Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Saul Steinberg: Santa Claus Skating

Longtime reader and contributor David from Manhattan writes:

It is uncommon to find a Saul Steinberg Christmas card that passed through the holiday mails and was saved, but in the case of this 1948 card--one of a series of seven black-and-white holiday cards created by the artist and produced by the Museum of Modern Art from 1945 through 1951--it took a much more exotic route. Steinberg's Santa went through international mails in order to reach an absent family member, Edward O. Douglas, Jr., on a round-the-world cruise. Edward was a passenger aboard the Brigantine Yankee, a steel-hulled schooner which at this time was making its fourth world tour in 11 years, from Gloucester, Mass. on Nov. 2, 1947, westward via the Panama Canal, around the Cape of Good Hope and back to Gloucester by May 1, 1949. The Yankee not only earned a detailed and fascinating write-up in Wikipedia, but it appeared on the cover of National Geographic in December 1959. Even more impressive, the schooner was the subject of a 1966 television special, Voyage of the Brigantine Yankee, scored by Elmer Bernstein and narrated by Orson Welles. While it's not clear from the poorly struck postmarks where the card was mailed from and when in December it was sent, the card, paying double the 25c airmail rate, appears to have caught up with their son at Beira, Mozambique on or shortly after Dec. 14, 1948.

Steinberg's card, appropriately, received generous holiday treatment. Mr. & Mrs. Douglas not only contributed a lengthy, gossipy letter (in the voice of Mom) to their son that covers almost every inch inside the card (and pretty much obscures the printed museum text), but Mom hand-colored the Steinberg Santa: "Don't you love it? I added the color & this was my first so I think I have done the others better--with a lighter touch." One wonders if any of the other Douglas mailings have survived, and what Steinberg would have thought of Mrs. Douglas (or anyone else) embellishing his pen & ink work, though I think he certainly would have approved of his Santa vacationing in Africa.

Note:  "Don't you love it?" My thanks to David from Manhattan for introducing me to this long-forgotten Christmas card by Saul Steinberg. This is his 59th contribution to the blog. I'd still like to see what the Santa card looks like in unadulterated black and white, the way Steinberg drew it. Help me out with this, if you can. I can't find an image anywhere.


Monday, December 4, 2023

My Entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #877

Four out of five people wear an emoji in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #877 from the issue of December 4, 2023. What could the fifth person be saying? My caption is shown below. The drawing is by Adam Sacks.

"Is there one for vaguely alienated?"


Sunday, December 3, 2023

Glen Baxter: Robin Hood, Impressed

An original 1991 cartoon by Glen Baxter features Robin Hood and his Merry Men indulging in anachronism. It was published in The Further Blurtings of Baxter (1994).

Glen Baxter
AbeBooks listing accessed December 21, 2022

This piece has remained side by side with the Santa Clauses drawing (posted yesterday) thus far. It was originally offered by Chris Beetles, Ltd., of London in 1997. It later went on the auction block at Bonhams London in November of 2022 with a presale estimate of 500 to 700 GBP. It sold for 956.25 GBP, the hammer price of 750 GBP plus the 27.5% buyer's premium. Maggs Bros. listed it in December 2022 with just an 83% markup, keeping it at the same 1,750 GBP price as the Santas (which itself was marked up 292%). It's not an outrageous price; Chris Beetles prices Baxter originals usually at the high end of 1,750 to 2,500 GBP.
Glen Baxter

Note:  There's something perplexing about the 1991 date on this drawing. This cartoon is mentioned in "Gladys Whispered," John Bayley's December 6, 1990 review of that year's The Billiard Table Murders by Glen Baxter. See the London Review of Books article here. Perhaps then there is an earlier version of this drawing. I hope a Baxter aficionado will set me straight on this. I'd also like to hear from anyone with access to the original 1997 price from Chris Beetles.


Saturday, December 2, 2023

Glen Baxter: It is December

Original Glen Baxter art was published in The Observer on December 7, 1997:

Glen Baxter
AbeBooks listing accessed December 21, 2022

The image was published in America as a greeting card:

The artwork was listed at one time by Chris Beetles. It was later offered in November 2022 by Bonhams London with an estimate of 500 to 700 GBP. It sold for 350 GBP, or 446.25 GBP with the 27.5% buyer's premium. It resurfaced the following month at Maggs Bros., Ltd., priced at very close to a 300% markup.


As published:


I don't know the price history of this piece with Chris Beetles, Ltd.—feel free to help me out here—but I can report on the gallery's current listing of a similar Baxter work of unknown date. The multiple Santas are explicit in both cartoons. Note also the hands-on-hips stance, the single pair of Santa sunglasses, and the use of the word already in both instances.



Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Arthur Rackham: Endpapers to The Compleat Angler by Izaac Walton

The endpaper to Arthur Rackham's 1931 illustrated edition of Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler is a silhouette depicting two men fishing. He colored the origibal ink drawing with a sepia wash. The work was offered at Doyle New York on November 7 with an estimate of $7,000 to $10,000. It sold for just $4,410 with the buyer's premium. 

As published:

Arthur Rackham
Doyle New York sale of November 7, 2023


Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Ronald Searle: C'est la vie

A neckless and nearly formless man strains to pull a cart bearing a large pig across a vast, desolate plain. The title gives it away. C'est la vie is Ronald Searle's humorous allegory of life itself. The 1975 original ink and watercolor drawing was sold in Frankfurt on November 25 for a ridiculously low 300 euros (and that was after the sale ended, I believe). That Moderne-Auktion crowd just didn't appreciate a good allegory.

Ronald Searle
Auktionshaus Arnold listing accessed November 16, 2023

A variant was exhibited in New York at the Nicholls Gallery in 1976. It appeared on a black and white postcard promoting the Searle show. The original art either has wash or some watercolor.

C'est la vie, 1975
Ronald Searle
Nicholls Gallery postcard, 1976

Note:  You know, I wouldn't mind receiving a good photograph of the Nicholls Gallery variant or of any other variants of C'est la vie that might be out there. Oh, who am I kidding? I'd love to see any Ronald Searle original art.


Monday, November 27, 2023

My Entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #876

It's just another day in the lab but one of the rats is showing unusual talent. Here we are in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #876 from the issue of November 27, 2023. My caption is shown below. The drawing is by Mike Twohy.

"It's a pity we neutered him."

Incidentally, I was planning to go with the following caption until I listened to The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest Podcast episode 134. Nicole Chrolavicius came up with an idea very similar to mine and mentioned it on the podcast, announcing it to the world. I then went to work on a new caption.

"I'm hoping he'll make me the Creator."

December 4, 2023 Update:  The Finalists


Sunday, November 26, 2023

The 2023 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

I no longer brave the elements and the crowds to attend the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade but it happily goes on just the same without me. Here is a small sampling of photos courtesy of Uki and Friend who did not shrink from the festive multitude or the mild November weather.


Spongebob Squarepants & Gary

Sinclair's Dino

Celebration Gator



Magic Meets the Sea

Stuart the Minion

Uncle Dan

Elf Pets

Pikachu & Eevee

Heartwarming Holiday Countdown

Palace of Sweets

Macy's Singing Christmas Tree