The Tilley Watch

Last week in this spot I noted and silently wondered about the latest issue of The New Yorker (dated October 29) barely touching on Halloween (other than a witches and broomstick drawing by Seth Fleishman).  This week’s issue, dated November 5, solves the mystery with its trick-or-treating Trumpian cover. I think we’ve now seen enough of him on the cover to expect a New Yorker Book of Trump Covers. I believe his first appearance was on the double issue of Dec. 28, 1992/Jan. 4, 1993. Artist: Robert Risko. 

New Yorker history aficionados will note that what’s inside that issue (produced during Tina Brown’s era as editor) is of great interest: a lengthy piece, “Remembering Mr. Shawn: friends and colleagues recall the years with Shawn” — it’s essential reading, and includes photographs of Shawn taken by James Stevenson. 

Sidenote: the 1992/1993 issue contains the work of 35 cartoonists  It also contains an Artist’s Notebook by Benoit van Innes (full page, color), An Artist At Large spread by Philip Burke (4 1/4 pages, color), another Artist At Large, with Ronald Searle (a full page), an Artist’s Sketchbook by Gerald Scarfe (3 1/2 pages, color), a full page cartoon by Roz Chast and a color column by Danny Shanahan. Most of the single panel cartoons were placed in a space greater than a quarter page, with many running a half-page. There are 22 illustrations, with three full page. One of the things you’ll hear from colleagues who worked at The New Yorker during Tina Brown’s era (I was one of them) was that she knew how to throw a great party (and she did).  I’d like to expand that to: …and she knew how to throw a great graphic party

And now back to the future…

This new issue contains the work of 11 cartoonists (a bump up from last week’s ten) and 21 illustrations ( 6 1/2 pages of those are full pages). Of the 11 cartoons, one, by the wonderful Victoria Roberts, could be said to be nearly exclusively a Halloween drawing. There is another drawing — it features a ghost — but as it’s a telling scary stories around a campfire scenario, it could’ve been published at other times during the year. 

For the record, here are the contributing cartoonists in this issue:

I believe — but could well be mistaken — that the last on the list, Sarah Ransohoff, is making her New Yorker cartoonist debut in this issue. People who know better: please advise if this is incorrect. If this is correct, then Ms. Ransohoff is the 7th new cartoonist this year and the 19th cartoonist overall to be brought in under the cartoon editorship of Emma Allen since she took over in May of 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal History: Tearsheets

Quite a while ago (decades, in fact) I began collecting tearsheets of my New Yorker work (and back then, tearsheets from other publications that would have me). The New Yorker drawings  were kept in the black 3-ring binders you see above (non-New Yorker work was placed in 10″ x 13″ envelopes).  The binders seemed like a great idea, as the only record keeping I knew of were the black books the New Yorker kept (and keep) of everyone’s work. Here’s a shot of my black book (book-ended by some recognizable names) in the New Yorker‘s library. 

For a very long time this household received two copies of each issue, making it easy to rip out my work (and/or my wife, Liza Donnelly’s work) from issues and save the other issue.  This practice went on until the early 2000s when I decided that the New Yorker’s Cartoon Bank was, in effect, doing my work for me by running a well-organized easily searchable database.  While it wasn’t ever a complete picture (a hundred or more of my drawings never made it into their database), it was a good source.  Along with that was the publication of several databases: The Complete New Yorker‘s 8 discs, and The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker‘s 2 discs (just 1 disc in a later edition).

As all the work, up that time, was right there, all printable, it seemed silly to continue ripping out pages from the print magazine. The Complete New Yorker‘s discs covered February of 1925 through February of 2005 — with a promise to continue updating the work; The Complete Cartoons covered 1925 thru 2004.

Now some ten years after abandoning the tearsheet practice (the last tearsheet in my black volumes shown above is dated October 20, 2008), I regret not continuing.  There is currently no reliable contemporary archive online or on disc. The magazine’s online search function (available to subscribers) is inadequate.

