50 Years Ago This Week: Peter Arno’s Last New Yorker Cartoon

Every so often the Spill likes to take a look at the last cartoon published by one of the magazine’s artists. This week it’s a drawing by Peter Arno — the cartoonist the New Yorker‘s Roger Angell called “the magazine’s first genius.”  I won’t go on and on here about why Arno is one of the magazine’s greatest — some say the greatest of the magazine’s artists, but if you want more on the subject there is a biography of him floating around (forgive me for lifting the bolded passage below from the aforementioned biography). 

(Above: Arno’s drawing as it appeared in the issue)

Sometime in the fall of 1967, Arno finished working on a full-page drawing of Pan blowing on his pipes as he frolicked through a glade.  In the forefront of the picture is a young, well-endowed woman, who says to him, “Oh, grow up!”  Brendan Gill [in his wonderful book, Here At The New Yorker] described the drawing this way:

“…in content and composition it was a characteristic piece of work…the drawing is a matter of some forty or fifty bold strokes of black against white, bound together by a gray wash; it has been built up as solidly as a fortress, though built in fun, and its dominant note is one of youthful zest.  Nobody could ever tell that it was the work of an aging man, let alone a dying one.”

“Oh, grow up!” wasn’t the last Arno published by the New Yorker.  His last cover appeared the following June, and the magazine has, from time-to-time brought out one of his older covers or drawings. But it was certainly the last published in his lifetime. The drawing appeared in the anniversary issue, dated February 24th, 1968. It would’ve been out on the newsstands a week earlier, the week of February 18.  Arno died on February 22. 

If you have access to the New Yorker‘s digital edition or happen to have a print copy, it’s certainly worth a visit to this issue — it’s a gem.  Rea Irvin’s Eustace Tilley is, of course, on the cover (and Mr. Irvin’s classic masthead for the Talk of The Town is in its place). The issue’s cartoons are by some of the greatest names on the magazine’s roster of artists (the magazine had a history of making sure the anniversary issue was loaded up with a good number of its big guns. In my Arno research I came across a note to Arno from the New Yorker‘s founder and first editor, Harold Ross expressing concern he (Ross) did not have a Arno drawing available for the upcoming anniversary issue). 

In this issue you’ll find terrific cartoons by Robert Weber, Alan Dunn, George Price, James Stevenson, William Steig, Steinberg, Richard Decker, Warren Miller, Frank Modell, Syd Hoff, Charles Addams, Whitney Darrow, Jr., Lee Lorenz, Mischa Richter, and Barney Tobey. (At this particular time the magazine’s stable of cartoonists was all male. Mary Petty’s piece appeared in 1966, and Nurit Karlin’s work did not begin appearing until 1974).

Next week, the Spill will return with its usual Monday Tilley Watch.   

 

“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.  

 

“A Source of Very Special Delight” — The New Yorker Album of Sports & Games; An Ink Spill Super Bowl Tradition

Just in time for two giant sports happenings: the Super Bowl, and the Winter Olympics: The New Yorker Album of Sports & Games.  At the bottom of today’s post an Ink Spill Super Bowl Sunday tradition with a football-related drawing of mine from some time back. 

It only took sixteen years following the first themed New Yorker album of drawings  (that would be The War Album, published in 1942) for a second to appear.  Deftly designed by Carmine Peppe (spelled “Carmin” in this album for some reason), who William Shawn described as “the one make-up editor in the world who could provide [Harold Ross] with the chaste and lovely pages that would properly set off whatever we published.” I love how Mr. Peppe placed Rea Irvin‘s Tilley all over the place, on the front and on the back cover. He knew an icon when he saw one.

Curiously, although there are plenty of cartoons about sports featured in both Summer & Winter Olympics,  there is not one cartoon specifically related  to the Olympics. No matter. No one can fault an album delivering large doses of work by, among many others, Mary Petty, Charles Addams, Thurber, Steinberg, Steig, Helen Hokinson, Anatol Kovarsky, Peter Arno, Barbara Shermund, George Price, and Charles Saxon.  Looking through you’ll see at least two themes rarely seen in the magazine these days: mountain climbing and moose hunting (although Charles Addams’ drawing of a moose driving a car down a mountain road with a hunter tied to the front fender could surely appear now).  There are an awful lot of drawings about mountain climbing — I guess everyone took a shot at those back then.

