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.

 

 

Frank Modell’s Brendan Gill; Tom Chitty Has A Question; Today’s Daily Cartoonist: Christopher Weyant; More Steinberg; Today’s Daily Shouts By…Seth Fleishman

Frank Modell’s Brendan Gill

I came away from a recent visit to my favorite (used) book store, Rodgers Book Barn in Hillsdale, New York with the brochure handed out at Brendan Gill’s memorial back in 1998 (see the details of the tribute below). I’m indebted to one of my book store haunting friends, Mark Burns for digging the brochure out of a box of ephemera and placing it right in front of my face (for the record, my other co-haunters were Danny Shanahan and John Cuneo). Frank Modell’s drawing of an exuberant Brendan Gill was new to me, and an obvious must-have, must-buy. 

For more on Mr. Gill, I highly recommend his oft-reprinted Here At The New Yorker (the William Heinemann 1990 edition shown below)And for more on Mr. Modell there’s his collection Stop Trying To Cheer Me Up! as well as James Stevenson’s terrific The Life, Loves and Laughs of Frank Modell.

Further Reading: An earlier Spill piece on cartoonists and Rodgers Book Barn.

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Tom Chitty Has A Question

From Jane Mattimoe’s  fine Fine Case For Pencils, “Tom Chitty Has A Question About Dip Pens”

Mr. Chitty began contributing to The New Yorker in 2014.  Visit his website here.

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Today’s Daily Cartoonist/Cartoon

The lack of White House press briefings has been in the news. Chris Weyant comments via a castle cartoon.  Mr. Weyant has been contributing to The New Yorker since 1998. Visit his website here.

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More Steinberg

From The Brooklyn Rail, “Saul Steinberg: Untitled” 

Comments on the Steinberg exhibit currently showing at Totah (til April 28th — hurry!)

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Today’s Daily Shouts by…Seth Fleishman

A fish story from Seth Fleishman who began contributing to The New Yorker in 2016. See some of his work here on the New Yorker’s Cartoon Bank site.

 

 

Today’s Daily Cartoonist: Elisabeth McNair; Surreal McCoy’s “Wolf Of Baghdad”At Shrewsbury Int’l Cartoon Festival; Today’s Daily Shouts By…Julia Wertz; Cooper Hewitt’s Steinberg’s Spot The Difference; Dick Buchanan’s Perry Barlow File

Today’s Daily Cartoonist/Cartoon

Kids, parents, computers…by Elisabeth McNair.  Ms. McNair began contributing to The New Yorker in 2017.  Visit her website here.

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Surreal McCoy’s “Wolf Of Baghdad” At Shrewsbury Int’l Cartoon Festival

All the info here on the film and the festival.

Ms. McCoy (Carol Isaacs) began contributing to The New Yorker in 2014.  Visit her website here.

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Today’s Daily Shouts by…Julia Wertz

“Conversations with Ma: Making Wreaths and Having Kids” by Julia Wertz. Ms. Wertz began contributing to The New Yorker in 2015.   Visit her website here.

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Cooper Hewitt’s Steinberg Spot the Difference

Something fun.  From Cooper Hewitt, April 24, 2019, “Spot the Difference: Steinberg Edition”

Here’s Steinberg’s Spill A-Z entry:

Saul Steinberg Born, June 15, 1914, Ramnic-Sarat, Rumania. Died in 1999. New Yorker work: 1941 – (The New Yorker publishes his work posthumously). Steinberg is one of the giants of The New Yorker.  Go here to visit the saulsteinbergfoundation where you’ll find  much essential information and examples of his work.

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Dick Buchanan’s Perry Barlow File

Another great post from Dick Buchanan via Mike Lynch’s blog.  This time it’s “Perry Barlow 1932- 1961”

(Above: a Barlow from Collier’s, January 21, 1955).

From Mr. Barlow’s Spill A-Z entry:

Perry Barlow ( photo above from barlowgeneology.com) Born 1892, McKinney, Texas. Died, Westport, Connecticut, December 26,1977. New Yorker work: 1926 -1974, with 1,574 drawings and 135 covers. According to Barlow’s obit in The New York Times (Dec. 27, 1977) William Shawn called him “one of the gentlest and most humane of all comic artists…he was also one of our three or four most prolific people.” In the same piece, James Geraghty (The New Yorker’s Art editor from 1939 thru 1973) said “he often tried to interest Mr. Barlow in publishing a book of his drawings ‘but he was halfhearted about it.’” Mr. Barlow’s wife, Dorothy Hope Smith, played a role in his work: she colored-in his covers because her husband was partly color blind.

More MoCCA Today (With Photos) & “My First MoCCA”; David Sipress On A 1969 Harvard Protest

More MoCCA Today

At least three New Yorker cartoonist events scheduled today: Liana Finck in conversation with Gabrielle Bell; a “spotlight” on Mark Alan Stamaty; Emily Flake as part of a panel, “Narratives On Motherhood”; cover artist Ivan Brunetti in a panel on “Comics and the Teaching Artist” (right: Ms. Bell and Ms. Finck today. Courtesy of Stephen Nadler).

