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It must have been six years ago you told me drawings about psychoanalysts were terribly out of date.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.

______________________________________________________

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!

________________________________________________________

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/

 

 

 

“The Table In Mr. Ross’s Office Where We Used To Sit To Work On Pictures”; Book Of Interest: Alay-Oop By William Gropper; A Case For Pencils On Maddie Dai’s Tools Of The Trade; Daily Shouts & Daily Cartoon Cartoonists; Meet The Artist (1943): Dorothy McKay

“The Table Where We Used To Sit To Work On Pictures”

A photo I’ve seen before on the web, but never with the note attached you see above. The letter, signed “Jim”  was written by the then art editor James Geraghty.* The “Gardner” it’s addressed to was likely Gardner Rea, one of the magazine’s artists. There’s another possibility: the “Gardner” could’ve been Gardner Botsford, a New Yorker editor, but it makes more sense that the art editor was sending one of his artist’s a photo of the art table.  You’ll notice up on the wall is a poster listing some of the magazine’s artists, from Charles Addams to Gluyas Williams.  Also on the wall are five Thurber drawings on the Art Meeting, titled The Art Conference. You can see the series on pages 157-160 in Collecting Himself: James Thurber On Writers And Writing, Humor And Himself.  Edited by Michael Rosen. Published by Harper & Row, 1989.

For further reading on The New Yorker‘s weekly meeting where the table played a part, here’s a Spill post, “The Art Meeting from 2012.

*it has been suggested to me that the “Jim” is actually James Thurber as the provenance of the photo mentions Mr. Thurber but not Mr. Geraghty (the photo is part of the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art’s holdings). I have my doubts it’s “Jim” Thurber, but put the suggestion out there for anyone to confirm, if possible.

___________________________________________________________________________

Books Of Interest: Alay-Oop By William Gropper

Out this past June from New York Review Books, Alay-Oop by William Gropper. Mr. Gropper contributed to The New Yorker just once, meaning he’s a Spill One Clubber. More about Alay-Oop here.

Here’s Mr. Gropper’s A-Z entry:

William Gropper (Self portrait, from The Business of Cartooning, 1939) Born, December 3, 1897, NYC. Died, January 6, 1977, Manhasset, NY. 1 drawing, April 11, 1942. Quote:”I owe a great deal to the east side of New York. I was hit on the head with a rock in a gangfight…that’s how I became an artist.” [Quote from catalogue, Meet the Artist, 1943]. For a brief bio of Gropper “the workingman’s protector” visit: http://specialcollections.wichita.edu/

____________________________________________________

A Case For Pencils On Maddie Dai’s Tools Of The Trade

Jane Mattimoe’s latest A Case For Pencils post features Maddie Dai, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 2017.

_________________________________________________________

Daily Shouts & Daily Cartoon Cartoonists

Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon: Politics as an energy boost from Kim Warp who began contributing to The New Yorker in 1999. Visit Ms. Warp’s website here.

Yesterday’s Daily Shouts cartoonist: Liana Finck (part of her “Dear Pepper” series). Ms. Finck began contributing to The New Yorker in 2013.  Visit her website here.

Yesterday’s Daily cartoonist: Emily Flake, who began contributing to The New Yorker 2008.  Visit her website here.

______________________________________________________

Meet The Artist (1943): Dorothy McKay

The third in a series of New Yorker artists included in Meet The Artist, a catalog published in 1943 by the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum.

Here’s Ms. McKay’s entry on the Spill’s A-Z:


Dorothy McKay  (Photo from Cartoon Humor, 1938) Born c.1904, died June, 1974 New York City. New Yorker work: 1934 -1936.

 

 

Special Screening Of Stevenson Lost And Found For New Yorker Cartoonists; Meet The Artist (1943): Mischa Richter; David Remnick On Ross And Shawn

Special Screening Of Stevenson Lost And Found For New Yorker Cartoonists

The Spill has learned there’ll be a special screening for all New Yorker cartoonists next Tuesday of the documentary film, Stevenson Lost And Found. I asked the film’s director, Sally Williams to explain how this came about:

The idea for this screening came about from Nathan Fitch who is making the George Booth documentary.  We met up prior to our STEVENSON – LOST AND FOUND world premiere to compare notes and see how we could help each other out.  I think I found the idea of a New Yorker Cartoonist screening appealing because it creates a space for a different dialogue around the film.  There will be aspects that cartoonists recognize and connect with that others do not, I thought it would be interesting and valuable to have that insight from the current pool of New Yorker cartoonists.  As filmmakers, artists, illustrators it can be a bit of a sequestered road at times – so any excuse to interrupt that and bring people together is worth it I think.

(If you are a New Yorker cartoonist and want further info on the showing, please contact me).

