The Tilley Watch Online: July 9-13, 2018; Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

This week’s Daily Cartoon: Trump 3, World Cup 1.  The contributing New Yorker cartoonists were Jon Adams, David Sipress, Brendan Loper, and Darrin Bell

And over on Daily Shouts, the contributing New Yorker cartoonists were : Liana Finck, Jeremy Nguyen (with Annelise Capossela), Farley Katz (with Kathryn Doyle), Olivia de Recat, and Mick Stevens

You can see all of the above, and more here.

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Wouldn’t It Be Nice?

Here’s an interesting title I happened across this morning while searching online (it’s available from a bookseller in Toronto). 

Here’s the listing:

Green printed wrappers (16 cm.) with name of Jaffray B. Smith embossed in gilt to lower corner of front panel; staple-bound. Contents: [2], 17, [1] pages. Well-illustrated, with 6 full-page illustrations by Irvin, one of those being a double-paged workflow diagram, and a small photograph of Dictograph intra-office telephone equipment. An incredible advertisement for the Dictograph Interior Telephone System, centred upon a narrative of miscommunication by humorist Benchley and illustrated by the New Yorker’s Rea Irvin

Wouldn’t it be nice to see Rea Irvin’s “6 full-page illustrations”?  

Here’s Irvin’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Rea Irvin (pictured above. Self portrait above from Meet the Artist) *Born, San Francisco, 1881; died in the Virgin Islands,1972. Irvin was the cover artist for the New Yorker’s first issue, February 21, 1925. He was the magazine’s first art editor, holding the position from 1925 until 1939 when James Geraghty assumed the title. Irvin became art director and remained in that position until William Shawn succeeded Harold Ross. Irvin’s last original work for the magazine was the magazine’s cover of July 12, 1958. The February 21, 1925 Eustace Tilley cover had been reproduced every year on the magazine’s anniversary until 1994, when R. Crumb’s Tilley-inspired cover appeared. Tilley has since reappeared, with other artists substituting from time-to-time.

 

 

The New Yorker’s First Fourth

 This stunning Ilonka Karasz cover graced the New Yorker‘s first fourth of July issue. Ms. Karasz  contributed a remarkable 187 covers to the magazine; her first was on the 7th issue, April 4, 1925, her last appeared on the issue of October 22, 1973. Of note within the issue: this Helen Hokinson drawing appearing on the Talk of The Town’s lead page:

In 1925, Ms. Hokinson, newly arrived in New York (from Chicago) enrolled at Parsons School of Design. According to Liza Donnelly’s book Funny Ladies:

One day [Hokinson’s] instructor sent the students out to sketch in the streets of New York. Hokinson drew an elderly woman waving goodbye to a departing ocean liner. Upon her return to the classroom, her teacher, Howard Giles, laughed and suggested she take this and other drawings to the new magazine down the street.

This simple drawing of a woman waving immediately won over Harold Ross and Rea Irvin. Her work had an ease to it: Ross recognized the humor in her line quality, but also in what she chose to draw. Ross purchased her first submission and invited her to return every Tuesday  with more sketches for consideration.

“Better Pictures”

Never a day goes by that I don’t wonder at the trek the New Yorker cartoon has made in its ninety-three years; how it began, how it developed, and what it has become. For those with the time and energy (and either a complete collection of the magazine, access to a library with bound copies, or a subscription to the magazine allowing you access to its archives) the graphic evidence is available in the pages of the magazine’s issues, beginning with the very first in February of 1925, and carrying through to the latest issue on the newsstand and/or on whatever electronic device you use.

The how it began part is well documented, especially in Thomas Kunkel’s great biography of Harold Ross, Genius in Disguise, and in a number of other books (among them, Lee Lorenz’s Art of The New Yorker , and Ross,The New Yorker and Me,  by Jane Grant, Ross’s first wife and co-founder of the magazine; heck, I’ll throw in my Arno biography too — I spend much of it describing how the art department and the art developed). These books and others fill in the history, providing atmosphere, personalities — you know: the who, what, where, whys, and whens.

A favorite title is shown above.  Dale Kramer’s Ross and The New Yorker, published in 1951 (it had an earlier incarnation, in part, in the pages of Harper’s in 1943, with a co-author, George R. Clark). Mr. Kramer had the luxury of working in a time period when all of the major players of the magazine were around (Helen Hokinson perished in plane crash in 1949 just a couple of the years before the book came out; Ross died in the year the book was published). If you read Harrison Kinney’s The Thurber Letters, you’ll find a good deal of correspondence from Thurber to Kramer, guiding and correcting him. After reading the manuscript, Thurber told E.B. White he thought Kramer’s  writing was “undistinguished” but he didn’t “vehemently” disagree with anything in it.

What is always of interest (to me) in accounts of the magazine’s beginnings is the how the development of the New Yorker cartoon is handled. I think Kramer does a good job describing the earliest days, of what Ross was looking for, or not wanting (echoing the oft-quoted “he didn’t know what he wanted, but he knew what he didn’t want”), of Rea Irvin’s invaluable part in the art’s development.

I’m forever struck by Ross’s care for the art and artists — how important a part of the magazine it and they were to him.  In any of the books I’ve mentioned here, you’ll find a variation of the passage below laying out just how much Ross cared.  It is that care that was the foundation of the magazine’s art. That’s how this began, with great care, and an appreciation for the art, most especially the cartoons.  

