Harold Ross’s “R”

The arrival of a New Yorker original here at Spill headquarters is always a “moment.”  Yesterday’s  addition to the Spill collection — an I. Klein original published in the June 19, 1926 issue — instantly became the second oldest New Yorker drawing in the house (the earliest is an Alice Harvey cartoon, published October 25, 1925). Here’s how Mr. Klein’s drawing looked as published (below left):

Here’s what the original looks like:

When the drawing arrived — when any pre-1952* New Yorker original drawing arrives — the first thing my eyes go to is the “R” usually found on either the upper right hand corner of a drawing or on the back of the drawing.  The “R” was The New Yorker‘s founder and first editor, Harold Ross’s  way of noting a bought drawing.  You can clearly see the “R’ on the upper right hand corner of Mr. Klein’s drawing:

Ross’s “R” is mentioned in a memorable passage on page 61 of James Thurber’s must read, The Years With Ross. Here’s Thurber talking about a drawing** he loved enough to resubmit despite Ross’s initial rejection:

“I’ll send that drawing in to every meeting until it’s bought and printed,”  I told him [Ross]. I think it was bought on the third resubmission. Some of my drawings were held up much longer than that, and one night I got into Ross’s office with a passkey, faked his R on three drawings I especially liked, and sent them through the works the next day.

Ross’s “R” appeared elsewhere, as on this New Yorker reprint of a Joseph Mitchell piece.  We perhaps should assume that the initial indicated approval of this special issue.

 

*Ross died in December of 1951. His successor William Shawn, did not seem to initial bought drawings.

**The drawing of “a would-be woman purchaser” of a dog at a pet shop, being told by the proprietor, “I’m very sorry, madam, but the one in the middle is stuffed, poor fellow” was published March 7, 1936.

Here’s I. Klein’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

I. (“Izzy”) Klein  Born Isidore Klein, Newark, New Jersey, October 12, 1897. Died, 1986. His papers can be found at Syracuse University. New Yorker work, over 200 drawings from 1925 through 1937.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From The Archives: The Humble New Yorker Art Department Office Supply; Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon; Today’s Daily Shouts Cartoonist

Here’s a fun oddity: the stamp/envelope moistener that once sat in The New Yorker‘s Art Department at the magazine’s 25 West 43rd Street address. The moistener, sold by Chicago’s Wilson Jones Company, seems have been manufactured in the 1940s. It was in use at The New Yorker until 1991, when the magazine moved south across 43rd Street to modern digs and more modern means of correspondence.

When I began contributing to The New Yorker in the 1970s, cartoonists either went into the office to drop off their weekly batch of drawings, or they mailed in their batch. If you sold a drawing, it would arrive by week’s end in a 10″x13″ manilla envelope with a glued flap.  I can’t help but think of the humble part the moistener –a  simple heavy object — played in the process of every New Yorker cartoonist’s life back then. It was part of a chain of events that began with the cartoonist’s creation of a drawing; the drawing then sent or brought to the magazine’s offices where it passed by the eyes of the art editor (James Geraghty, until 1973, and then Lee Lorenz).  If it made that first cut, it moved on to the art meeting, and shown to the editor (Harold Ross until 1951, William Shawn until 1987, then Robert Gottlieb). If the editor Oked it (and the fact checkers cleared it), the Oked cartoon was placed in a New Yorker envelope, sealed (!) and returned to the cartoonist. Trumpets didn’t blare upon its homecoming, but it was always a heart-racing “moment” seeing that envelope and unsealing it to find which of your drawings was now a New Yorker cartoon.

____________________________________________________

Today’s Daily Cartoonist & Cartoon

Help remembering 2020 by Avi Steinberg.

Mr. Steinberg began contributing to The New Yorker in 2012.

___________________________________________________

Today’s Daily Shouts Cartoonist

“Torture Devices Designed By My Inner Monologue”

by Irving Ruan, and cartoonist Eugenia Viti, who began contributing to The New Yorker in in June of 2019.

 

Special Screening Of Stevenson Lost And Found For New Yorker Cartoonists; Meet The Artist (1943): Mischa Richter; David Remnick On Ross And Shawn

Special Screening Of Stevenson Lost And Found For New Yorker Cartoonists

The Spill has learned there’ll be a special screening for all New Yorker cartoonists next Tuesday of the documentary film, Stevenson Lost And Found. I asked the film’s director, Sally Williams to explain how this came about:

The idea for this screening came about from Nathan Fitch who is making the George Booth documentary.  We met up prior to our STEVENSON – LOST AND FOUND world premiere to compare notes and see how we could help each other out.  I think I found the idea of a New Yorker Cartoonist screening appealing because it creates a space for a different dialogue around the film.  There will be aspects that cartoonists recognize and connect with that others do not, I thought it would be interesting and valuable to have that insight from the current pool of New Yorker cartoonists.  As filmmakers, artists, illustrators it can be a bit of a sequestered road at times – so any excuse to interrupt that and bring people together is worth it I think.

(If you are a New Yorker cartoonist and want further info on the showing, please contact me).

