Monday, June 18, 2012

Jacques de Loustal: The Timely and the Timeless

For a long time, the covers of The New Yorker tended to have no relationship to the content of the magazine or to current events. Covers typically showed scenes of New York City and surrounding areas as well as vacation spots, or domestic scenes, or artistic flights of fancy. This was typical of the magazine under editor William Shawn, and to some degree this type of cover is still published today. The changing of the seasons are duly noted, but for most covers of this sort, they could as easily have been published a year or two later, with little change in their impact.

That changed under the editorship of Tina Brown, and it persists with David Remnick as editor. Today The New Yorker's covers can broadly be grouped into two categories. One type depicts, as before, scenes of everyday life typical for the time of year. The other attempts to capture the mood of a specific moment in our history and to comment upon it. These covers are often overtly political. They may be deliberately provocative and tend to get a lot of attention in the press and online. Often, they wouldn't work if publication were delayed by even a week or two.

Sotheby's Paris is about to sell two examples of original New Yorker cover artwork by Jacques de Loustal, a popular illustrator based in Paris. As it happens, these pieces demonstrate both types of approach to the magazine cover, the provocative and the evocative, the timely and the timeless.

Loustal's cover art to the June 13, 1994 issue has a gay marriage theme and is entitled June Grooms. It is probably one of the earliest mainstream magazine covers with such a theme, and as such makes a strong political statement. Unlike most of the timely covers, it is not so much a reflection of its time as ahead of its time. I find it at once sedate and garish, elegant and unappealing. I mean, that blond groom could do so much better for himself!

The cover to the April 18, 2011 issue appears to show the French or perhaps the Italian Riviera. If Sotheby's 2009 date for the artwork is correct, then this is indeed an example of a cover that could have been run in any spring or summer, including the spring two full years after its creation.

July 4, 2012:  Unsold.

Jacques de Loustal, June Grooms,
The New Yorker,
 June 13, 1994

Jacques de Loustal, June Grooms,
Original Artwork for The New Yorker, June 13, 1994

July 4, 2012:  Sold for 7,500 Eur (US $9,441) with buyer's premium.

Jacques de Loustal, "Drawing While Waiting,"
The New Yorker,  
April 18, 2011
Jacques de Loustal, "Drawing While Waiting,"
Original Artwork for The New Yorker,  April 18, 2011

Note:  An earlier New Yorker cover by Jacques de Loustal can be seen in my post entitled The World Trade Center in Pre-9/11 New Yorker Covers.