I’d hoped that any forthcoming celebration of the magazine’s cartoons for The New Yorker‘s 100th birthday in 2025 might update the cartoon database. Heck, update the database for the entire magazine. If you own the aforementioned 8 discs from the Complete New Yorker, you’ll eventually discover that the discs will not work with modern computer systems. Luckily I have an ancient  iBook around and use that to search the database. 

So far, there is no mention in any of the promotional text accompanying the upcoming New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons that it includes a database — its interests seem to be fashioned around cartoon “tropes” — but we’ll see.

Interesting then that it’s back to where it started here: with collecting hard copies.  In my case, I held on to a large number of back issues of the magazine, but not enough issues to fill in these past 8 years. In the last year I’ve started ripping out tearsheets, but they’ve yet to be placed in the binders.  The chronologist in me wants to pick up where I left off, in 2008, and move forward. 

Perhaps I should’ve known better.  Having a binder in front of you, with everything in chronological order is the best way to go. I’ve used these binders as reminders of certain moments tied-in to the drawings (if there was something memorable to record). Here’s an example: a drawing published March 16, 1987.  As you see in the note attached, the drawing includes a nod to William Shawn. 

 

 

 

“A Search For Work ‘Funny, Beautiful, and True'”

In its final issue of 1992 the New Yorker published a remarkable piece, “Remembering Mr. Shawn”; thirty-three contributors recalling the late editor of the New Yorker who had passed away earlier in the month (one of them, Edward Koren, provided a drawing). I’ve read and re-read the piece a number of times and always come away with something by one of the contributors I’d missed before. But one recollection stuck from my first reading. Lee Lorenz, who served as Art Editor of the magazine from 1973 through 1997 (his title morphed to Cartoon Editor in the last five years of that span) wrote, in part, of his weekly art meetings with Mr. Shawn:

In a letter he [Shawn] wrote to me after he left the magazine he referred to these meetings as a search for work that was ‘funny, beautiful, and true.’ By “true” he meant not just true in its perception of the human condition but true to each artist’s vision.

I think Mr. Lorenz framed it perfectly.  When I think of “the New Yorker cartoon” as a distinct subset of American cartooning, and why it’s recognized as such, it’s due to the magazine’s long history of supporting its cartoonists and their work.

Of course there is and always has been disagreement over what is funny, and what is beautiful (and lately, more than ever, what is true).  For the four decades I’ve contributed to the New Yorker I’ve heard it said, at times, all along the way, that the cartoons aren’t as funny, or aren’t as good, as they used to be. I heard it said in the late 1970s, when I began contributing, and I hear it today.  Here’s a snippet from an article that popped up in my Google search just the other week:

Is the New Yorker magazine on the skids, or is it my brain that has lost whatever sharpness it may have had? I re-subscribed to the magazine a few months ago, and I seem to have detected a lower quality in its cartoons, which have always been its main attraction for persons of questionable intelligence, such as me.

What quality is, is also, of course, debatable. For every person who finds a particular New Yorker cartoon awful there’s another who finds it a work of genius (want to see for yourself? Go to the comments under any New Yorker cartoon posted on the magazine’s Facebook page).

Overlooked in all this public qualifying of what is funny, beautiful and true is the simple transaction between the artists and their editors: cartoonists do what we do as well as we can do it and send it to the magazine — the editors buy it or they don’t. The beauty of the New Yorker cartoon world is that cartoonists draw what they want. They are not assigned ideas by the editors. This total freedom allows the readership to see the work the cartoonists believe is funny, beautiful and true (i.e., their vision). It’s the not-so-secret formula for the now 93 year old success of the New Yorker cartoon.

Above: The inaugural issue of The New Yorker, cover by Rea Irvin; William Shawn, the magazine’s second editor; Lee Lorenz.  Photograph of Mr. Shawn by James Stevenson.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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.