“Not Only A Funny Book For Today, But A Funny Book for Tomorrow”: The New Yorker 1955-1965 Album: Fortieth Anniversary

The first time I saw this album I was rooting through boxes of books at a yard sale. My first thought, just seeing the cover (and before picking up the book)  was that this was a galley. The cover, mostly white and devoid of drawings except for Rea Irvin’s Eustace Tilley floating in an orange oval frame, reminded me of a New Yorkery version of the Beatles so-called White Album. The back cover, however, doesn’t continue the Beatles’ theme — as you see below it’s chock full of drawings. Captionless drawings are scattered about among the captioned (but the captions aren’t shown). So what you focus on is the art itself — the art of the drawing. And of course it’s great stuff.   

Looking at the list of contributors, one might notice that James Thurber’s name doesn’t appear.  The first time in this string of Albums that’s happened.  Thurberites will know that the master had pretty much stopped drawing by the mid 1950s. His last published drawing in his lifetime is said to have graced the Thurber cover story of TIME magazine in July 9, 1951. 

Also missing from the line-up is Rea Irvin.  Mr. Irvin’s remarkable presence as an ongoing contributor and art supervisor ended with the arrival of William Shawn as editor in early 1952 (for more on the evolution of the Art Meeting, please go to the Spill’s Posted Notes and scroll way way down to the February 18, 2012 entry: “The New Yorker’s Art Meeting: A Potted History”).   The decade of 1955-1965 saw a good number of additions to the New Yorker‘s stable of artists under the art editorship of James Geraghty: Robert Censoni (1963), Joseph Farris (1956), Robert Grossman (1962), J.B. “Bud” Handelsman (1961), Stan Hunt (1956), B. Kliban (1963), Edward Koren (1962), Fernando Krahn (1962), Lee Lorenz (1955), Henry Martin (1964), Warren Miller (1959), Robert Muccio (1964), Alphonse Normandia ((1957), Charles O’Glass (1960), Bruce Petty (1959), Donald Reilly (1964), Charles Sauers (1956), Francis Smilby (1962), James Stevenson (1956), Jack Tippet (1963), Robert Weber (1962), and Rowland Wilson (1961).  Some of these newbies only appeared once, while others went on to become core contributors.  Six of them are part of the Spill‘s K club ( a club of 23 members at present) with cartoons appearing in the magazine over a thousand times (Koren, Lorenz, Miller, Reilly, Stevenson, and Weber).

As usual with any album designed by Carmine Peppe, the layout of the book is great.  There is no introduction, just inside front flap copy that includes the quote I placed in the heading of this post. Mr. Peppe, whose sense of graphic balance is more than admirable, managed to fill the pages without crowding them.

Without counting spreads in previous albums, I feel as if this album has plenty more than usual, with Steig, Stevenson, Steinberg, and Saxon well represented.  Peter Arno also has a spread in this album, originally presented as a double page spread in the issue of September 10, 1960.

I think of this album as the linchpin connecting the founders’ era to the present.  The very next album, an anthology celebrating the magazine’s first 50 years, introduced the beginning of the modern era that included the Godfather of Contemporary New Yorker Cartoonists, Jack Ziegler

A benefit of taking another look through all of these New Yorker albums is the occasional discovery of someone somehow missed in the Spill‘s decade of cartoon detective work.  In this case, two cartoonists popped up who are not on the A-Z: Anthony Scott and Alphonse Normandia. Anthony Scott signed his drawings “Anthony” — unfortunately, he does not appear in the Complete New Yorker database and so I’m left in the dark as to the arc of his New Yorker cartoon career (anyone out there with info, please advise).  As for Mr. Normandia, his work appeared in the magazine three times, between December 28, 1957 and December 5, 1959.  I’ll be adding this info to the A-Z this afternoon.  

 

Their First Tilley Issues: Ross, Shawn, Gottlieb, Brown, and Remnick

With the New Yorker’s 93rd Anniversary issue soon on the horizon I thought it would be fun to take a look at first Tilley covers by Harold Ross, William Shawn, Robert Gottlieb, Tina Brown and David Remnick. I’ve thrown in tidbits of Tilley trivia — mostly non-Tilley trivia —  along the way.    

February 21, 1925: Harold Ross

A no-brainer.   It was the very first issue of the magazine. We could’ve ended up with curtains being parted on a big stage (you know, sort of an unveiling thing), but Ross wisely decided to go with Rea Irvin’s mysterious dandy for the cover of his debut issue. 

