Firsts: Thurber’s First New Yorker Drawings

When you think of James Thurber’s drawings you probably think of one or two or three of his classics.  But before any of his cartoons appeared in the magazine (his first cartoon appeared in the issue of January 31, 1931), he illustrated and wrote something he called Our Pet Department.  It was, from the very first, intended to be a series; the first installment (shown above) appeared in the magazine’s fifth anniversary issue, February 22, 1930.  What’s fascinating (to me) is that the piece contains two elements that would go on to be forever associated with Thurber’s art: a dog, and a seal. 

It’s unclear when the two camps formed over whether Thurber’s art was or wasn’t art. Was it when the illustrations began appearing, or was it nearly a year later when the cartoons started turning up. Thurber’s simple line certainly wasn’t a shock. A trio of single line artists were already established at the magazine by the time Thurber’s first drawings appeared: Gardner Rea, Otto Soglow, and Gluyas Williams.  But it appeared that no little effort went into their finished pieces.

Thurber’s drawings seemed as casual as the effort he claimed to have put into them; their initial appearances in the New Yorker seemed to have dropped like graphic boulders in a placid pond. Thurber’s New Yorker colleague Wolcott Gibbs wrote (this from the Book-of-the-Month Club News, February, 1945):

“…for a good many years [Thurber’s drawings] were regarded by the rest of the staff, with the exception of E.B. White, as a hell of a way to waste good copy paper, since his usual output at a sitting was twenty or more, not to mention those he drew on the walls.”   

 New Yorker history books tell us that White was instrumental in bringing Thurber’s art to the world’s attention.  In 1962, a year after Thurber’s death, White told Thurber biographer, Harrison Kinney that “I think his art surpasses his writing” and “his drawing has a touch of genius.”

 

 

 

 

  

The Monday Tilley Watch: the New Yorker Issue of July 23, 2018

Back to a single issue, but not for long. Just one more single week issue before we have another double: dated August 6 & 13. Ah summertime.

This is the first issue of The New Yorker in 23 years without Tom Bachtell’s Talk of The Town illustrations. The illustrations are handled this week by Joao Fazenda. His work, at least going by the illustrations in this issue, seem in the vicinity of the school of Bachtell.  Otto Soglow’s terrific drawings remain, as they have for quite some time, sort of alternating between the modern contributor’s work.

From the Dept. of Just Sayin’ :

18  illustrations this week. Three of those full page, and an additional illustration that is a page-and-a-half.

14 cartoons, none full page.

The Cartoons:

Good sizing/placement of the cartoons this week, with just one drawing that, to my eyes, could’ve used a bit more breathing room (i.e., run larger): Ed Steed’s very nice bees in cars cartoon. Perhaps it reads better in the print version (I’m seeing the digital issue, both on a laptop and a tablet).

Of note in the issue: a Glen Baxter drawing! Even better: it’s a Glen Baxter cowboy drawing! If the Spill gave out best of the issue awards like the fellas do over on Cartoon Companion, Mr. Baxter’s would be pinned with a ribbon.

Irvin Talk Update: 

Rea Irvin’s iconic masthead for The Talk of The Town is still missing (a re-drawn version replaced it. Yes, a re-drawn version.  Read about that here). This is what the original looks like:

And that’s that, til next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Joke: Rea Irvin’s April 1947 Cover

The cover above has always been a favorite. The first time I came across it I thought I’d stumbled upon a printing error. But no, it’s yet another gift from Rea Irvin, cover artist, designer (as in his designs for the magazine’s masthead, as well as his adapted development of the typeface), cartoonist, “art supervisor” (his unofficial or official designation at the New Yorker). 

The rest of the issue is a lot of fun too. An Addams so-called “Addams Family” drawing (“We’ve had part of this floor finished off for Uncle Eimer”); a Richard Taylor strip that runs across the bottom of two pages; a half-page Hokinson “lunch club ladies” cartoon; a Sam Cobean shadow play drawing; a page and-a-half Steinberg spread under the heading “Berlin” and so much more (other cartoonists in the issue: Otto Soglow, Alan Dunn, Barney Tobey, Robert Day, Whitney Darrow, Jr., Alain, and Leonard Dove). Typical of the era, the cartoons dominated the pages, as if the text was secondary to the art.

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of February 26, 2018

Always glad to return to weekly issues of the magazine after doubles. This new issue sports a cover that seems like the sum of the equation: Olympics + North Korea =.

  Here’s what cover artist Mark Ulriksen had to say about it on newyorker.com

The Olympics + North Korea equation continues with the very first spot drawing appearing on the opening page of The Talk of The Town. And, as long as we’re mentioning that page,  let’s get this out of the way: Rea Irvin’s classic Talk masthead is still a-missin’.  Here’s what it looks like:

Could be wrong, but it seems like there are slightly more Otto Soglow spot drawings scattered throughout Talk than usual (along with Tom Bachtell’s always top-notch drawings). 

Doesn’t take long to get to the first cartoon of the issue (it’s on page 18). P.C. Vey delivers a very P.C. Vey-like piece of work (that’s always a good thing).  Love the little fish Mr. Vey has drawn, but wish it was still swimmin’. Five pages later Lars Kenseth takes us to the land of the pitchman. Funny drawing. Love how Mr. Kenseth uses the language. I did something in that vein a long time back — in the New Yorker, April 6, 1981, to be exact.  I remember it being a ton-o-fun playing with the structure of the television pitch. 