And more photos from today (all courtesy of Liza Donnelly, with the exception of the Mark Alan Stamaty photo.  That’s another courtesy of Stephen Nadler):

Top row, l-r: Peter Kuper, Felipe Galindo, Mark Parisi, Ellis Rosen.

Middle row: Arnold Roth & Caroline Roth, Liza Donnelly, Keith Knight.

Bottom: Mark Alan Stamaty (l), and Bill Kartalopoulos, who, among other things, is MoCCA’s Programming Director, and Series Editor for The Best American Comics series. 

My First MoCCA:  A Personal Take

Judging by the scene I dove into at yesterday’s MoCCA Fest, the appetite for, and practice of comics and cartoons is booming. The place (the Metropolitan West on West 46th Street) was at capacity, loud and energized. I took in the must-see Cartooning For Peace exhibit on the second floor (curated by The New Yorker cartoonist, Liza Donnelly) then immediately ran into Dick Buchanan (who for quite some time has been sharing his voluminous cartoon file via Mike Lynch’s site). Mr. Buchanan had told me earlier in the week  that he’d be at the fest, and would bring along a copy of a book I’d never seen before:  Bernard Wiseman’s Cartoon Countdown (published in 1959). Mr. Wiseman contributed 197 cartoons to The New Yorker, from April 19, 1947 – June 11. 1960.

In the pr copy on the first page:

This is the first book of cartoons devoted exclusively  to he Conquest of Space. Let the Russians Match That! 

(to the right: The Cartooning For Peace Exhibit)

With  thanks to Mr. Buchanan for Cartoon Countdown, it was on to a tour of the fest.

 

  The illustrator Tom Bloom was seen engaged in conversation with an exhibitor, the illustrator/educator, Steve Guernaccia blew by (he’s hard to miss, sartorially). The multitude of people, of tables laden with products bearing graphic images, posters, cards, etc., etc., was astounding. Along with me on the tour was one of my co-panelists, Danny Shanahan.  We were moving along at a good pace with the flow of the crowd when a familiar book cover on the New York Review Comics table got our attention: Saul Steinberg’s recently reissued Labyrinth (also on the table were a number of Maira Kalaman titles).  I bet Steinberg would’ve enjoyed the scene passing by his book.

Closing in on the slotted time for our panel with Mort Gerberg, we headed over to Ink48 on 11th Avenue, where the panels took place. Ran into Stephen Nadler of Attempted Bloggery  who reminded us that Mark Alan Stamaty was signing his anniversary edition of MacDoodle Street.

Co-panelist Bob Eckstein awaited us in the Garamond Room, where we were soon joined by Marisa Acocella, and the man of the hour, Mort Gerberg. Spotted in our audience were New Yorker contributors,  R. Sikoryak, and Sophia Warren, as well as friend to all comics creators, Karen Greene of Columbia University. Below photos of the panel courtesy of Mr. Nadler (l-r, Danny Shanahan, Bob Eckstein, myself, Marisa Acocella, and Mr. Gerberg).

One of the fun things to come out of paneling with colleagues is the unexpected nugget or two of New Yorker history. As he discussed selling his first cartoon to The New Yorker back in 1965 , Mr. Gerberg told us — and this is something I had never heard, and didn’t realize was even possible — that he had talked the then art editor, James Geraghty into allowing what was supposed to be a bought idea of Mr. Gerberg’s to become a bought drawing. New Yorker history buffs know that it was routine at the magazine back then to buy ideas and give them to established cartoonists. It’s quite a thing that Mr. Gerberg, with his first sale to the magazine, was not only able to buck that well-entrenched system, but to deliver the full page below (published in October 20,1965).

  After our panel concluded we panelists stayed in the same room to attend the next panel,  “Professional Development 101: Art Directors Roundtable.” How could we not –it included our very own cartoon editor, Emma Allen. As we moved into the audience we spotted fellow colleagues, Kendra Allenby, Tracey Berglund, and cartoonist, Marc Bilgrey. Ms. Allen was joined by Matt Lubchansky (of The Nib), Alexandra Zsigmond (formerly The New York Times), Will Varner (formerly Buzzfeed), and artist/educator, Viktor Koen, who moderated.  The “101” in the panel title was accurate — we heard what the scene was like for today’s beginning illustrator/artists trying to break in. One piece of advice from Ms. Allen that stood out for me:  something that would make her laugh while looking at [written and drawn] humor for four hours in a day, had an excellent shot.

By the way, the place was packed.

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David Sipress On A Harvard Protest In 1969

Mr. Sipress, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 1998, has a Personal History piece on newyorker.com: “Fake News, 1969: My Slightly Infamous Role In The Harvard Antiwar Protests”