February 23, 1952: William Shawn

Although Harold Ross passed away in early December of 1951, his successor, William Shawn wasn’t appointed until late January of 1952.  One of Mr. Shawn’s first issues following that stamp of approval from the magazine’s publisher, Raoul Fleischmann, was the magazine’s twenty-seventh anniversary edition. 

February 20, 1989: Robert Gottlieb

Robert Gottlieb officially began his tenure as the magazine’s editor, February 16, 1987. As the latest issue of the magazine is dated a week past its actual pub date (the day it appears on newsstands), the anniversary issue of 1988 would seem to have been the last edited by Mr. Shawn.  Thus Mr. Gottlieb’s first anniversary issue was the following year, the issue of February 20, 1989 (if anyone out there has a different take, please advise). What made news was the return of cartoons in color. Specifically, the cartoons in a four page spread by William Steig, “Scenes From The Thousand And One Nights.” As noted in the New York Times piece I linked to above, there hadn’t been color cartoons since a Rea Irvin double page spread in 1926.

February 22, 1993: Tina Brown

Ms. Brown allowed classic Tilley on a cover just once in her tenure at the magazine. The issue of 1993 was the last in an unbroken line of Tilley anniversary issues.  Ms. Brown’s choice for 1994 made news — how could it not.  It was a not-so-sly-nod to Eustace, titled “Elvis Tilley” courtesy of Robert Crumb.  Following Elvis we saw a gold(!) Tilley for the magazine’s 70th birthday; “Eustacia Tilley” by R.O. Blechman in 1996; “Dick Tilley” by Art Spiegelman in 1997, and finally, a complete departure from Tilley, Michael Roberts’ “California Sighting” cover in 1998.

February 19 & 26, 2001: David Remnick

Although David Remnick’s first shot at an anniversary cover came in 1999, it wasn’t until 2001 that he returned Rea Irvin’s classic Tilley to the cover.  What a long strange trip it had been for Tilley since we last saw him in 1993. 

Mr. Remnick’s first two anniversary covers belonged to Edward Sorel in 1999 and a William Wegman dog in 2000.

Since the classic Tilley cover in 2001, Mr. Remnick has put classic Tilley on the following covers: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007,2009, and 2011. 

For more on Eustace Tilley and the anniversary issues link here to “Tilley Over Time” a piece I wrote for newyorker.com in 2008, on the occasion of the magazine’s 83rd birthday. 

 

 

The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975 – 1985

With the publication of The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975-1985, the word “Cartoon” makes its second appearance on an Album cover and in an Album  title (the first was on the cover of The Album of Sports and Games: Cartoons of Three Decades).  The magazine’s 60th anniversary not only saw this anthology published, but the magazine’s fans were treated to a fabulous show of cartoons and covers, curated by Barbara Nicholls, a former art assistant to James Geraghty (Ms. Nicholls went on to establish a gallery representing many of the New Yorker’s artists). 

Mounted at the New York Public Library, this was the show for anyone who loved the magazine’s art.  Following its run in New York, the exhibit went on the road across the country, and across the big pond. Here’s the brochure:

But now back to the anthology. You can see by the cover that the design is solidly in the school of the understated. The is no introduction within, no foreword, no dedication. Compare the cover to the cover of the 90th Anniversary Book of Cartoons (the Spill will eventually get to that on another Sunday) — you’ll see how graphic decision-making has changed.

The 1975- 1985 Album leads off with a spectacular full page drawing by Robert Weber, and it ends with a full page Charles Addams drawing.  In between you’ll find a rich array of the grand masters of the form: Steig, Steinberg, George Price, Dana Fradon, Warren Miller, Frank Modell,  the aforementioned  Weber and Addams, Henry Martin, Booth, Koren, Ed Arno ( but not Peter Arno, who had passed away in 1968), Whitney Darrow, Jr., James Stevenson, Ed Fisher…the list couldn’t go on and on — it was, after all, finite, but you get the idea.  Also in the Album, a new wave of cartoonists, including Mick Stevens, Leo Cullum, Liza Donnelly, the two Roz’s: Zanengo and Chast, Tom Cheney, Michael Crawford, Richard Cline, Bill Woodman, Peter Steiner, and Mike Twohy, among others (including yours truly). Jack Ziegler, who I’ve dubbed “The Godfather of Contemporary New Yorker Cartoonists”  was a late entry in the 1925-1975 Album (his first New Yorker cartoon was published in 1974. He’s represented in the 1925-1975 Album by one cartoon)Here, in the 1975-1985 Album his genius is on full display.  

