Friday, January 15, 2021

Singing Along with John Held, Jr.

Late in 2017 on eBay, six as yet unsold woodblock prints by John Held, Jr., caught my eye. And my ear.

Note:  I've always wondered how many of these woodblock prints Held pulled or, to put it another way, what was the approximate edition size? Or did he just stop when he felt he got it right? Did he treat these as originals intended primarily for reproduction or as print editions to sell to his fans?


Thursday, January 14, 2021

John Held, Jr.: My Pious Friends and Drunken Companions

In 1927, amidst the backdrop of Prohibition and its discontents, Frank Shay collected My Pious Friends and Drunken Companions. The book is "magnificently illuminated" by the cartoonist John Held, Jr., showing off his deliberately old-fashioned woodblock style. What caught my eye right off was the bold frontispiece illustration, The Rumrunner's Sister-in-Law. This had been Held's very first New Yorker illustration, appearing in the issue of April 11, 1925.

The Rumrunner's Sister-in-Law
John Held, Jr.
The New Yorker, April 11, 1925, page 5

An illustrator of Held's popularity gets his name to appear with the same prominence as the author's.

The book is marred by a hand-written dedication, which may have meant something in 1927, and by numerous emendations to the songs.

The tipped-in photo purports to show Held "At 3 A.M. in the Roaring Twenties." He was a night owl, evidently.

The Table of Contents is illustrated with a detail from Bygone Days, below.

The previous owner's notations document some variation of the song, perhaps based on a recording. The published lyrics highlight the mainstream acceptance of racist language at the time.

Variations on such lyrics were common:
"Way Down Yonder in the Cornfield"
Imperial Quartet, 1915

The Curse of the Opera House demonstrates how unsatisfying it is to look at a vertical image horizontally.

More notations to song lyrics:

Bygone Days shows what nostalgia for drinking looked like in the 1920s.

John Held, Jr.
eBay listing accessed January 13, 2021

John Held, Jr.
eBay item description

Cartoon by John Held, Jr.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Cartoon Collections Caption Contest #109

I found my inner child for the Cartoon Collections Caption Contest #109. The drawing is by Robert Leighton. My three captions are posted below but the contest ended prematurely and a new contest was already up at the time I entered, making for some more than usually unfunny juxtapositions. That's what I get for waiting till the last minute.

"Her Dad's going to repeat the year."
"On the internet, they call him a genius."
"He calls himself the new kid on the blocks."


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Gahan Wilson: Joystick

An original illustration by Gahan Wilson, c. 1985, has been sold on eBay for $2,250. An executive, presumably, is shown directing the actions of an employee via a joystick controller with a cable. Wilson's colors are vibrant and his crosshatching is exquisite. But what precisely is the context of this image?

Gahan Wilson
eBay listing ended November 26, 2020

Gahan Wilson
eBay item description

In September, prior to its sale on eBay, this original artwork was offered for auction at Hake's. Here we learn that the artwork was created for a financial services brochure:

Gahan Wilson
Hake's listing of September 24, 2020

Here then are all the Gahan Wilson illustrations from the Hake's sale shown together. It seems they were created for the same brochure.

Further auction details from Hake's:

The smaller illustrations from that last set have since been offered individually on eBay.

Note:  I'd like to hear from anyone with a copy of the financial brochure in which this artwork appeared.

Images of original artwork by Gahan Wilson are sought after for purposes of public discussion here on Attempted Bloggery.


Monday, January 11, 2021

My Entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #738

Below is my entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #739 for January 11, 2021. The drawing is by Carolita Johnson.

"Now you show him how to act like a dog."


Saturday, January 9, 2021

Blog Post No. 3500: William Steig's "What Is Art?"

Dick Buchanan, standard-bearer of the Cartoon Clip Files, writes about an original art acquisition:

I bought this piece on eBay many years ago. I won it with just $5 over second place bidder. Whew! It was framed but I took a chance and, as it turned out, it was lightly attached to backboard and was in fabulous condition. I have removed, re-matted and it is now hanging in my tiny workspace at Clip File Headquarters, just around the corner from the Old Joke Cemetery somewhere in New York's scenic Greenwich Village. 'Nuff said.

Excelsior! Let's light up our pipes and have a look:
"What is art? Who knows?"
William Steig
The New Yorker, April 23, 1960, page 46
India ink, ink wash and correction fluid on watercolor paper
Image 7 ¼ x 6 1/2 inches, on a 9 ½ x 10 1/4-inch sheet
Scan by Dick Buchanan

Scan by Dick Buchanan

Scan by Dick Buchanan

Scan by Dick Buchanan

"What is art? Who knows?"
William Steig
The New Yorker, April 23, 1960, page 46

Scan by Dick Buchanan

This simple yet profound cartoon also appeared in The New Yorker Album of Art and Artists (1970), an old favorite. It occurs to me that The New Yorker doesn't publish nearly so many cartoons about art these days, let alone about the very definition of art. What a shame! Or has it all been said?
The New Yorker Album of Art and Artists (1970)

Note:  Today Dick Buchanan goes beyond his usual Cartoon Clip Files duty to present a superb work of William Steig original cartoon art. Did I say art? Why yes, I suppose I did. Dick contributes regularly to Mike Lynch Cartoons, most recently a blockbuster post entitled "From the Dick Buchanan Files: Barney Tobey Gag Cartoons 1938 - 1966." Check it out for a generous helping of Tobey's non-New Yorker work. This is Dick's 59th contribution to Attempted Bloggery. Thanks for all you do, Dick!

By the way, contributions of original art by William Steig are always welcome here.

Now, class, what is art? Raise your hand if you know.

The Attempted Bloggery Centennial Posts

Blog Post No. 100
Blog Post No. 200:  A Shaggy Dog Story