) of the times.  Four pages later, on page 42, a terrific commuter drawing by David Sipress.  Mr. Sipress delivers a drawing that lives up to Peter Arno’s high-bar one-two punch test.  On the opposite page another winner by Liana Finck. She has a knack for taking us away in fairy tale situations. Moving on to page 76, a cartoon by the ever-reliable Paul Noth.  I love that Mr. Noth has put so much into his Thanksgiving football drawing.  Opposite the Noth cartoon, a feast for the eyes: an Edward Koren drawing. Mr. Koren is our longest active contributing artist, having first published in the New Yorker in 1962. 

The “mix” of these drawings is what has always been one of my favorite parts of that first look through every issue of the magazine. Great writing, combined with interesting, oft-times exceptional drawing.

Final notes: Regular Monday Tilley Watch readers perhaps have grown weary of my unrelenting campaign to bring back the Rea Irvin Talk of The Town masthead to the magazine.  Sorry to disappoint, but here it is again:

 To me, removing Mr. Irvin’s creation from the magazine is akin to removing the top of the Chrysler building and replacing it with the top of Philadelphia’s One Liberty Place :

Further note:  debut appearances in this week’s issue by Emma Hunsinger and Sofia Warren, bring the number of new cartoonists introduced under Emma Allen’s cartoon editorship to seven — an average of one new cartoonist a month (Ms. Allen began editing the cartoons this past May).  


The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of September 18, 2017

The Monday Tilley Watch is a meandering take on the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker.

 Visitors to the Spill (and social media) have already had the weekend to digest the cover of the latest issue — it features the looming top-noggin of North Korea’s leader. The cover artist, Eric Drooker told Michael Cavna in a Washington Post piece: “I came up with the concept for next week’s New Yorker cover when I realized how little I know about Kim Jong Un. He’s an enigma. Who knows what goes on under the hood?…All we can see is the tip of the iceberg — an incomplete picture.” Fair enough.

Before getting to the cartoons this week, and instead of zipping through the GOAT (Goings On About town ) section, I’d like to mention a couple of non-cartoon graphics that made me pause, for better or worse:  a painting on page 6 by the artist Brian Calvin and a (colorized?) photograph on page 12. I won’t say which made me pause for the better or which  made me pause for the worse; the Monday Tilley Watch is not my soap box — it’s the curb I sit on while watching a parade go by.  

Now on to the cartoons. It doesn’t take long to reach David Borchart’s C.S. Lewis flavored drawing (If I’m wrong about this, someone please speak up). (Above: an illustration from the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

Mr. Borchart, who has been contributing to the magazine since September of 2007, uses one of the most reliable tools in the cartoonist’s kit: a mash-up of fantasy and the all too real. As with every new cartoon I come across I automatically recall some previous cartoon with a similar stand-out characteristic — in this case the unicorn. I cannot see a drawing of a unicorn and not picture this classic Charles Addams drawing. It appeared in The New Yorker, March 10, 1956.

Four pages later is a subway drawing by  J.A.K. (Jason Adam Katzenstein — his first New Yorker cartoon appeared in November of 2014. It’s not my imagination, the magazine has run a goodly number of New York City subway drawings in the past few months (I’m not going to go back and count them. Trust me). It has dawned on me this very second that I could probably summon up a Charles Addams classic drawing somehow related to every cartoon in this issue.  In this case, Addams had a number of subway classics (here’s one). But enough of that game. 

Seven pages later is a Joe Dator bar scene. Mr. Dator’s first New Yorker appearance was in August of 2006. It’s always a gift when the cartoon gods hand a cartoonist a one-word switcheroo to make for a successful caption: in this case using “stopping” instead of “starting.” Fun sidebar: Mr. Dator has a podcast,  Songs You’re Sick Of.

A Roz Chast three panel drawing is next (her first cartoon appeared in 1978).  I like that Ms. Chast has ventured out of what we’ve (perhaps?) come to think of as a Chastian living room setting. We get to see a kitchen and foyer.  I’d love even more of a tour around her cartoon environment.  For instance: let’s see the basement…or the attic  (It’s possible we’ve already seen these spaces… Ms. Chast has published well over a thousand cartoons in the magazine).