This Album would be the last published during William Shawn’s editorship.  The next Album would not appear until the year 2000, the magazine’s 75th anniversary (in between was Lee Lorenz’s Art of The New Yorker: 1925- 1995). 

Below: the back cover of the The New Yorker Cartoon Album 1975-1985:

And the inside flap copy:

   

 

The Think And The Ink: The New Yorker Album of Drawings 1925 – 1975

After spending time in the early years of the New Yorker Albums these past few Sundays I thought it would be fun to skip a few decades and look at how the magazine celebrated its 50th anniversary. I love the simplicity of this Album, its no-frills approach. Beginning with the no-nonsense cover featuring the title (set in the so-called Irvin typeface) and Rea Irvin’s bowing Eustace Tilleys. I look at these Tilleys as time period bookends, greeting each other from two very different eras. They are not quite mirror images of each other: the one bowing from 1975 is microscopically different than the one from 1925. If there’s any intended symbolism in that (and I doubt it), my guess would be that the magazine mascot was shown as true to its roots while allowing for subtle change (glacial change in those years).

The only introductory text is found on the inside front flap. It’s as if the magazine’s editor (William Shawn at that time) wanted to say that whatever needed to be said about this amazing body of work was going to be said by the work itself and not by “opinionaters.”

In a first for one of the Albums, there’s a dedication (Lee Lorenz had succeeded Mr, Geraghty in 1973):

The back cover lists the contributors (“Artists”) from Charles Addams to the new kid on the block, Jack Ziegler.

Appropriately enough, the Album leads off with a full page drawing by Peter Arno (one of his drawings led off the very first Album).  The volume ends with a small drawing by William Steig; a first drawing and a last by artists whose work was, in the words of the flap copy above, visually beautiful. The work in between is, of course, also visually beautiful, as well as funny. In more modern times, in the era post-Geraghty, post-Lee Lorenz, a different approach to the magazine’s cartoons was espoused: “it’s the think, not the ink.” But for the first 72 years of New Yorker‘s existence, it was the magazine’s dedication to the think and the ink, that allowed the New Yorker cartoon to make its considerable mark.

 

 

 

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker, October 9, 2017

The Monday Tilley Watch is a meandering take on the cartoons in the current issue of The New Yorker.

The New Yorker has gone through a number of survivable events in its 92 year history. It nearly folded in its first six months of existence, but survived when Raoul Fleischmann, its original backer, suddenly turned white knight, decided to pump more money into it. The magazine survived when the magazine’s founder and first editor Harold Ross died too soon.  The magazine survived its transition from the Fleischmann family to the Newhouse family in the late 1980s, and all the hooplah that ensued when William Shawn was succeeded by Robert Gottlieb, and when Gottlieb was in turn succeeded by Tina Brown, who was then succeeded by its current editor, David Remnick.  It won’t go without saying that yesterday’s news of the passing of Si Newhouse, owner of The New Yorker caused a lot of ink to begin flowing (online as well as print) about what his passing means for the future of the magazine.  Perhaps it’s best to acknowledge that the crystal ball is cloudiest just when we want it to be crystal clear. 

And now on to the cartoons in the latest issue.  

Two BEK covers in the last six issues of The New Yorker. Amazing. I’m always thrilled to see a cartoonist colleague’s work on the cover, and am ever hopeful more and more will be added into the mix.

Following all the up front of the book graphics (ads, of course, and illustrations) we come to the calm spread of pages 28 & 29 with a well placed Liana Finck drawing on the upper right.  I like the use of the word “monsters” in the caption.  I think the word has also suggested (at least to me) that the fellow Ms. Finck has pictured resembles ever-so-slightly the Frankenstein monster (as played by Boris Karloff).  

Six pages later we come to a Jon Adams drawing (his first New Yorker cartoon appeared last week).  The desert island cartoon, once seemingly on the verge of retirement is as present as ever in the magazine.  I’ll be curious as to how the Cartoon Companion guys dissect this drawing (we’ll find out later in the week when they post). I’m reluctant to step on their turf, but can’t help but be concerned that the angle of the palm tree which is about to catapult one of the islanders into the ocean (presumably to safety) will throw the fellow away from the container ship off in the distance. This is part of what cartoonists do, I guess.  We worry about the fate of stranded cartoon characters on a cartoon desert island.