On the very next page one of my favorite subjects: the old west (or possibly it’s a cowboy and his horse in the contemporary west).  Zach Kanin’s coffee-drinking horse is well drawn.  I wish the cowboy’s face was easier to see on the digital edition — this is where print (might) come in handy. 

Nine pages later, a well-placed-on-the-page Frank Cotham cartoon. Cartoonists usually love to show gangsters about to toss a guy off a pier.  Mr. Cotham gives us a prequel. Nice.

Four pages later Roz Chast with an at-home Olympics moment.  A very Chastian drawing any which way you look at it. Another four pages brings us to the second-ever New Yorker drawing (unless I’m mistaken) by Olivia de Recat.  Similar to her first in that it’s mostly text. This one is approximately 97% text (handwritten text).  Her first was perhaps 91% text.  Though we don’t see them as much as we used to, the aforementioned Ms. Chast has done a number of text-driven (to use a Tina Brown era term) drawings over the years. Without doing research (unforgivable, I know!) I’m going out on a limb by suggesting Ms. Chast may have pioneered this particular form of New Yorker cartoon. If anyone wants to shoot that down, please contact me.

Five pages later, Maddie Dai weighs in on a fellow’s mid-life crisis times two.  His motorcycle (which lacks a gas tank — maybe it’s one of those new electric bikes) has at least one (unintentional?) funny feature: the bike’s training wheels are attached to the hub of the rear wheel.  If this cartoon bike was a real bike the training wheels would spin around with the tire, complicating things even further for the crisis guy.  No matter — it’s a nice drawing. 

On the very next page, a debut New Yorker cartoon by Navied Mahdavian*, that answers the oft-asked question, “What did we do before the internet?” Funny drawing.

Four pages later, veteran cartoonist, Mick Stevens gives us death having just died.  Looking at Mr. Stevens’ drawing I asked myself if this fell into the double negative column.  If death dies, isn’t death then alive? Way too much of a headache-inducing thought for this cartoonist (me, not Mr. Stevens).

Eight pages later Sara Lautman takes us to a contemporary bar moment. Found myself studying the shelves and bottles of booze in the background.  There’s a Robert Weber-ish looseness to that area.

Seven pages later a Bruce Eric Kaplan gem of a caption.  And on the very next page, the last drawing of the issue (not counting those on the Caption Contest page).  Liana Finck gives us a bird chase. Not sure what the surface is that they are on — is it pavement with a sidewalk in the rear?  It probably doesn’t matter.  The big bird — the one that’s chasing the little bird —  has an expression indicating confidence she/he will succeed, despite the lack of arms. 

*For those keeping track, Navied Mahdavian is the thirteenth new cartoonist introduced under the magazine’s current cartoon editor, Emma Allen, since she was appointed in May of 2017, and the second newbie introduced so far in 2018.

— See you next Monday

 

 

Revisiting: The New Yorker 75th Anniversary Cartoon Collection

If you liked the cover of the New Yorker‘s very first Cartoon Issue (published in 1997) you might like the cover of The New Yorker 75th Anniversary Cartoon Collection (published in 2000).  Why? Because all of the cartoon grabs on the 75th Collection cover were on the cover of the Cartoon Issue. Now that’s not a bad thing; any cover with Thurber, Hokinson, Steig, Peter Arno, Barsotti, Gross, George Price, Gluyas Williams, Booth, and Leo Cullum, to name but a few, cannot possibly be a bad thing. I do remember being surprised, when first seeing the 75th Collection cover that these same drawings were recycled.

What was not on the Cartoon Issue cover but on the Anniversary Collection cover is one of Mike Witte‘s takes on Eustace Tilley (there’s another on the back cover).  Mr. Witte had become the go-to illustrator/cartoonist for updated Tilleys, with his work appearing on those numerous small New Yorker Book of __ (Cat, Dog, Doctor, etc., etc) Cartoons collections. 

Here’s the Cartoon Issue if you wish to hunt down the images appearing on both covers:

But back to the 75th Anniversary cover.  Strange, I know, but it has always reminded me somewhat of the package design for Stella D’oro cookies.

 

 Inside the collection (the cartoon collection, not the cookie collection) is an odd dedication. Odd in that it is a dedication from the magazine to the magazine itself: To the constant commitment of The New Yorker to this ridiculous and sublime art form.  That’s followed by a jokey Introduction, after which we finally get to the meat & potatoes.  Once to the cartoons, you’ll find they appear on “good” paper so you can enjoy the work without seeing a shadow of the cartoon on the following page. I’ve always been grateful that there is an Index provided as there is no chronological order to the work (there’s a Ziegler on page 2 and a Thurber on page 275). Though all the New Yorker albums shape history to some degree by including more or less of certain artists, in this volume the unbalance is noticeable. Or maybe not so noticeable if this was the first collection you ever picked up.  What I mean is this: for an anthology covering 75 years, a number of the most published cartoonists are represented by just one or two cartoons.  Examples:

Otto Soglow (published over 800 times): 1  cartoon

Carl Rose (over 500 times): 1

Perry Barlow (approx. 1,400 times): 1 cartoon

Alan Dunn, one of the most prolific New Yorker cartoonists of all time (close to 2,000 cartoons published): 2 cartoons

 In just four years, we would have the mother of all New Yorker collections: The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker.  Its Index shows a re-balance with all of the above cartoonists mentioned appearing far more than once or twice (in a closing aside, I should mention that this year we will apparently see the mother of the mother of all New Yorker collections, The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons, which somehow includes 4,000 cartoons (for comparison, The 75th Anniversary Collection has 707 cartoons).