New Yorker Cartoonists’ Elder Statesman Frank Modell Has Died at 98

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Frank Modell, whose first New Yorker cartoon appeared in the issue of July 20, 1946 died yesterday just a year and small change from his 100th birthday. Frank was a great cartoonist, a raconteur, a New Yorker historian, and not least, a truly truly nice person.

In 2013 Frank told his good friend and New Yorker colleague James Stevenson (in Mr. Stevenson’s book, The Life, Loves and Laughs of Frank Modell) that as a youngster:

“I wasn’t athletic and I wasn’t a good student, but I was good at drawing. I could copy a Lincoln head from a penny, and the other kids were very impressed. Everybody wanted one. I made a lot of Lincolns.”

Back in the States after serving in World War II (where he landed on Omaha Beach as part of the 116th Radio Intelligence Company) Frank made his way north from his hometown of Philadelphia to The New Yorker, the place that would remain his anchor for much of the rest of his life. After a stint as assistant to the magazine’s Art Editor, James Geraghty (who, he told me, at first deemed Frank’s work not quite ready to be published) Frank became a regular contributor, eventually seeing just over 1400 pieces published (including six covers). And like so many of the New Yorker‘s cartoonists of that time he also contributed ideas to other colleagues.

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(Left: Frank Modell’s 1st New Yorker drawing)

Later in life Frank became an unofficial oral historian of the New Yorker.  For a newcomer like me (I began contributing in the late 1970s) hearing his tales of leading the nearly completely blind James Thurber around the hallways of the New Yorker‘s offices at 25 West 43rd Street was a dream come true.

As for his art, Frank was a cartoonist’s cartoonist. He drew with confidence and grace and joy.  There’s nothing quite like a Modell character in motion. A Modell drawing exudes humor — we’re  laughing before we’ve even reached the caption.  Seeing his work was like  spotting the man himself across the room at a New Yorker party:  it always made me happy.

 

Link here to see Mr. Modell’s New York Times obit.

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MODELL1(Left: a popular Modell drawing in poster form. Below: Mr. Modell’s one and only cartoon collection, published in 1978).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Left: James Stevenson’s 2013 tribute to his friend)

Fave Photo of the Weekend: Two Giants of the New Yorker Cartoon World

Jim & FrankHere’s a previously unpublished photograph of two great New Yorker cartoonists: James Stevenson, on the left, and Frank Modell to the right. 

If you add up (as I have) their combined contributions to the magazine, the number is a whisker shy of an astounding 3,500 cartoons, covers, and written pieces. 

In 2013, Mr. Stevenson published  The Life, Loves and Laughs of Frank Modell, a celebratory book about his best friend. The book is a delight

[My thanks to James Stevenson, Josie Merck, and Frank Modell for permission to use the photograph, which looks to be from the 1970s or early 1980s]

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Drew Dernavich’s First Children’s Book

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With the publication this coming February of It’s Not Easy Being Number 3, Drew Dernavich continues the long tradition of New Yorker cartoonists venturing into the children’s book world (the list includes, among many others,  Rea Irvin, Lee Lorenz, James Stevenson, Robert Kraus, James Thurber, William Steig, Frank Modell, Ed Arno, Edward Koren, Henry Martin, Syd Hoff, Dana Fradon, Jack Ziegler, Liza Donnelly, Danny Shanahan, Harry Bliss, and Roz Chast).

[It’s Not Easy Being Number 3, Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano, February 2016]

More info:

Mr. Dernavich’s website

Regan Arts to Publish Maslin Peter Arno Biography, Mad At Something

 

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I’m pleased to announce that  Mad At Something, my biography of the late and very great New Yorker cartoonist, Peter Arno will be published by Regan Arts.

 

Arno is one of the pillars of The New Yorkers earliest days, a group that includes Harold Ross, E.B. White, Katharine White, and James Thurber.  Ross, the magazine’s founder and first editor called Arno “our pathfinder artist”  and “the greatest artist in the world.”  It is indeed the case that Arno’s work for the magazine raised the graphic bar so high that “New Yorker cartoon” became synonymous with excellence in the field.

 
The idea for an Arno biography began back in 1999 in true cartoonist fashion: as an A-Ha! moment as I was driving in the vicinity of Arno’s home just outside of Manhattan; I realized that he had never been the subject of a biography.  Since that moment I’ve spent the past fifteen years researching and writing about his life.

 
Mad At Something is not just an examination of Arno’s life and work, it is also an exploration of the birth and development of the New Yorker cartoon, as well as the magazine’s fabled art department, and its artists. One of the many wonderful things about being a New Yorker cartoonist is the opportunity it’s afforded me to meet other New Yorker cartoonists.  Since beginning the biography I’ve reached out to my colleagues asking them to share their thoughts on Arno’s work. The list includes Arno contemporaries such as William Steig, Syd Hoff, Robert Weber, Frank Modell, Eldon Dedini,  Ed Fisher, through post-Arno contributors such as Jack Ziegler, Roz Chast, Peter Steiner,  Bruce Eric Kaplan and Edward Sorel.  I am especially pleased that the book’s curtain closer is composed of their contributions.

Mad At Something will be published in 2016.

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