Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, George Booth!

George Booth, "Oh, Say, Can You See." 
The New Yorker, July 4, 2011

In Monday's mail The New Yorker arrived featuring a wonderful Fourth of July cover by George Booth, entitled "Oh, Say, Can You See." Over the years, Booth has created a great many delightful covers for the magazine, often featuring his signature English bull terrier. He turns 85 today, Tuesday, June 28, just a few days before our nation turns 235. Happy Birthday, George! Thanks for all the fabulous drawings. And Happy Birthday, America!


While we're on the subject, Taraba Illustration Art offers this classic Booth original artwork of a skittish dog:
George Booth, Beware! Skittish Dog,
Variant of a drawing from The New Yorker, August 15, 1997, page 60

Artist: George Booth (b. 1926)
Description: Dog sitting next to sign
Caption: “BEWARE! – Skittish dog”
Publication information: Not published, rather a version of one of Booth’s most recognized cartoons. The published version appeared in The New Yorker on August 15th, 1977. A third version appears in the book,Omnibooth: The Best of George Booth. A copy of the book accompanies the purchase of the artwork.
Medium: pen and ink
Size: 2.75 x 4.5”
Signature: signed, lower right.
Condition: The ink has faded somewhat, otherwise good, framed.
Comment: In a 1999 interview with the Boston Phoenix, Booth recalls this cartoon, saying “I drew an ornery-looking mutt in the New Yorker and somebody wrote a letter and said, ‘Is that an English bull terrier?’ And I didn’t know what they looked like. I went to the library, and gradually the dog became an English bull terrier… I had drawn a dog sitting next to a sign that read Beware of skittish dog. That was the character that started that. I think Mr. Shawn had said something about it. He liked it.”
A copy of the article is included with the purchase of the artwork.

Price: $2,500.

George Booth, Beware! Skittish Dog,
The New Yorker, August 15, 1997, p. 60
Image added November 6, 2012

George Booth, Beware! Skittish Dog,
The New Yorker, August 15, 1997, p. 60
Image added November 6, 2012

July 12, 2011 Update:  Illustrator James Gurney of Dinotopia fame has started a contest of sorts to "finish" this Booth cover by cleverly filling in the white space. Contestants are encouraged to submit their completed artwork to The New Yorker for judging, while the magazine, of course, hasn't agreed to any such contest. It seems likely that Gurney himself will be the judge at the end of the month. My fear, probably unjustified, is that such a prank may discourage the magazine from publishing any future covers with unused white space. For the record, I think Booth's use of all that empty space is just teriffic, and I suspect Gurney thinks so too. Nevertheless, the slightly subversive "Unfinished Cover Contest" is proposed here and there are already some decent submissions on display.

July 22, 2011 Update:  James Gurney has posted an update here on the "unfinished" cover contest. The New Yorker, we learn to our surprise, has agreed to post some of the contest submissions on its own blog.  Meanwhile on Gurney Journey, Gurney himself will select three finalists at month's end and allow his readers to select their favorite. The entries are quite interesting. No word on what George Booth thinks of all this.  Emily Kan, the assistant to cover editor Françoise Mouly, did ask Booth how he came up with his ideas here on the New Yorker's blog. The answer may not totally surprise you.

July 31, 2011 Update:  James Gurney has selected three finalists for the "New Yorker Unfinished Cover Contest" here. He posted a link to the Stretchbook blog's entry hereThis exercise brought out a lot of good ideas!

August 18, 2011 Update:  Emily Kan, on the New Yorker's News Desk blog, reports on the entries for James Gurney's "Unfinished Cover Contest" here. George Booth, we are told, is "delighted" with all this fuss over his July 4 cover. “I think it’s just lovely that we stirred them up. It’s good to get reactions, and it doesn’t bother me. They can do whatever they want.” Meanwhile the magazine's art critic Peter Schjeldahl is baffled by it all.


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