A Second Look: Steinberg At The New Yorker

In the past week I’ve mentioned two New Yorker cartoon gods, Charles Addams and Edward Koren — here are a few thoughts on another: Saul Steinberg. I admit to not paying enough attention to Joel Smith’s Steinberg At The New Yorker when it came out in 2005. Perhaps, at the time, I was in the early stages of being Steinberged-out.  A traveling exhibit, Illuminations, followed on the heels of this book (I saw, but did not really see the show at the Morgan in Manhattan — it was too crowded; I was jostled every time I paused in front of a piece. I made a second pilgrimage when it traveled to Vassar College, a less crowded venue, far more condusive to examining and enjoying the work (on the back flap of Steinberg At The New Yorker, the author is noted as a curator at Vassar’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, where the exhibit was held). 

I left both exhibits feeling the opposite of how I felt seeing Steinberg’s big solo show at the Whitney in 1978.  In 1978 Steinberg, along with a handful of other New Yorker artists, owned the New Yorker cartoon world. I left the Whitney Steinberg exhibit feeling as if I was coming down from the mountaintop.  An inspiring day (followed by an inspiring intersection with the man himself).

Twenty-five years later, leaving the Vassar exhibit, a large fraction of the awe remained; the mathematical designs, the subject matter, his color pencil work; the way he drew colorful feathers on poultry, the way he used color as pulsating rays emanating from the emergency lights on police cars — all still caused a stir of appreciation.  But…seeing the work hanging on the gallery walls I was too aware of perfection, or my perception of Steinberg’s perfection. The perfection had worn me down.  The designs were too good, the work too beautiful, too creative. No particular piece in the exhibit disappointed, yet the show as a whole disappointed.

This afternoon, while standing in front of the Spill‘s cartoon library wall, I spotted Mr. Smith’s book and took it down. Why not give it another spin around the block. I opened to the back where each and every Steinberg New Yorker cover, from 1945- 2004, is laid out — there are nine to a page. The very first, in 1945 was followed nine years later in 1954.  I hadn’t remembered that — or had never processed it. Nine years between covers…hmmm, hard to believe.

Scanning the covers it dawned on me why I became burned out on the man’s art: I was reminded of a spur of the moment decision years ago while I was walking along 5th Avenue in midtown Manhattan: I ducked into Tiffany’s (for the first and possibly last time) to explore the fleet of display cases filled with so many perfect jewels. Looking now at all of these Steinberg covers, encased in a way, I felt much like I felt following my brief tour of Tiffany’s —  I wanted to be back out in our imperfect world.

Going through the rest of the book was a better time. Seeing familiar covers reproduced full page was a treat. This is how to see them, full size, one cover at a time — as originally experienced when they appeared on the magazine. When the covers were doubled up, facing each other across the gutter, I again found the work too rich to enjoy. Oddly enough I don’t have this problem looking at several Addams covers in a row, such as found in The World Of Charles Addams, or a string of covers by various artists such as you find in The New Yorker 1950-1955 Album, or the  essential Complete Covers From The New Yorker: 1925 – 1989. 

Is Steinberg At The New Yorker an essential anthology? Yes, of course.  Besides seeing so many familiar Steinberg drawings, there were many unfamiliar. But again, I preferred a single scoop –seeing a little of the work at one sitting, rather than sitting down with a banana split (sorry about that). I particularly enjoyed Ian Frazier’s Introduction.

As always with every cartoonist mentioned here on the Spill, I encourage looking at the various anthologies that came out during the artist’s lifetime. Here are some favorite Steinberg anthologies, all easily found online.

For further immersion, don’t forget Deirdre Bair’s hefty Saul Steinberg: A Biography:

 

 

 

 

The Tilley Online Watch, The Week of September 17- 21, 2018; More Spills: A Deep Dive Into The New Yorker Issue Of Sept. 14, 1929… Steinberg Chrysler Building At Auction

The Daily Cartoons were 4/5s in the realm of Trump this week. The contributing cartoonists:  Kim Warp, Jason Chatfield (with Scott Dooley), Mike Twohy, Karl Stevens (not yet a print contributor), and Brendan Loper (who probably appears most regularly on the Daily).

The Daily Shouts contributing New Yorker cartoonists this week: Emily Flake, Liana Flake, and Olivia de Recat.

You can see all the work (and more) here.

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Two favorite Spill blogs to visit!

…A New Yorker State Of Mind: Reading Every Issue Of The New Yorker takes a fascinating deep dive into the issue of September 14, 1929, with a cover by the great Rea Irvin. (also in the post: an appreciated shout-out to the Arno biography). Read here.

And Attempted Bloggery tells us about a beautiful Steinberg piece (dated 1965) up for auction.  I’ve yet to see anyone top Steinberg’s Chrysler Building drawings. Incredible.  Take a look here. 