From the inside flap copy (there is no Introduction):

“Almost anyone who has ever been involved in sports and games, either as a participant or from the sidelines, will find this collection a source of very special delight”

For those wanting to add this album to their collection, it’s easy to find.  I just went over to AbeBooks.com and found a copy with its dust jacket for about four bucks. Deal!

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And here, continuing an Ink Spill  Super Bowl Sunday tradition, is a drawing of mine that appeared in the October 16, 2006 issue of The New Yorker.

 

 

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. 

 

 

Tom Chitty Talks Implied Noses and Sketch-Burps

The first time you set eyes on a Tom Chitty cartoon there’s no way you’ll not have some kind of reaction. His is not a cookie cutter cartoon style, but something expressly his own.  Like Lars Kenseth, Mr. Chitty has dared to go to some other cartoon dimension — a place with unfamiliar human anatomy.  He and Mr. Kenseth  are cartoon risk-takers.  I’ve been emailing with Mr. Chitty over the winter months, talking about his work, and his life north of the border. Here’s some of what we discussed:

Michael Maslin: The people in your drawings are most unusual. Can you talk about how they came to be? And I tempted to ask (so I will): any particular reason there are no noses?

Tom Chitty: The way my cartoons are drawn today grew out of some advice I got at animation school. My tutor suggested I stop worrying about style, and concentrate more on ideas. So I started working more quickly, scribbling only what was essential to remember a thought. It turns out you don’t necessarily need noses in that context, and you for-sure don’t need Gray’s Anatomy. At a certain point, this way of drawing became normal to me – like handwriting.

My finished New Yorker cartoons are more deliberate than those initial sketch-burps, and my illustrations still more so – but I always start with the loose stuff and keep as much of it as I can.For the record, I describe the noses as ‘implied’, rather than non-existent!

MM: And moving on to another unique Chitty person characteristic: the bowl-legs. Do you have some cowboy in your background? Can you talk about the leg structure?

TC: If you take a look at the drawings I sent you (the ones that have noses), you’ll see that they’ve been drawn into a somewhat pre-defined, rounded-oblong, shape. I drew like this for a while because I read a couple of books about Mayan hieroglyphs and I became briefly (but healthily) obsessed.

Above: Nosed Chitty people

I don’t draw that way so much any longer, but the block-shaped bodies stuck. The legs are positioned quite far apart, it’s true, but I think that’s where they would need to be to hold up such a cumbersome torso. My characters are weird but they fully respect the laws of physics, probably.

No family cowboys that I am aware of, but plenty of odd bods.

MM: I love knowing what influenced cartoonists early on in life. Were you influenced/inspired by television, animated cartoons, comics, something else…a combination of any of those, or none of those?

TC: Asterix books were my first cartoon love, then Calvin and Hobbes (of course). Quentin Blake’s illustrations for Roald Dahl certainly lodged themselves in my brain, and I absorbed a bunch of Moomin that didn’t really understand. I read Dr. Suess’ Did I ever tell you how lucky you are?, over and over. Probably still my favorite book.

I have always been a heavy user of movies, but I’m not sure that was a direct influence on my drawing. I did used to watch Monty Python re-runs with my Dad, whenever they were on, and it’s hard not to be influenced by that, unless you are made of cardboard.

After Python came A bit of Fry and Laurie (Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie’s sketch show), French and Saunders, Blackadder, and anything Armando Iannucci or Steve Coogan were doing.

MM: I confess I did not know, until moments ago when I looked them up, what the Asterix books were/are. Looking at Asterix himself — and stop me if I’m stretching the comparison at all — I can maybe see just a hint of inspiration there for the way you draw legs. Did not expect the brief Mayan hieroglyphics obsession, but that’s why I asked. You just never know what has directly or indirectly been an influence.

 Dr. Suess, Monty Python, Quentin Blake…it’s all beginning to make sense now. Any MAD magazine in your past or present? And what of the New Yorker artists? Anyone, or ones, that were motivators (for lack of a better word)?

TC: It’s very possible I internalized Uderzo’s Asterix legs. It would certainly explain why spindly limbs look quite normal to me.  It’s tough to pick out a particular New Yorker artist, but the first books I bought on this subject were collections by William Steig, and Charles Barsotti. I could tell you I love Roz Chast, but that would be as revelatory as admitting I have eyes. In general, I have favourite cartoons rather than cartoonists – favourite ideas.

