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.

 

 

 

 

 

Esquire Lets Cartoon Editor Go; A New Yorker State Of Mind Two-Fer With Soglow, Arno, Thurber & More; Today’s Daily Cartoonist: Kendra Allenby

Heads Roll At Esquire: Cartoon Editor Let Go

From The New York Post, June 6, 2019, “Esquire Magazine Faces Turmoil Amid Masthead Exodus” — among those let go: the magazine’s cartoon and humor editor.

 

 

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A New Yorker State Of Mind Two-Fer

A favorite blog looks at the two issues shown above. Peter Arno did the cover on the left; Constantin Alajalov did the cover on the right.  This particular post is chock full of cartoon related material (Ottos Soglow, Thurber, Reginald Marsh…), so dive in!

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Cartoonist/Cartoon Of The Day

Kendra Allenby, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 2016, reflects on summer jobs. 

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.

 

 

Peter Arno’s Nakedly Serious Drawing; The Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue of June 3, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above drawing by Peter Arno that appeared in The New Yorker in the issue of October 7, 1939 was a significant departure for an artist who is mostly remembered for his drawings of cafe society types.  As I wrote in Arno’s biography, “Though Arno’s drawings would revisit the subject of war in the coming years, his work would never again be so nakedly serious.”

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The Cover: Barry Blitt’s shoe shine cover, addressed here last week, has made media waves.  I’m re-posting a link to the brief piece wherein Mr. Blitt talks about his cover.

The Cartoonists:

Record Keeping: 14 of the 21 issues of The New Yorker published thus far this year have contained a debut drawing. This week Johnny DiNapoli enters the stable of artists. The record for new cartoonists was 2016, when 15 were brought in. As we’re still in May, that record will no doubt fall. Mr. DiNapoli is the 40th new cartoonist to debut since Emma Allen became cartoon editor in May of 2017. 

For those who like numbers it’s interesting to recognize the remarkable increase in the number of cartoonists in the magazine’s stable. During Lee Lorenz’s 24 year tenure (1973 – 1997) as Art/Cartoon editor he brought in approximately 50 new cartoonists (or roughly 2 a year).  His successor (1997-April of 2017) brought in approximately 130 in 20 years (or approximately 6-7 a year). The current pace (40 cartoonists in 2 years) means the average has leaped to 20 new cartoonists a year.

Still Missing: Rea Irvin’s classic Talk masthead (below) was removed in the Spring of 2017. Read about it here.

 

The Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue Of May 20, 2019; Today’s Daily Cartoonist: Joe Dator

The Cover: It’s the Innovators Issue, hence the use of some headings floating in yellow-orangey color fields, like so:

 

  Let’s hope these color fields aren’t permanent innovations.

On the cover: robots by Tom Gauld.  Read what he has to say about his work here. The cover reminded me ever-so-slightly of Peter Arno’s meeting-of-the-dogs cover from the ancient times. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cartoonists:

The Cartoons:  Another week with a cartoonist making their print debut (11 out of 19 issues thus far in 2019).  Kasia Babis is the 11th new cartoonist brought into the magazine’s stable this year, and the 37th cartoonist brought in by Emma Allen since she took the cartoon editor reins in May of 2017.

If the Spill handed out blue ribbons like the now dormant Cartoon Companion once did, I’d pin one on Sam Gross’s snail mail cartoon in the issue (p.30).

Rea Irvin:  A fun innovation this issue would’ve been bringing back something in the magazine that never should’ve gone away: Rea Irvin’s classic Talk masthead. But not this week. Anyway, it appears below in its usual Monday Spill spot.  Read about it here.

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Today’s Daily Cartoonist/Cartoon

Joe Dator on  fiction and/or/or not fiction.  Visit his website here.

Mr. Dator began contributing to The New Yorker in 2006. 

Note: Mr. Dator, along with several other New Yorker cartoonists (Lars Kenseth and Mort Gerberg among them) will be appearing at this week’s National Cartoonists Society Fest in California. The Daily Cartoonist has all the info here.