Celebrating Sam Gross’s 50th New Yorker Anniversary

The most recent Sam Gross cartoon in The New Yorker appeared August 5th, 2019.  Mr. Gross’s very first New Yorker cartoon appeared August 23, 1969. Do the math and you’ll find we are in the year, month, and exact day of Mr. Gross’s New Yorker golden anniversary. With today being the date of publication of his debut New Yorker cartoon, I thought I’d check in with Mr. Gross and ask him about that very first sale to the magazine. My call caught him during his morning exercise routine, but he was gracious enough to pause and chat with me for a few minutes.

When I asked him if he recalled the moment when he learned he’d sold to the magazine, he replied, as I knew he would, “Of course I do.” I haven’t met a cartoonist yet who doesn’t remember their first OK (“OK” is New Yorker cartoon lingo for a sold cartoon); in this cartoon world, that moment is a life-changer.  Before telling me of his first OK, he said that he’d actually been selling ideas to The New Yorker for Charles Addams since about 1963. He also sold an idea for Otto Soglow, of Little King fame, but mostly the ideas were for Addams.

And now the story:

It begins with a lunch that included the renowned French artist J.J. Sempe. Mr. Sempe, not yet a New Yorker contributor, had come to town to do a piece on behalf of L’Express.  While in the city, Mr. Sempe was asked to lunch with James Geraghty, then The New Yorker‘s art editor. Mr. Geraghty was interested in having Mr. Sempe submit work to The New Yorker. Originally, Mr. Geraghty’s art assistant, Barbara Nicholls, was to accompany them to lunch as the interpreter, but she had to cancel. In her stead Mr. Geraghty asked the multi-lingual cartoonist Peter Porges to come along. Mr. Porges told Mr. Geraghty he would only go if his friend, Mr. Gross could accompany him.

And so, at lunch, Mr. Gross found himself seated to the left of Mr. Geraghty. Mr. Geraghty asked Mr. Porges to ask Sempe if he would submit work to The New Yorker.  Sempe, through Mr. Porges, replied “he says he’s too busy — has too much work to do.”  Mr. Geraghty then asked Mr. Porges to ask Sempe “if he would consider submitting rejects.”  To which Sempe replied, through Mr. Porges, “What are rejects.”

Shortly, after sipping some wine, Mr. Geraghty leaned over to Mr. Gross (also drinking wine) and said, “Instead of buying the idea [of a recent submission by Mr. Gross] we’re going to buy the whole drawing.” And Mr. Gross replied, “That’s great, thanks.”  Mr. Gross went on to say, “And then, after Geraghty had had another glass of wine, and I had had another glass of wine, he leaned over and said, ‘Oh, and we’re going to buy another one too.'” 

Above: The first Sam Gross New Yorker cartoon

Mr. Gross had heard from Mr. Porges that Mr. Geraghty would “drive cartoonists crazy” with editorial changes to cartoons. Back at the New Yorker’s art department following lunch, Mr. Geraghty handed Mr. Gross the rough drawings of the two bought cartoons [most cartoonists submit “rough” drawings.  If bought, the cartoonist will then do a “finish” — the drawing that will be published].  Mr. Gross tells us what happened next:

“So with that particular drawing [the first published cartoon], he gave me the drawing, and I stood there with it, and said,I’m not going, Mr. Geraghty until you specifically tell me what you want in the drawing.’ So he said, ‘put the kid here, dispense with the awning’ and he was very specific on what I had to do.  Afterwards, with all the other drawings I sold, I never had any problem with him. Every time I sold something he told me exactly what he wanted.” 

I said to Mr. Gross, “That’s a big deal, selling two your first time.” to which Mr. Gross replied, “I can credit the wine for it.”

So here’s to one of The New Yorker‘s cartoon giants. It is quite a feat to sell just one drawing to The New Yorker.  To continue on for fifty years (and counting) is another kind of feat. Mr. Gross is one of a select group of cartoonists with a thumbprint style — i.e., no one else has drawn like him, and he draws like no one else (true, as well, of George Booth, also celebrating his New Yorker golden anniversary this year). Feeling in a oh-what-the-hell Grossian spirit, I’ll say too that no other cartoonist even comes close to thinking like him.

 

Further reading:

For an extended interview with Mr. Gross I highly recommend Richard Gehr’s I Only Read It For The Cartoons, published in 2014, by New Harvest. Mr. Gross is one of a dozen New Yorker cartoonists interviewed.

If you want to listen to Sam Gross being interviewed, there’s this wonderful podcast from Gil Roth’s Virtual Memories Show.

