Personal History: Work Wall

I’ve always worked at home, sometimes in a dedicated corner of the living room, sometimes using the arm of any old comfortable chair as a desk. But for many years I worked in a converted 6′ x 8′ laundry room. My desk faced a wall, part of which is shown above.  One day, after about twenty years of working in front of that wall, I felt I needed open space, and so I picked up my Rapidograph and a small stack of bond paper, then walked fifteen feet or so into our living room and set up shop at a table with no wall in front of me.

I left my old work area completely intact — a stack of bond paper still rests in its usual place —  and every so often I return to work there (I’m working there now).  What you see above is fragment of the wall above my desk. The collection of cartoons has always been a kind of rotating mini-gallery. There are a lot of New Yorker materials on the shelves (mixed in with childhood train set buildings, metal toys, art made by my kids, etc., etc.).  Just for fun, I’ve provided a key to anything New Yorker-related (and a few not)

1.  Joe Dator New Yorker original drawing. Published February 28, 2011.

2.  Stan Hunt original drawing.  Publishing history unknown. The fellow on the porch swing is saying to the woman: “Darling, your eyes are like dark limpid pools! …What’s the matter, aren’t you getting enough sleep?”  Mr. Hunt contributed to The New Yorker from 1956 though 1990.

3. Charlie Hankin original drawing. Unpublished. The sign on the lawn reads “Beware of Clam”

4. George Booth original. Titled Dog, Chair, and Chicken. Unpublished. Mr. Booth drew this in The New Yorker‘s cartoon department a few years ago while being filmed. Luckily, Liza Donnelly was also there being filmed.  Mr. Booth generously handed the drawing to her when filming wrapped. 

5. E.B. White’s The Lady Is Cold.  His first book. This became the subject of an Ink Spill piece.

6. Batman Giant No. 182.  In the late 1960s,  when my family moved from one end of town to the other end, only two comic books of my vast comic book collection made the transition (sad, I know). This is one of them.

7. The New Yorker Album.  Published in 1928 by Doubleday, Doran & Co. The very first New Yorker cartoon album.

8. A Rox Chast letter from the pre-personal computer days, probably late 1980s. In this New Yorker cartoon crowd, exchanged letters were usually illustrated.  I’m especially fond of this one because of the White Castle drawing at the very top (it’s possible my White Castle coffee mug made an impression on her).

9. We’ll Show You The Town. A 1934 promotional book from The New Yorker‘s business  department. You can see a little more about this if you go to the From the Attic section of the Spill and scroll down.

10. What! No Pie Charts?  An undated promotional book from The New Yorker‘s business department. Profusely illustrated by Julien de Miskey. As the copy refers to the magazine’s original address as 25 West 45th Street, we can safely assume this was published pre mid-1930s.

11. The American Mercury. August 1948.  Up on the shelf because of the great cover of the magazine’s founder and first editor, Harold Ross along with a re-drawn (i.e., non Rea Irvin) Eustace Tilley. The cover story “Ross Of The New Yorker” by Allen Churchill is a good read.

12. Curtain Calls of 1926. From the title page:

In which a few choice rare bits that have occasionally appeared in the pages of The New Yorker repeat themselves.

This is a lovely little book spotlighted on the Spill in July of 2013. Rea Irvin did the Tilley drawing on the cover.

13. Batman In Detective Comics Vol. 1 (Abbeville Press 1993).  Covering the first 25 years.  Vol. 2 is sitting right behind it. 

14. A Thurber Garland. Published by Hamish Hamilton in 1955.

15. The Making Of A Magazine. Undated. A promotional booklet collecting some, but not all of Corey Ford’s pieces. Drawings by Johan Bull.   Link here for more info.

16. James Thurber’s New York Times obit, dated November 3, 1961. The headline reads: James Thurber Is Dead At 66; Writer Was Also A Comic Artist . I’ll say!    Read more here on the Spill’s morgue.

***unnumbered, appearing just below #6’s Batman Giant, and the toy helicopter, is Otto Soglow’s Little King pull toy.  You can see it close up in the From the Attic section.

 

Fifty Years Earlier

As a cartoonist it’s (mostly) all about what’s next; this may explain why I sometimes like to take a breather and think about what was.  Still in a celebratory mode because of The New Yorker’s 86th anniversary, I went to my collection of anniversary issues and pulled out the issue from fifty years ago, dated February 18, 1961.   Thought I’d sit with it for a few moments and take a look at the cartoons.

There’s no “Table of Contents” for the issue ( the magazine didn’t add that helpful feature until the issue of March 22, 1969),  so knowing whose work appears inside will be a surprise.

William Steig’s work appears on page 14, but it’s not a cartoon, it’s an ad — an illustration for  First National City Bank.  Moving through the movie listings ( “Ben Hur,” “the Misfits,” “Exodus,” etc., etc.) and pausing to take in Otto (“The Little King”) Soglow’s wonderful “Talk of the Town” drawings, we encounter the first cartoon of the issue, and it’s by the magazine’s most prolific cartoonist, Alan Dunn (Dunn also holds the honor of being one half of the first married New Yorker cartoonist couple.  His wife was Mary Petty).   Dunn was an expert at making something out of the day’s headlines, and in this case the drawing reflects our country’s endless fascination with the Russians.

Next is a George Price drawing of a waiter holding a giant shish-kebob setting off the  restaurant’s sprinkler system.  A good solid effort by one of the masters of the Golden Age.  Richard Decker’s drawing of a doctor’s waiting room filled with self-promoting ads, including a “Specials” sign, wouldn’t be so out of place – with some tweaking — in today’s New Yorker.

A Robert Kraus is next, done in his inviting moody Dedini-esque style, and then an Ed Fisher drawing (by my calculations, the eighty-fifth of his career at The New Yorker – he eventually published just over 700).  Another Alan Dunn follows ( tied into current events, of course) and then a classic Steig husband-and-wife  domestic scene ( I can’t help but be reminded that The New Yorker is fortunate to have a contemporaneous expert at  capturing domestic scenes: Victoria Roberts). Opposite Steig’s drawing is a Steinberg,  captionless of course ( he’d given up captions long ago).  A man wearing  a helmet and shield sits on a rearing horse—they’ve just encountered a projection screen, such as the kind a family would set up to watch home movies.

A page later is a  half-page captionless Charles Addams drawing ( Addams told Dick Cavett that the captionless drawings were his favorite kind).  Turn the page and there’s a Charles Saxon ( man, did he have a smooth style) and then a Lee Lorenz ( his eighty-eighth drawing for the magazine in a career still going like gang-busters). Another page finds a Chon Day, the master of economical styling ( not counting Thurber).  Two pages later, a three-quarter beauty by Whitney Darrow, Jr.,  specifically referencing the new family at The White House; Caroline Kennedy utters the caption.

After the Darrow drawing it’s a fifty-four page wait til the next cartoon, wherein James Stevenson takes us back to a couple in ancient Rome and, shockingly(!) uses the word “orgy” in his caption.  Another twenty-nine pages zoom by before we reach the last cartoon in the issue.  By Frank Modell, it’s a bar scene, and the subject is nearly everyone’s favorite subject — a subject at which Modell excels: men and women.