Sunday, April 15, 2012

Women and Children First

What are we to make of this unsigned wash cartoon on eBay depicting the chaos of a foundering ship while the life boats are being manned, so to speak? The seller cites a few unnamed "art specialists" who believe this might possibly be a work by Peter Arno. I just don't see it. Nevertheless, the seller has done a rather adroit job discerning this cartoon's unwritten caption, so it could be he's correct about other details as well.

Peter Arno's mature works have a distinctive style (see, for example, my post here) which is direct, bold, and clean, nothing like this busy and somewhat untidy composition. Arno's early works (I show a few here) all seem to show at least some germ of his later style. They are generally a bit funnier and more knowing than this.

In subject matter alone, this drawing recalls a cartoon by Dorothy McKay about a life boat drill I shared here not all that long ago. But there, I think, the similarity ends.

While I personally don't see any attribute of Peter Arno's here, that is not quite the same as declaring that this drawing can't possibly be by Arno. I find the man's stance, at center, awkward and amateurish. The shading is all right, but the ink work seems crude. The question arises, if it isn't the work of Peter Arno, whose is it?  I'm inclined to think it's the work of someone long forgotten, but that is unsatisfying and I'd be content to be proved wrong. So I'm putting this one out here on the centennial of a great maritime disaster to see if any of my readers can help.

Well then, who do you think drew it?

Women and Children First

May 11, 2013 Update:  OMG!

The final eBay unsuccessful bid price for this drawing which is definitely NOT by Charles Addams):

August 3, 2014 Update:  Like a bad penny, this drawing has turned up on eBay again, this time listed with a different seller from a different state. It is still more or less attributed to Peter Arno, whose assured hand certainly didn't draw it. We learn that the name ARNO is written on the back of the illustration board in a corner that was not visible in the original 2012 listing. Now why should that be? The current seller seems unaware of the first seller's very reasonable proposed caption Women and children first. Instead, we are treated to a cringeworthy appreciation of the painterly technique:  "The cartoon in brush and ink shows a controlled use of bleeding by the artist."


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