Ten pages later, after a long piece about North Korea, is a Stephen King-ish  Will McPhail drawing. I have great sympathy for Mr. McPhail’s cartoon pinata in this cartoon. I’m resisting the  temptation here to recall one of many many Charles Addams’ drawings featuring mischievous children (or a mischievous child). I think I can safely say that none of Mr. Addams’ cartoon children ever threatened to harm a cartoon pinata.  (Mr. McPhail’s first New Yorker cartoon: December of 2014).

On the very next page is a thief-in-a-in-home drawing by newcomer Maddie Dai. As mentioned earlier in this post and previous posts, I try hard to keep subjectivity in check  in the Monday Tilley Watch, but this drawing gets a check plus. Can’t wait to see what the Cartoon Companion boys say about it later this week (their stock-in-trade is cartoon dissection and evaluation).  Ms. Dai’s first New Yorker appearance was this past June.

Three pages later is a BEK (Bruce Eric Kaplan) drawing.  Signature style, signature caption. Mr. Kaplan’s first drawing appeared in 1991.  Six pages later, an Emily Flake drawing, sort of in the area of Mr. Borchart’s: a mash-up of contemporary technology (texting) and slowing-moving-out-the-door lingo: actually hanging up a phone (and slowly-moving-out-the-door actual activity of hanging up a phone).  Ms. Flake’s first drawing appeared in September of 2008. Five pages later, a drawing by Barbara Smaller.  Like Mr. Kaplan: signature style, signature caption. Here Ms. Smaller avoids  the cartoonist’s go-to shrink’s divan for the patient and opts for a sofa.


Three pages later is the last drawing in the issue (not counting the Caption Contest drawings), and it’s by the ever reliable Paul Noth (in earlier years such cartoonists as James Stevenson, Frank Modell, and Donald Reilly were among the magazine’s sturdy cartoon oaks (seemingly) effortlessly providing us with good work week after week after week (after year after year after year).  Mr. Noth began at the New Yorker thirteen years ago.

See you next Monday.





50 Years Ago This Week…In The New Yorker

A Summer of Love issue of The New Yorker begins with Peter Arno’s 98th cover for the magazine (out of 101). Arno’s color palette in his last years had turned (mostly) brighter, his composition (mostly) a little more casual. This cover is an excellent example.

Within the magazine we find an array of graphically balanced cartoons appearing on the pages in a variety of sizes: a half-page Warren Miller drawing; a wonderful Steig drawing of a King –the drawing sits at the bottom of the page, surrounded on three sides by text; a perfectly-sized classic beauty from Ronald Searle (shown below); a  Modell drawing, done in his trademark casual style, sits across from a (typically) densely drawn Alan Dunn cartoon;  an easy on the eyes Stevenson drawing of two witches settling in to watch Julia Child is placed across from a Steinberg drawing of the eye of providence (that pyramid with the eye that’s on the backside of the U.S. dollar bill).  Unlike Stevenson’s drawing, which you pause to look at, enjoy and then move on, you feel as if you should pull up a chair and get out a magnifying glass for the Steinberg illustration. It’s time to inspect.

A few pages later on in the issue I was surprised to come across a 5 part Stan Hunt drawing. Did he do a lot of these? I don’t remember seeing one before (it’s a question to be answered another time).  The Hunt is followed by a nearly full-page  Everett Opie cartoon and then a masterful Saxon drawing (also almost a full page).

The last drawing of the issue is by the wonderful Henry Martin. Like Steig’s King drawing, it appears at the bottom of the page surrounded on three sides by text. There’s plenty of white space around the business man noticing a sign in a window, “Data Processed While U Wait” — the man’s right leg and his briefcase are allowed to drift off towards the edge of the page itself — a cartoonist’s work beautifully handled by the New Yorker‘s long-time layout person, Carmine Peppe, who, according to Brendan Gill, “would properly set off whatever we published.”