Helen Hokinson’s Silent Partner: James Reid Parker; Attempted Bloggery: Peter Arno Uncovered

While reading James Reid Parker’s brief New York Times obit, (published January 31, 1984) I was anticipating at least a mention of his work with one of The New Yorker‘s earliest superstars, Helen Hokinson. In the magazine’s first decades, according to an in-house memo, Ms. Hokinson, along with Peter Arno, was in a special category above all other contributing artists. As you can see for yourself below, the Times obit does mention Mr. Parker’s “humorous pieces and light sketches” he contributed to the magazine, but not a word about his eighteen year sideline as a writer for Ms. Hokinson.  And that’s a shame. 

There’s not a mountain of material to sift through regarding the Hokinson-Reid working relationship, but what we do have allows us a feel for how their collaboration worked.  The best reading is found in Reid’s “memoir” included in the Hokinson collection, The Ladies God Bless ’em! published a year after Hokinson was killed in a spectacular plane crash over the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. 

Mr. Parker fills us in on how he met Hokinson, and how it came to be that he became her main supplier of ideas (The New Yorker sometimes passed along an idea they felt was right for her — a practice begun in 1925, the year she joined the magazine’s brand new stable).  A mutual friend made the introduction; it was during that first meeting that ordinary conversation occasioned a spark.  Here’s Parker talking about the moment:

I happened to mention that in a story on which I was working there were two suburban matrons who talked, it seemed to me, the way some of her women might. Miss Hokinson asked what sort of things I was having them say, and I quoted a few lines of dialogue. She stopped twisting her handkerchief.  With a sigh she remarked that one of the lines in particular would have made a good caption for a drawing and that the situation was exactly the kind of thing she liked to do. I told her to go right ahead because my women could just as easily be saying something else.

About a week later, The New Yorker bought the Hokinson drawing using Parker’s idea. In a year’s time they had officially set aside all of every Friday to look at each other’s work with an eye to finding “acceptable” material.  An interesting revelation by Parker is that in 1933 he “devised” Hokinson’s women’s lunch club scenario. 

Below: a Hokinson women’s lunch club New Yorker drawing, published April 24, 1948

When the relationship between cartoonist and idea person works well, the seams don’t show — the reader believes they’re visiting a singular world (ala Jack Ziegler or Steinberg — neither of whom used outside ideas). The seams never showed in Hokinson’s drawings; looking through her work you won’t see an awkward fit. Some of the best New Yorker artists have done wonders with some outside help (Addams, Hoff, George Price, to name a few) but the Hokinson/Parker relationship was different in that she was fully dependent on provided ideas (George Price is the only other New Yorker artist known to completely rely on provided ideas).*  More than that, Parker was much involved in Hokinson’s world. In their first year of collaborating they went to dinner and then the theater once or twice a week (in his memoir he describes how much fun it was being with her on outings in Manhattan, watching her draw, sharing  her joy in discovering wondrous New York City things). When Hokinson moved up to Connecticut, Parker eventually rented a place close by her home. 

Parker on the scene there:

Thereafter Helen’s guests and mine mingled amicably, often joining forces for picnic lunches, and whenever it was necessary Helen and I could confer about a drawing on very short notice.

It’s not clear how many of Ms. Hokinson’s roughly 1,800 New Yorker drawings were the product of working with Parker, but no matter. We have a great body of work they had a grand time finding acceptable — maybe that’s plenty enough.

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*Ms. Hokinson’s  New Yorker cover ideas were her own. George Price had one New Yorker cover — it was his own idea.  

For further reading on Ms. Hokinson the place to go is Liza Donnelly’s Funny Ladies: The New Yorker’s Greatest Women Cartoons and Their Cartoons (Prometheus, 2005)

You’ll have to find a copy of Hokinson’s Ladies God Bless ’em! for James Reid Parker’s nine page Hokinson “memoir” (It can be had for a buck on AbeBooks.com). You can also find it at the end of  The Hokinson Festival  (Dutton, 1956). The bonus in that anthology: some of Hokinson’s New Yorker covers are reproduced in color. 