__________________________________________________________________________________

Meet The Artist : Mischa Richter

This is the second in a series of New Yorker artist’s self portraits included in the 1943 catalog, Meet The Artist

Here’s Mr. Richter’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Mischa Richter (photo courtesy of Sarah Geraghty Herndon). Born, Kharkov, Russia, 1910. Died, March 23, 2001. New Yorker work: January 10, 1942 – January 20, 2003 ; Key books: This One’s On Me! (McGraw-Hill, 1945) , The Cartoonist’s Muse, co-authored by Harald Bakken (Contemporary Books, 1992). )

 

________________________________________________________________________

David Remnick On Harold Ross And William Shawn

If you, like me, never got around to picking up a copy of The New Yorker‘s 2016  anthology The 50s: The Story Of A Decade (Random House), you probably missed New Yorker editor David Remnick’s Introduction.  Lithub has the intro here.

Here’s a sample, with Mr. Remnick talking about the Shawn style of editing the magazine vs Ross’s.

“…Shawn assumed for himself far more authority than Ross, who was prepared to delegate a greater amount to his various deputies, or “Jesuses.” Shawn was also quiet, subtle, secretive, elliptical, and, to some, quite strange. He was a variety of genius who enjoyed funny writing as well as serious fiction, supported completely the individual artists and writers on a profoundly variegated staff, and expressed his myriad curiosities about the world by sending writers out to explore its many corners.” 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue Of September 30, 2019

The Cover: Christoph Niemann returns for the Technology Issue.  Read Francoise Mouly’s Q&A with him about his cover.

The Cartoonists & Cartoons:

Electronically flipping through this new issue (appropriately enough for the Technology Issue) I was happy that the cartoons just kept-a-comin’; there are seventeen of them to be exact. All of them are placed well (i.e., they have plenty of breathing room, and sit well on the page).

Here are random thoughts about some of the cartoons in the new issue…

Joe Dator’s laundromat drawing (page 50): When asked why The New Yorker didn’t run color cartoons*, The New Yorker‘s founder and first editor, Harold Ross reportedly said, “What’s so funny about red?”  What he didn’t say was,“What’s so funny about beet red?”  Mr. Dators’ drawing, incorporating beet red, is hilarious.

I hovered over Victoria Roberts’ campers and bear drawing (p.46), enjoying the drawing itself. We’re used to seeing many of Ms. Roberts drawings set indoors — it’s fun to see her drawing of a tent, and a bear (or a man in a bear suit).

Jason Patterson’s ice cream trucks heading south for the winter  (p. 25) is also fun to linger on. Its concept seems out of the Jack Ziegler school of zany.  Such a good drawing.

Also of note, graphically, and otherwise-ly: Ellie Black’s little red riding hood drawing (p.78)…and Maggie Mull’s Beautiful Mind-ish drawing on page 70; nice to see it stretched out on the page.

Shannon Wheeler’s broccoli opera drawing on page 77.  Its execution is reminiscent of some of William Steig’s middle period work (check out Steig’s 1942 collection, The Lonely Ones).

And of note in a different department: the magazine’s assistant cartoon editor, Colin Stokes’ Shouts & Murmurs piece,“Running With Scissors” (p.33).

The Rea Irvin Talk Masthead Watch: Mr. Irvin’s classic masthead drawing (below) has yet to return.  Hope springs eternal here on The Spill. Read about it here.

___________________________________________________________________________

*There were two color cartoons in Ross’s era, very early on in the magazine’s life; both appeared in the issue of December 12, 1925. A full page by Ralph Barton, and a double page spread by Rea Irvin. Mr. Barton did not use red in his drawing, Mr. Irvin did.

 

 

Who, Darrow?

Lately, while rummaging around through my own New Yorker history, I’ve spent a lot of time re-reading what other contributors had to say about the transitional period of Shawn to Gottlieb to Brown to Remnick. There were a number of books,  all published in the late 1990s, early 2000s: Renata Adler’s Gone, Lillian Ross’s Here But Not Here, Ved Mehta’s Remembering Mr. Shawn, John Seabrook’s Nobrow, E.J. Kahn’s Year Of Change. It was the E.J. Kahn book that got me looking over the rest of the Kahn books here at Spill headquarters. 

I ended up going much further away from the late 1990s, back to The Harold Ross years, to 1949, when Who, Me? was published (it’s a collection of Mr, Kahn’s New Yorker pieces).  Either I knew who the cover artist was whenever I bought the book, and forgot — or I never knew.  Either way, it was a pleasant surprise seeing the signature “Darrow” way down at the bottom. At first, I wasn’t positive it was Whitney Darrow, Jr. , the New Yorker artist — the signature was very close, but not exactly as he signed his work at the time.

The inside flap confirmed it: 

Jacket Design by Whitney Darrow, Jr.

 

Here’s what the inside cover looks like:

All very un-Darrow like. Here’s what Mr. Darrow’s New Yorker work looked like the year Who, Me? was published.  The drawing below appeared in the issue of July 2, 1949.

Note:  Mr. Kahn began contributing to The New Yorker in 1932. Mr. Darrow in 1933.  Below is Mr. Darrow’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Whitney Darrow, Jr. (photo above) Born August 22, 1909, Princeton, NJ. Died August, 1999, Burlington, Vermont. New Yorker work: 1933 -1982. Quote (Darrow writing of himself in the third person): …in 1931 he moved to New York City, undecided between law school and doing cartoons as a profession. The fact that the [New Yorker’s] magazine offices were only a few blocks away decided him…” (Quote from catalogue, Meet the Artist, 1943)