 

Move Over Addams, Steinberg Did An 89 Foot Long Mural; Dick Buchanan’s Tip Of The Hat To Funny Ladies At The New Yorker Show, and …A First Glimpse of the Exhibit

Steinberg’s 89 Foot Mural

We recently learned of a fourteen foot mural Charles Addams executed (a good Addamsy word!); well here’s a piece in Cincinnati Magazine about an eighty-nine foot Steinberg mural.  Wowzers.

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Dick Buchanan’s Tip Of The Hat To Funny Ladies At The New Yorker

Via Mike Lynch’s site: “From The Dick Buchanan Files: Women Cartoonists: Barbara Shermund, Hilda Terry, Mary Gibson, and Dorothy McKay 1935-1952”

Mr. Buchanan’s latest file finds are in honor of the upcoming Society of Illustrators exhibit, Funny Ladies At The New Yorker: Cartoonists Then and Now

Liza Donnelly, who curated the show, has posted (on Instagram) a preview photo. Nice blow-up of a Helen Hokinson drawing! : 

 

The Tilley Watch Online: The Week of July 16-20, 2018; Cartoon Companion Rates Latest New Yorker Cartoons; Eisner Congrats; Steinberg, Natty Dresser

Another very Trumpian week (but of course!) for the Daily Cartoon, with contributions by Brendan Loper (twice), Mary Lawton, Ellis Rosen, and Lars Kenseth

And on the Daily Shouts, the contributing New Yorker cartoonists were David Sipress, and a group effort from Sharon Levy, Olivia de Recat, and the aforementioned  Mr. Kenseth

You can see all of the above, and more on newyorker.com.

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Cartoon Companion Rates Latest New Yorker Cartoons

The CC’s “Max” and “Simon” return with their trademark cartoon ratings. The boys focus on the work in the issue of July 23, 2018. Seth Fleishman is awarded the CC‘s coveted Top Toon blue ribbon. Read it all here.

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Eisner Congrats

The Eisner Award winners were announced last night. Congrats to all the nominated folks, with an extra woo-hoo to New Yorker cartoonists, Shannon Wheeler and Paul Karasik

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Mouly & Spiegelman on Steinberg

From newyorker.com‘s Culture Desk, “Saul Steinberg: On The Hyphen Between High And Low”

— this brief piece in conjunction with a Steinberg exhibit at The Drawing Room.

The Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue of June 18, 1984

As mentioned here last week, it’s double issue time again. We’re halfway though it now ; only a week til the new issue (dated June 18, 2018) appears online early Monday morning. Just for fun I thought I’d go back to another June 18th issue — the one from 1984. 

Here’s the cover, by Susan Davis, who contributed fifteen covers to the magazine from 1983 – 1992.

 

And here are the cartoonists in that issue:

A number of New Yorker cartoon gods in that lineup. And, as you might expect, some cartoonists  contributing to the magazine then who still contribute now. On the downside, a number of colleagues who’ve passed on: George Price, James Stevenson, William Steig, Stan Hunt, J. B. Handelsman, Steinberg, Bernie Schoenbaum, Frank Modell, Barney Tobey, Ed Arno, Mischa Richter, Ed Fisher, Eldon Dedini, and Robert Weber.

A quick tour through the issue: Ed Frascino has a very funny cartoon name-checking Indiana Jones; Lee Lorenz ( the art editor at the time) puts the word “glitz” to excellent use; a half page George Price cartoon centered on the Year of the Rat; a beautiful full page Saxon drawing about the Museum of Modern Art; a four part Stevenson spread across two pages. He animates television antenna; a titled Steig: “Eastbound Traffic.” Great drawing!;  Stan Hunt’s drawing is one of those cartoons that could’ve run anytime in the previous thirty years (previous to 1984, that is) — a boiler plate kind of cartoon; “Bud” Handelsman gives us a heaven-based piece; a Roz Chast drawing split into four boxes. It could’ve run this year; an Ed Koren drawing that just is so like butter — drawing and caption;  Steinberg provides an illustration for a Profile piece by E.J. Kahn, Jr.; opposite Steinberg is a Bernie Schoenbaum cocktail party drawing — a scenario employed by nearly every cartoonist back then; a Frank Modell drawing with his signature people — love his grumpy husband; an Arnie Levin caterpillar/butterfly drawing — that that loose Levin line is so great; a Barney Tobey drawing set in another favorite situation: the boardroom; a great Warren Miller drawing:

 Following Mr. Miller’s cartoon is an Ed Arno drawing — that fine controlled line of his! Immediately identifiable; a Mischa Richter dog at a desk drawing; Ed Fisher gives us a weather bureau drawing with lots of fun detail; Eldon Dedini’s cartoon of two guys at a bar with a caption that could run today:Everything’s a trap if you’re not careful.”;  next up, a cartoon that made me laugh out loud, by the great cartoonist, Robert Weber:

Next, a beautiful Sempe drawing (is there any other kind?); and last, a Sidney Harris restaurant drawing. Mr. Harris’s style is his and his alone: an angular line that appears to almost spin out of control, but never does.

So, there it is. A cartoon feast in mid-June, thirty-four years ago.