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Attempted Bloggery: Peter Arno Uncovered

Attempted Bloggery discusses the 1931 Arno collection, covered and not.  Read here!

Above left: an early version (or “rough”) of a New Yorker drawing in the book. “I want you to meet my bosom friend”  appeared in The New Yorker issue of October 10, 1931.

 

 

 

 

 

George Booth’s New Yorker Golden Anniversary!

Let us raise our cartoon glasses and toast to the great New Yorker artist, George Booth. His very first New Yorker drawing appeared in the issue dated this day in 1969. His most recent drawing appeared in the magazine’s issue of June 10, 2019. My math tells me that he has now been contributing to The New Yorker for half a century.

I’ve always felt that Mr. Booth’s arrival at The New Yorker  was part of a transitional moment for the magazine’s art, helping it move from its mid-1950s Eisenhower-ish slumber to the excitement right around the bend in the late 1960s and 1970s. In the decade Mr. Booth’s work appeared, The New Yorker had lost two of its giants: James Thurber in 1961, and Peter Arno in 1968. Tremendous losses, but also a decade of tremendous gain for the magazine when the art editor, James Geraghty brought in a number of artists who would also become giants in their field: Edward Koren in 1964, Charles Barsotti, Sam Gross, and George Booth in 1969.  How fortunate we are that three of these artists continue showering us with their work right up to today (Charles Barsotti passed away five years ago this week).

By the time I was making a serious effort to get into The New Yorker in the mid 1970s (my work rejected a mountain of times by Mr. Geraghty), Booth, Koren, Barsotti and Gross had already been added to the New Yorker’s  Mt. Rushmore of cartoonists; their work impossibly inspiring. I felt (and still feel) about Booth’s drawings as I felt about work by Thurber and Hokinson and Steig and Saxon, and Peter Arno and Steinberg (and many more): it cannot get any better than this

(above: A Booth New Yorker cartoon from the issue of March 25, 1991)

As with so many, if not all of the New Yorker great artists, there is an education for aspiring cartoonists, and published cartoonists as well, in every single one of their drawings. Even this morning looking through Booth’s work, I find my electrical cartoon current even buzzier than usual. There’s beauty and excitement in Booth’s art, and of course, there’s that signature Boothian barrel of fun.

For those wanting more of his work, Omnibooth is a great place to dive in.  Find Lee Lorenz’s The Essential George Booth (Workman Publishing Company, 1998) and you’ll be treated to a mini-bio of Booth as well as samples of pre-New Yorker work. There is also his classic 1975 collection, Think Good Thoughts About A Pussycat (Dodd, Mead & Co.).

And very luckily for us all, Nathan Fitch’s documentary film on Booth, Drawing Life  is well on its way.

I  leave you with a small sample of Mr. Booth’s cover work, and with hearty applause for George Booth — a fine person, and an exceptional artist.

 

Note: Here’s what Fred Taraba of Taraba Illustration Art had to say about the Skittish Dog drawing shown at the head of this post: Not published, rather a version of one of Booth’s most recognized cartoons. The published version appeared in The New Yorker on August 15th, 1977. A third version appears in the book, Omnibooth: The Best of George Booth.

 

 

The Tilley Watch Online, Newyorker.com’s Daily Cartoons, February 4-8, 2019; Post-Auction Hokinsons On Attempted Bloggery; A Charles Saxon Shout-Out

This week’s Daily cartoons — close to 100% Trumpian — were contributed by Jason Adam Katzenstein, Michael Shaw, Peter Kuper, Barry Blitt, and Christopher Weyant.

New Yorker cartoonists contributing to Daily Shouts: Ed Steed, Tim Hamilton, Roz Chast, and Emily Flake.

See all of the above and more here on newyorker.com

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Post-Auction Hokinsons on Attempted Bloggery

Published January 1944 in The New Yorker

Attempted Bloggery has been taking a look at a small crop of Helen Hokinson drawings recently up-for-auction. You should take a look too!