__________________________________________________________________________________

Meet The Artist : Mischa Richter

This is the second in a series of New Yorker artist’s self portraits included in the 1943 catalog, Meet The Artist

Here’s Mr. Richter’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Mischa Richter (photo courtesy of Sarah Geraghty Herndon). Born, Kharkov, Russia, 1910. Died, March 23, 2001. New Yorker work: January 10, 1942 – January 20, 2003 ; Key books: This One’s On Me! (McGraw-Hill, 1945) , The Cartoonist’s Muse, co-authored by Harald Bakken (Contemporary Books, 1992). )

 

________________________________________________________________________

David Remnick On Harold Ross And William Shawn

If you, like me, never got around to picking up a copy of The New Yorker‘s 2016  anthology The 50s: The Story Of A Decade (Random House), you probably missed New Yorker editor David Remnick’s Introduction.  Lithub has the intro here.

Here’s a sample, with Mr. Remnick talking about the Shawn style of editing the magazine vs Ross’s.

“…Shawn assumed for himself far more authority than Ross, who was prepared to delegate a greater amount to his various deputies, or “Jesuses.” Shawn was also quiet, subtle, secretive, elliptical, and, to some, quite strange. He was a variety of genius who enjoyed funny writing as well as serious fiction, supported completely the individual artists and writers on a profoundly variegated staff, and expressed his myriad curiosities about the world by sending writers out to explore its many corners.” 

 

Who, Darrow?

Lately, while rummaging around through my own New Yorker history, I’ve spent a lot of time re-reading what other contributors had to say about the transitional period of Shawn to Gottlieb to Brown to Remnick. There were a number of books,  all published in the late 1990s, early 2000s: Renata Adler’s Gone, Lillian Ross’s Here But Not Here, Ved Mehta’s Remembering Mr. Shawn, John Seabrook’s Nobrow, E.J. Kahn’s Year Of Change. It was the E.J. Kahn book that got me looking over the rest of the Kahn books here at Spill headquarters. 

I ended up going much further away from the late 1990s, back to The Harold Ross years, to 1949, when Who, Me? was published (it’s a collection of Mr, Kahn’s New Yorker pieces).  Either I knew who the cover artist was whenever I bought the book, and forgot — or I never knew.  Either way, it was a pleasant surprise seeing the signature “Darrow” way down at the bottom. At first, I wasn’t positive it was Whitney Darrow, Jr. , the New Yorker artist — the signature was very close, but not exactly as he signed his work at the time.

The inside flap confirmed it: 

Jacket Design by Whitney Darrow, Jr.

 

Here’s what the inside cover looks like:

All very un-Darrow like. Here’s what Mr. Darrow’s New Yorker work looked like the year Who, Me? was published.  The drawing below appeared in the issue of July 2, 1949.

Note:  Mr. Kahn began contributing to The New Yorker in 1932. Mr. Darrow in 1933.  Below is Mr. Darrow’s entry on the Spill‘s A-Z:

Whitney Darrow, Jr. (photo above) Born August 22, 1909, Princeton, NJ. Died August, 1999, Burlington, Vermont. New Yorker work: 1933 -1982. Quote (Darrow writing of himself in the third person): …in 1931 he moved to New York City, undecided between law school and doing cartoons as a profession. The fact that the [New Yorker’s] magazine offices were only a few blocks away decided him…” (Quote from catalogue, Meet the Artist, 1943)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal History: Ink Never Sleeps

The cartoonist working in the wee hours. 1978, New York City

There are probably as many different work habits among New Yorker cartoonists as there are New Yorker cartoonists. I’ve heard of colleagues who are nine-to-fivers, and those who’ve worked the night shift. There was even a rumor of a colleague, now long gone, who did his batch of cartoons on the train as he headed down from Connecticut to see the New Yorker‘s art editor. As there’s no clock to punch, we are left to working out/on our own schedule. Joe Dator‘s hysterical “How We Do It” published in The New Yorker Cartoon Issue of 2012 (September 24th to be exact) is the last word on the idealized life of cartoonists working for the magazine.

My own work habits migrated with the years, from childhood, passing the hours drawing in front of the television, to working during high school study halls (yes, that’s right, instead of studying) to working at any convenient time in college between all those required courses, to post-college when staying up all night resulted in a whole lot of drawing but few usable ideas. Post-college, living in Manhattan, inspired perhaps by my perceived notion of the work habits of my downstairs neighbor, the writer Donald Barthelme, I began an attempt at regular hours — vaguely bracketed by late morning and late afternoon. Years later, out of the city and with a family, the unthinkable happened: working very early in the morning for a defined amount of time (my wife and I split our work days: I worked in the morning while she was with our kids, and she worked in the afternoon while I was with the kids). Once the kids grew up and flew the nest, the entire day was wide open again, but the morning hours remained (and remain) as the best use of time. In the past decade, the mid-to-late afternoon around 4 o’clock — what William Shawn called the hour of hope — has become an opportune time to wait for the cartoon gods to toss me an idea or two.

Through all this time shifting, from childhood home through the home where our kids grew up, from working defined times to undefined, from working through the night to working early in the day to working whenever, there has remained a constant: making myself available, Rapidograph and paper at the ready, with the intention that something might happen.

My tool of choice from high school to the present: the Rapidograph.