All of Mr. Gross’s cartoon anthologies are must-haves in any cartoon library.  A quartet of them are shown:

An Elephant Is Soft And Mushy (Dodd, Mead & Co. , 1980)

More Gross (Congdon & Weed, 1982)

I Am Blind And My Dog Is Dead (Dodd, Mead & Co., 1977.  Reissued by Harry N. Abrams, 2007)

No More Mr. Nice Guy (Perigee, 1987)

 

 

 

Today’s Daily Cartoon & Daily Shouts Cartoonist; Recalling A New Yorker Giant: Charles Saxon

A Hamburglar cartoon by Farley Katz, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 2007. Mr. Katz has also contributed today’s Daily Shouts.

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Recalling A New Yorker Giant: Charles Saxon

Over this past weekend a number of visiting colleagues paused to look at a Charles Saxon original drawing that hangs on a wall here at Spill headquarters. The Saxon drawing is displayed because it amuses and inspires (the same goes for the several dozen others also on our walls by various New Yorker artists past and present; the earliest drawing, by Alice Harvey, was published October of 1925, the most recent, by Ed Steed, was published in April of 2019). Saxon’s drawings have long been considered a high bar by his peers — a reminder of how elegant (a word used by one of the visitors) cartoon art can be (I’ve always felt Thurber’s drawings to be another kind of high bar).

Looking closely at the originals in the Spill‘s archives, I see no under -drawing, no pencil marks. The work, in grease pencil(?), appears to be in the school of — as Edward Sorel would describe it — direct drawing.  The lines seem effortless, energetic, lovely, and of course, humorous; it’s an immediately identifiable style. As with so many of his contemporaries, including Robert Weber, Lee Lorenz, James Stevenson and Frank Modell, there’s a joy to the work.

Saxon’s world, both New Yorker covers and cartoons, published from the mid 1940s through the late 1980s, will forever be linked to Connecticut country club country, where he lived (Mr. Saxon, along with his colleague William Hamilton, had that upper-crusty world down). The New Yorker readership from that social strata apparently loved seeing themselves poked and prodded, just as they loved what Peter Arno had done with them and to them in the magazine’s earlier decades. 

Right: a Saxon New Yorker cover: effortless, energetic, humorous

I was fortunate enough to meet Saxon in February of 1986, when New Yorker cover artist Roxie Munro threw a small post-New Yorker anniversary party. Trudging downtown from the Pierre Hotel to Ms. Munro’s mid-town apartment on lower Park Avenue, I was one of the first to arrive. Walking into the living room I found a short man, in dark suit and tie, standing with his back against a living room wall. I introduced myself, not knowing who I was about to shake hands with. I had always imagined Saxon as quite tall — a powerhouse figure. In truth, he was perhaps a half-foot shorter than me. He was also remarkably soft spoken, and extremely polite. I’d always expected that he’d have one of those personalities that would roll right over me. It was quite a nice gift, to able to have perhaps fifteen minutes with this cartoon god, all to myself. 

 

Photo: Charles Saxon, center, with The New Yorker‘s Art Editor, James Geraghty at the magazine’s offices, 25 West 43rd Street, New York City, c.1960s.  Photo courtesy of Sarah Geraghty Herndon.

Book: Oh, happy, happy, happy!  The earliest Saxon collection, published in 1960 by Golden Press.

 

 

 

 

 

The Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue Of July 1, 2019; Talk Of Interest: Dana Fradon; Today’s Daily Cartoonist: David Sipress

The Cover: Summertime is very much here. I confess to being puzzled by the columns on this new cover but figured all would be revealed if I went to the now-standard Q&A with the cover artist (and all was). I guess I need to spend more time in Brooklyn. 

The Cartoonists

Last week I mentioned a collaborative cartoon effort; this week there are two sets: Pia Guerra & Ian Boothby, and, Seth Roberts & Brian Hawes. 3/4ths of the collaborators are making their cartoon-connected print debut (everyone but Pia Guerra, who has been contributing since 2017).  If we accept that each team contains at least one artist (i.e. someone had to draw the cartoon), then there is at least one new name to add to the newbie list. The addition of one new cartoonist from the group brings us to the 17th new cartoonist of the year (I’ll sort out who is who eventually).

But wait! Emily Bernstein is also making her debut in the print magazine, so just-like-that we’re now up to 18 new cartoonists added this year.  18 newbies this year, and 44 newbies in all under Emma Allen’s watch as cartoon editor (she began in May of 2017).