A high school friend had a subscription to MAD magazine, so I’d flick through his issues while listening to Nirvana and eating sausages. I don’t know it as well as I would like though. MAD was a bit of a mythical creature in my particular English suburb, as was the New Yorker.

MM: Can you talk a little about how you made your way to the New Yorker. When did you begin thinking it might be worth a try; when did you begin submitting; what was the reaction when you first began showing your work?

TC: It wasn’t until I moved to Canada, (in 2009) that I was regularly exposed to the New Yorker. In the U.K. I’d use Private Eye to suck in cartoons – not least because the New Yorker was not well distributed (for obvious reasons).

In Toronto the magazine is easy to get hold of, and so I got to know it. It’s also pretty easy to get to New York City from here – I can go twice a year, instead of twice in my lifetime. That really helped. The idea of submitting started to feel reasonable – plus friends and family were telling me I should (even after they had seen my drawings).

So, I bought a pile of books about New Yorker cartoons and cartoonists, and once I’d read them, I reached out for some guidance on the submission process. Matt Diffee gave me some great advice, that seemed to boil down to this: at the start it’s really about figuring out how you can deliver a batch of ideas every week (forever). If you can do that, you’ll certainly get better at cartooning, and you might have a shot at getting published.

Above: Tom Chitty’s first New Yorker cartoon

I started submitting in the summer of 2014 and I got my first O.K. later that year. The first reaction I endured to that particular cartoon [published October 13, 2014] was a comment on the New Yorker‘s Facebook page. It was words to the effect of, “this drawing is so ugly”. After a little soul wringing, I managed to take that as a compliment.

MMThe Facebook commenter (“this drawing is so ugly”) probably did you a favor by offering up a quick immersion into the kind of stuff one needs to ignore to carry on. Are your days filled with drawing cartoons; are you involved in other projects; do you take time off for very un-cartoony things?

TC: At various times I am also an animator and illustrator – when something juicy comes up – but, most of my working life is spent making cartoons and art prints. I draw neighborhood scenes, mainly of Toronto right now, and also houses on commission – usually that’s an old family home, or in celebration of a new one.

I have always wanted to be a cartoonist, but I probably wanted to be a footballer even more than that (soccer player, for my American friends). I never really imagined that would happen, of course, but I do still spend more time playing and watching sport than is sensible. Here is some ridiculous evidence if you want it.

My one-year-old son is the main distraction right now though. Even football has taken a back seat to that little maniac – though, the cartooning brain is never truly off is it? Every experience has the potential to become a silly drawing.

MMWhat is the cartoonist community like in Toronto? Do you ever run into Seth?

TC: Toronto is a great place to be for cartoons and graphic arts in general. It’s the fourth largest city in North America, so you’d expect that, I suppose – but despite it’s size its still very neighborhoody and I think that helps develop communities of all kinds.

The Ontario College of Art and Design is based right next to the Art Gallery of Ontario, which itself runs cartooning workshops. O.C.A.D. has some headline graduates in this field like Michael Cho and Gary Taxali. There’s also Sheridan College, a little out of the City. It’s known for exporting graduates to Pixar, among other things.

The Beguilling is the comic book store I prod people towards when they visit. It serves as something of a cartoonist hub in my experience – it’s run by the same people who organize the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

There are some very interesting Canadian magazines based here, like Broken Pencil, which showcases indy publications and zines, and Taddle Creek, which is a broad literary mag (including comics) and, like the New Yorker, it features illustrations on the cover.

I haven’t met Seth, but I did say hello to Chester Brown at T.C.A.F. once, so that’s close.

Above: Mr. Chitty with Mr. Dator, in Toronto, July 3, 2017

I also intentionally bumped into Joe Dator here last year, while he was visiting. He told me that Alice Cheng lives in Toronto too. So, if you’re reading this Alice, let’s grab a coffee! She definitely isn’t reading this.

