My thanks to Scott Burns for sending along this wonderful piece by Eldon Dedini, who began contributing to The New Yorker in 1950. Mr. Dedini also had a long association with Playboy.
Below: from the Dedini exhibit at the Billy Rose Cartoon Library & Museum
Mr. Dedini’s entry on the Spill’s A-Z : Born 1921, King City, Calif. Died January 12, 2006, Carmel, California. New Yorker work: 1950 – 2003. Collection: The Dedini Gallery (Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1961)
Back in 2009 when I was hunting around for information on Ms. Shermund (in connection with writing my biography of Peter Arno), I visited a library in upstate New York (Kingston, to be exact) that had a decent collection of The New York Times on microfilm. Looking through a file cabinet of materials I spotted a notation that indicated there was no microfilm for the Times at a certain point because the paper had been on strike. Barbara Shermund’s death was within that period (The New Yorker hadn’t mentioned her passing either, but In that case it was understandable — her work hadn’t appeared in the magazine for thirty-four years). In an attempt to fill in a missing piece, I took a stab at writing an obit for Ms. Shermund and posted it on the Spill:
Revisiting Barbara Shermund
Barbara Shermund, who died in early September, 1978, had the
misfortune of passing away during a newspaper strike that affected the
paper of record, The New York Times. An extensive search has
turned up just one obituary for her, a four sentence notice that ran in a
newspaper covering the New Jersey coastal town (Sea Bright) where she
lived for a number of years toward the end of her life.
For someone who contributed hundreds of cartoons and eight covers to The New YorkerMagazine, then went on to become a mainstay at Esquire, four sentences seems a bit slight. Here then is another notice, a little late, and a little longer.
Born in San Francisco in 1899 to artistic parents (her father was an
architect), Ms. Shermund studied at The California School of Fine Arts
before heading east, at the age of twenty-six, to New York. She told Colliers
that her initial visit east became permanent “after she had eaten up
her return fare.” In June of that very year, she made her debut at the
four month old New Yorker with a cover of a young woman
sporting a hip hairdo, eyes closed, resting her arm over a railing,
against a black sky peppered with stars. In a year’s time her cartoons,
many if not most of which were written by her, were appearing in nearly
every issue of the magazine.
Her style had a sway to it that fit the times. Her subjects, executed
in pen and ink and wash, were often hip young women, just a bit jaded –
the sort that famously inhabited F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise. She once offered up this brief glimpse into her private life, saying she liked “fancy dancing and dogs.”
Liza Donnelly, author of Funny Ladies: The New Yorker’s Greatest Women Cartoonists and their Cartoons, had this to say about Ms. Shermund:
“Barbara Shermund was one of the more prolific cartoonists of the early New Yorker.
Her breezy drawing style and humor reflected the new attitudes of urban
women in the twenties and thirties, and she can be considered one of
the early feminist cartoonists. The New Yorker sought to appeal
to both men and women with its humor, and Shermund, along with other
women cartoonists of the magazine, were ground breakers in that regard,
creating cartoons from a woman’s perspective that could be enjoyed by
all. Her cartoons were irreverent, sassy, and a true reflection of her
Shermund traveled widely – Donnelly wrote of her that “she was
something of a wanderer, living with friends in the city and the upstate
town of Woodstock [NY], never really having a set address.” Eventually
she settled down in Sea Bright, New Jersey, a barrier beach town, just
about an hour’s drive from New York.
The last of her five hundred and ninety-seven drawings in The New Yorker appeared September 16, 1944; her last cover appeared August 5, 1944. Although her relationship with The New Yorker fizzled in the mid 1940s, she participated in an Irving Penn group photo of eighteen New Yorker
cartoonists ( it ran in the August 1947 issue of Vogue). Ms. Shermund,
dressed in dark clothing and wearing a great wide brimmed hat, stares
directly at the camera. Sitting directly in front of her is George
Price, and Steinberg; overhead, reclining on a platform is Charles
Addams. Off to Ms. Shermund’s right is Helen Hokinson, looking just a
The discs accompanying The Complete New Yorker allow one to see all of Barbara Shermund’s work in their natural habitat. Nine of her drawings appear in the The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker, and of course all of her work can be seen on the discs accompanying the book.
Here’s Ms. Shermund’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:
Barbara Shermund Born, San Francisco. 1899. Studied at The California School of Fine Arts. Died, 1978, New Jersey. New Yorker work: June 13, 1925 thru September 16, 1944. 8 covers and 599 cartoons. Shermund’s later. post-New Yorker work was featured in Esquire. (See Liza Donnelly’s book, Funny Ladies — a history of The New Yorker’s women cartoonists — for more on Shermund’s life and work)
Today’s New Yorker Daily cartoon, a mix of politics and this Sunday’s supah-de-dupah football game, is by Bob Eckstein, the World’s Greatest Snowman Expert. See it here, and visit his website here. Mr. Eckstein began contributing to The New Yorker in 2007.
Cartoon Companion’s Latest Reviews of New Yorker Cartoons
The CC boys, Max and Simon return with a close-ish look at all the cartoons in the latest issue of The New Yorker (the issue of February 4, 2019). Read it here, and while you’re there…check out part 2 of the CC‘s interview with Roz Chast. See it all here.