The Cartoons

 There are two kinds of cartoons that have always fascinated me. One is the drawing I linger over because I’m not at all enjoying that moment from the cartoonist’s world. The other kind is the drawing I linger over because I’m thoroughly enjoying that moment from the cartoonist’s world,  wanting to hang out with it, explore it, and learn from it. The best cartoons are shorthand graphic short stories. P.C. Vey‘s death on the beach drawing (p.18) is solidly the latter kind — a wonderful addition to the magazine’s archive of beach cartoons. It’s a drawing where everything works.

Also working is Liana Finck‘s one-two punch take on the devil and angel on one’s shoulders scenario (p. 24). I found myself studying the framework around the character — an unusual blending of box and body.

The Felipe Galindo drawing on page 70 is a fun twist on the lion tamer scenario crossed with the small but growing canon of cat scratch cartoons (a personal cat scratch favorite is this Mike Twohy classic from June 5, 1995). 

The Caption Contest Cartoonist: Liza Donnelly

Rea Irvin’s Talk Masthead

Still in storage: Mr. Irvin’s iconic Talk masthead design, replaced in Spring of 2017 by a redraw(!). Below is Mr. Irvin’s drawing for those who don’t know what they’re missing, and for those who do know what they’re missing.

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Talk Of Interest: Dana Fradon

A New Yorker Cartoonist Mt. Rushmore:  From left to right: Charles Saxon, Former New Yorker Art Editor, James Geraghty, Dana Fradon, and Whitney Darrow, Jr.. Westport, Connecticut, 1982. Courtesy of Mr. Geraghty’s daughter, Sarah Geraghty Herndon).

Mr. Fradon, the subject of a lengthy Spill piece in 2013, will speak this Fall at Western Connecticut State University.  Here’s a chance to see one of the cartoon gods of The New Yorker‘s golden era.  Everything you need to know about the event here.

Mr. Fradon’s entry on the A-Z:

 

Dana Fradon Born, Chicago, Illinois, 1922. Studied at the Art Institute of Chicago prior to service in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. Following his service, he attended the Art Students League of New York, New Yorker work: May 1, 1948 – . Collection: Insincerely Yours (Scribners, 1978).

 — My thanks to Warren Bernard for bringing Mr. Fradon’s event to the Spill’s attention.

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Today’s Daily Cartoonist/Cartoon

A Trump cartoon by David Sipress, who has been contributing to The New Yorker since 1998.

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 1962, 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 Wednesday Watch: Happy 96th, Dana Fradon!; Profile of Interest: George Booth; A Syd Hoff Selection; Hugette Martell in NY Review of Books; Chatfield Chats About Trump

Happy 96th Dana Fradon!

 Very best birthday wishes to Mr. Fradon, our senior New Yorker cartoonist. 

Above, a powerhouse quartet: three New Yorker cartoonists and their editor. Left to right: Charles Saxon, James Geraghty (the New Yorker‘s Art Editor from 1939 – 1973), Dana Fradon, and Whitney Darrow, Jr.  Westport, September, 1982. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Geraghty Herndon).

Mr. Fradon’s entry on the A-Z:

Dana Fradon  Born, Chicago, Illinois, 1922. Studied at the Art Institute of Chicago prior to service in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. Following his service, he attended the Art Students League of New York, NYer work: May 1, 1948 – . Collection: Insincerely Yours (Scribners, 1978) To read Ink Spill’s 2013 interview with Mr. Fradon, “Harold Ross’s Last Cartoonist” link here.

— many thanks to David Pomerantz for bringing Mr. Fradon’s birthday to our  attention

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Profile: George Booth

From The Wall Street Journal, “Cartoonist George Booth and His Pet Projects” — this piece on one of the New Yorker‘s Cartoon Gods.

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Dick Buchanan (via Mike Lynch) on Syd Hoff

Dick Buchanan continues to provide us with cartoon clippings (via Mike Lynch’s blog).  This week he’s selected a bundle of work by Syd Hoff.  See it all here. (above: Hoff in True, July 1947)

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Of Interest: Growing Up In Wartime France by Huguette Martel

From the New York Review of Books, “Growing Up in Wartime France”  by Huguette Martel, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 1990. 

For more on Ms. Martell see Liza Donnelly’s Funny Ladies: The New Yorker’s Greatest Women Cartoonists and Their Cartoons; to see some of Ms. Martel’s New Yorker work go here.

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Audio: Jason Chatfield on Caricaturing Trump

From abc.net, May 8, 2018,  “Aussie New Yorker cartoonist Jason Chatfield on caricaturing Trump”  — this short audio clip. Mr. Chatfield began contributing to The New Yorker in July of last year. Visit his website here: https://www.jasonchatfield.com/