The Monday Tilley Watch: The New Yorker Issue of January 29, 2018

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

Always a pleasure to see a colleague’s work pop up as a New Yorker cover as I open up the digital edition early Monday morning. We (“we” meaning the New Yorker‘s contributing cartoonists) used to be responsible (my unofficial estimate) for 60% of the covers during the year. Since Tina Brown’s era it’s somewhere around 1% to 5%. Roz Chast, Bruce Kaplan, Danny Shanahan, Harry Bliss, and George Booth would be the five percent. In 2017, just Ms. Chast’s and Mr. Kaplan’s work appeared on the cover.  In 2016, it was just Mr. Shanahan’s; in 2015 just Mr. Bliss’s work appeared on the cover — well, you get the idea). This one by Ms. Chast is graphically eye-catching.  It was ever-so-slightly difficult to appreciate on the tablet, so it was off to the laptop for a bigger image. I think the cover perfectly captures some people’s notion  (or reality) of January in New York City. The scarf knitted, then lost days later on the train, is shown on the magazine’s strap (the traditional vertical border running on the left side of the magazine’s covers) — it’s a nice touch.

Moving into the magazine I noted an attractive snippet of a Grant Snider drawing from a Daily Shouts piece. The blues reminded me of William Steig’s blues he used in a great number of his children’s books.

Oh, here’s a thought: why not reinstate Rea Irvin’s iconic Talk of The Town masthead in the magazine’s 93rd anniversary issue — just a few issues away. How great would that be! Mr. Irvin’s is directly below, with the re-do directly below it. 

To read more on the Mr. Irvin’s gem and its replacement, check out this Spill piece

Now on to the magazine’s cartoons. The first, by Amy Kurzweil, appears on page 19. A somewhat dark (yet not-so-dark!) take on flight delays.  I’m guessing many would enjoy a bonus three hours of life.  Nice handling of the plane out on the tarmac. Eleven pages later, the aforementioned Bruce Kaplan has a couple of kitties chatting in a living room.  As one who came later to cat appreciation, I appreciate the sentiment of the drawing, as well (as usual) as the drawing itself.

Noted along the way from Ms. Kurzweil’s drawing to Mr. Kaplan’s: Rui Ruireiro’s spot drawings making good use of yellow.  I see the predominant use of yellow in the New Yorker (especially if it involves a yellow cab, such as on page 28) and I’m immediately reminded of Steinberg’s masterful use of it on a cover back in 1979:

Four pages following Mr. Kaplan’s kitties, a wonderful Edward Koren drawing (wait, is there any other kind?). As with the last number of Koren cartoons published this one is given ample space to breathe on the page. Textbook placement. 

On the very next page a drawing by a relative newcomer, Pia Guerra. Who knew guessing weights at a carnival could lead to violence.  By the look of the weight guesser he has yet to be pummeled.  

Three pages later, a rather large funnel, or, ah, tunnel, drawing by Colin Tom (sorry, no website for Mr. Tom, that i know of. Please advise). I kind’ve wish this wasn’t in a boxy border (it’s obvious by now — maybe?– that I believe New Yorker cartoons thrive in a roomy habitat). On the very next page, an Amy Hwang drawing with a terrific caption.  I was about to note that this was a cat-free Hwang drawing when I spied a framed kitty on the cubicle wall.

The cartoons keep-a-comin in this issue: two more on the next two pages. The first by David Sipress and and the next by Paul Noth. Mr. Sipress’s recalls David Letterman’s, “I do and do and do for you kids — and this is what I get.” Mr. Noth’s refers to one of my favorite scenarios: the old women who lives in a shoe. In this case she’s spending some down time at a bar. I must say that the self-proclaimed old woman in Mr. Noth’s drawing appears quite young.  Perhaps she’s just starting out in life, in the shoe? Ten pages later a subway drawing couched as a personal hygiene drawing by Carolita Johnson. Clipping one’s nails while riding the subway seems risky. 

On the very next page, a Joe Dator drawing that set-off the Spill‘s applause meter. I’m leaving the applause meter out for Tom Chitty‘s drawing five pages later. 

Another five pages later, a Mick Stevens doctor’s office. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out  if what appears to be a jar of rubber glue on the front right of the desk is in fact a jar of rubber glue.  Four pages later a Frank Cotham drawing in a very familiar Frank Cotham scenario. On the very next page, the last drawing of the issue, not counting the caption contest: a charming charming Liana Finck drawing. I don’t know why, but I wanted the Earl of Sandwich to be the one asking the other guy the question. The cartoonist’s fuss-o-meter never rests.