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A Charles Saxon Shout-Out

A Charles Saxon cartoon anthology from 1977

It’s always a treat to see one cartoonist say nice things about another. Here’s Bill Abbott on Facebook talking about the late very great Charles Saxon.*

* Mr. Abbott suggests in his shout out that Saxon “never actually wrote any of his own material” — I believe he’s thinking of George Price, who is the only New Yorker cartoonist, other than Helen Hokinson, who relied solely on provided ideas.

And here’s Charles Saxon’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Charles Saxon Born in Brooklyn, Nov 13, 1920, died in Stamford, Conn., Dec 6, 1988. NYer work: 1943 – 1991 (2 drawings published posthumously). Key collection: One Man’s Fancy ( Dodd, Mead, 1977).

Bonus! Here’s a link to a fun Saxon photo I’d not seen until this morning.


Black Friday Reading; Black Friday New Yorker Cartoon Slideshow; Video Of Interest: Edward Koren

Black Friday Reading

Still recovering from yesterday (or not) you might want to settle in with the latest post on the wonderful blog, A New Yorker State of Mind: Reading Every Issue of The New Yorker Magazine. This installment covers the issue (shown above) dated November 9, 1929. Also shown: a coffee ad from the issue by the one-and-only Helen Hokinson. 

The cover of the Nov 9 ’29 issue is by Theodore G. Haupt, who contributed 44 terrific covers to The New Yorker.  His debut on the cover of the issue of September 3, 1927 was immediately followed by an appearance as the cover artist for the September 10th issue. I’m not sure if this feat  — a debut immediately followed by another cover appearance — was ever matched by another cover artist (someone please let me know if it was). His last cover appearance was January 21, 1933. Here’s the Wikipedia entry for Mr. Haupt.

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Black Friday New Yorker Cartoon Slideshow

Colin Stokes, the New Yorker‘s assistant cartoon editor has posted a slideshow of 15 Black Friday-related cartoons. See them here.

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Video Of Interest:  Edward Koren

Here’s a video of interest  I ran across yesterday. From 2010, recorded at the Luise Ross Gallery in NYC.

…and here’s a recent article  from VtDigger, “Vermont cartoonist Ed Koren ventures ‘In The Wild'”.

Below: Mr. Koren’s latest collection of cartoons.

 

The New Yorker Encyclopedia Of Cartoons: Gender Studies

Above: two pages of the Index from Volume 1 of The New Yorker Encyclopedia Of Cartoons

In his Foreword to The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons, the magazine’s editor, David Remnick has this to say about gender equality in the ranks of New Yorker cartoonists:

Any cartoon compilation that draws from these archives makes it clear what a male preserve it was. 

And indeed, this encyclopedia reflects that in numbers of cartoons included by women. Of the advertised 3000 cartoons, 142 are by the 19 women represented. Simple math tells us that the remaining 2,858 cartoons are by men.  If you take Roz Chast’s 54 cartoons out of the 142, you’re left with 88 cartoons by 18 women. I emphasize again, as I did in the previous post about the encyclopedia, that this two volume set is not presented as an all-encompassing anthology representing the magazine’s past 93 years; there’s no expectation of some kind of balanced inclusion based on numbers of cartoons the artists contributed.  That isn’t what this encyclopedia is.

And yet, I did find myself hoping for more work by two major female contributors, Helen Hokinson and Barbara Shermund. They have a combined total of 6 cartoons in the encyclopedia. Ms. Shermund’s work appeared in The New Yorker just over 600 times (including 8 covers). I believe, if my numbers are correct she is the third most published female cartoonist in the magazine’s history. She is represented by 1 cartoon in the encyclopedia. Ms. Hokinson is in the top ten of the Spill‘s 23 member K Club (the group of cartoonists who have 1000 or more cartoons published in the New Yorker).  She is in fact, the most published female New Yorker artist in the magazine’s history with 1,796 cartoons and 68 covers. She is represented by 5 cartoons.