Here’s Kramer on Ross and the magazine’s art:

Ross’s major contribution to “art” — the designation given to cartoons, spot drawings, illustrations, caricatures, and cover paintings — was the same curiosity and fierce demand for accuracy that was helping to bring the text into focus. He queried constantly, “Where am I in this picture?” The reader, he maintained, ought to be at a definite vantage point. He should be watching an action or overhearing a conversation.

Or Ross would ask, “Who’s talking?” Sometimes the artist was requested to open the speaker’s mouth wider. Ross was dealing, of course, with the people and the objects in the drawings, rather than craftsmanship. By demanding that the characters be plain to him, and seen from a particular vantage point, he naturally got better craftsmanship. The artists discovered, with some reluctance since they often had to do a drawing over and over again, that Ross’s demands, put into artistic sense by Irvin — along with Irvin’s own suggestions — resulted in better pictures.

To those who have admired the art of the New Yorker, “better pictures” might seem an understatement, but it’ll do just fine. Better pictures was something to shoot for, and I believe most of the devoted would agree, something attained. 

 

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch, The (double) New Yorker Issue of July 9 & 16, 2018

A dog in a flotation device on a very watery cover for a double issue in early-to-mid July. The artist Mark Ulriksen talks about his creation here.  My eye wants me to believe that Mr. Ulriksen’s doggie is floating in the air above the surface of marbeilized water.

A delayed Monday Tilley Watch as the digital issue has not yet turned over to July 9th & 16th (it’s still stuck on the issue of July 2nd). The Monday Watch came about because I thought it might be fun taking a look at the cartoons in situ. Without the digital issue today, that’s not possible (my print version won’t arrive for a few more days).

I can see all the cartoons on the newyorker.com slideshow, but for me, that’s less appealing than seeing how they reside on the magazine’s pages. I also love seeing what else is going on in the issue, graphically (such as: has Rea Irvin’s iconic Talk masthead returned yet…you know, things like that).

— So long then, until I have access to the magazine, in one version or another. 

…the latest issue appeared online late Monday afternoon. 

Twelve cartoons in the issue.  Here’re the cartoonists:

Bruce Kaplan’s caption caught my eye this week, as well as his somewhat complex drawing.  Also catching my eye: the number of illustrations (drawings and photographs). There are eighteen with four of them full page (and one of those actually a page-and-a-half).

Usually I don’t mention the cartoon caption page, but I do like Joe Dator’s kites offered up this week. It has a Jack Ziegler feel to it. Perhaps Mr. Dator will reveal his caption (if there was one) once the contest is settled.

Of special note: a nice Charles Addams piece by the cartoonist, Paul Karasik (it appears under the “Sketchbook” heading).

For more on the issue’s cartoons check out the Cartoon Companion at week’s end.

Extra special note: Rea Irvin’s classic masthead is still missing. Here’s what it looks like:

— See you when the next new issue is out, July 16th…seems like a long way off!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A Search For Work ‘Funny, Beautiful, and True'”

In its final issue of 1992 the New Yorker published a remarkable piece, “Remembering Mr. Shawn”; thirty-three contributors recalling the late editor of the New Yorker who had passed away earlier in the month (one of them, Edward Koren, provided a drawing). I’ve read and re-read the piece a number of times and always come away with something by one of the contributors I’d missed before. But one recollection stuck from my first reading. Lee Lorenz, who served as Art Editor of the magazine from 1973 through 1997 (his title morphed to Cartoon Editor in the last five years of that span) wrote, in part, of his weekly art meetings with Mr. Shawn:

In a letter he [Shawn] wrote to me after he left the magazine he referred to these meetings as a search for work that was ‘funny, beautiful, and true.’ By “true” he meant not just true in its perception of the human condition but true to each artist’s vision.

I think Mr. Lorenz framed it perfectly.  When I think of “the New Yorker cartoon” as a distinct subset of American cartooning, and why it’s recognized as such, it’s due to the magazine’s long history of supporting its cartoonists and their work.

Of course there is and always has been disagreement over what is funny, and what is beautiful (and lately, more than ever, what is true).  For the four decades I’ve contributed to the New Yorker I’ve heard it said, at times, all along the way, that the cartoons aren’t as funny, or aren’t as good, as they used to be. I heard it said in the late 1970s, when I began contributing, and I hear it today.  Here’s a snippet from an article that popped up in my Google search just the other week:

Is the New Yorker magazine on the skids, or is it my brain that has lost whatever sharpness it may have had? I re-subscribed to the magazine a few months ago, and I seem to have detected a lower quality in its cartoons, which have always been its main attraction for persons of questionable intelligence, such as me.

What quality is, is also, of course, debatable. For every person who finds a particular New Yorker cartoon awful there’s another who finds it a work of genius (want to see for yourself? Go to the comments under any New Yorker cartoon posted on the magazine’s Facebook page).

Overlooked in all this public qualifying of what is funny, beautiful and true is the simple transaction between the artists and their editors: cartoonists do what we do as well as we can do it and send it to the magazine — the editors buy it or they don’t. The beauty of the New Yorker cartoon world is that cartoonists draw what they want. They are not assigned ideas by the editors. This total freedom allows the readership to see the work the cartoonists believe is funny, beautiful and true (i.e., their vision). It’s the not-so-secret formula for the now 93 year old success of the New Yorker cartoon.

Above: The inaugural issue of The New Yorker, cover by Rea Irvin; William Shawn, the magazine’s second editor; Lee Lorenz.  Photograph of Mr. Shawn by James Stevenson.