On the very next page is a Michelangelo moment courtesy of Julia Suits.  Her drawing is based on one of the master’s greatest hits within one of his greatest hits:  the “Creation of Adam” (seen below) on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Ms. Suits has given us the origin story of a slightly shocking moment we’ve all experienced at one time or another. 

A couple of pages past the beginning of a Janet Malcolm piece on Rachel Maddow we come to a two-fer spread: an Edward Koren drawing on the left side and a Matthew Diffee on the right. Mr. Koren is our longest serving cartoon contributor, having first been published in 1962. It’s always a good week when one of his drawings graces the pages of the magazine. Selfishly, I would’ve loved to see this drawing run at least half-a-page.  But as the Rolling Stones so memorably sang, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you find you get what you need.” 

A quartet of pages later we come to a drawing by newbie, Maddie Dai; the drawing itself carries a candidate for longest caption in a New Yorker cartoon.  I think of George Booth when I see a lot of caption. Here’s an example of a long-form  Boothian caption from The New Yorker, February 18th,  1985:

Strangely enough, on the page following Ms. Dai’s fortune teller drawing is another longish captioned drawing — this one by David Sipress. I like the whiskerless cat(?) on the floor of this drawing.  It looks a bit distressed. Four pages later a Roz Chast triptych incorporating the word “illuminati”;  I’m beginning to get the feeling this issue is thematic in a mystical, monstrous, space agey way (Ms. Finck’s monster, Ms. Suits Michelangelo drawing, Maddie Dai’s fortune teller, Mr. Sipress’s a newly discovered planet drawing, and now Ms. Chast’s illuminati).  Probably just coincidence. 

Two pages later, the theme goes up in smoke as P.C. Vey takes us shopping. I note that none of the products on the shelves carry labeling. I’m reminded of the books in Chairman Mao’s library. On closer inspection, there is writing present on Mao’s books, but the first impression is similar (for me anyway) to Mr. Vey’s supermarket shelving.   

On the very next page after Mr. Vey’s shopping expedition we’re thematically back to religion with an Adam and Eve drawing courtesy of Will McPhail.  I suppose it’s possible it’s not Adam and Eve as the female here has to my eyes a contemporary haircut. You can’t see much of Adam, as he’s behind a giant leaf that doesn’t quite cover the “all”  mentioned in his caption. Someone who knows leaves can set me straight if Mr. McPhail’s leaf is similar to this maple leaf I grabbed off of Google images.  

 

A couple pages later another relative newbie, Kate Curtis (her first drawing appeared in the New Yorker in January of 2016).  Back to contemporary life with an airline check-in moment. The drawing looks vaguely Kim Warpian (it’s the airline employee’s fingers I think that bring Ms. Warp’s work to mind). Seven pages later we’re whip-lashed back to King Arthur’s big sword in the stone moment with a contemporary twist, courtesy of Ben Schwartz. Lars Kenseth had a sword and stone drawing recently. I wonder if sword and stone drawings are going to give desert island drawings a run for their money.

Nine pages later, we remain (somewhat) in ancient times with a couple of medieval towers (sans Rapunzel…possibly), and a dragon…and a lawn mower?  All from Avi Steinberg’s pen. This drawing reminds me of the George Price classic below (published in The New Yorker June 3, 1939).  Both Mr. Steinberg’s and Mr. Price’s have guys outdoors doing something in the yard; both have woman in the window calling out to the guys; both have something wrapped around a structure: Mr. Steinberg has a dragon, Mr. Price has ivy.

On the following page a talking clock from Eric Lewis. I’m always reluctant to favor a drawing in the Monday Tilley Watch (again, that’s what they do over on the Cartoon Companion site), but I’m going to favor this, the last drawing in the issue. I see shades of various artists in the drawing itself — this isn’t unusual: I see some vague hint of various cartoonists’ work in every cartoonist’s drawing (including my own). In this case it’s a little Stuart Leeds, a little Gahan Wilson, and a shadow of Pierre Le-Tan.  Of course, the drawing itself is pure Eric Lewis — an excellent way to end the issue. 

— see you next week.