Friday, January 4, 2013

A James Stevenson Bummer

It is late autumn in Central Park. James Stevenson's ink and wash drawing shows two unshaven men on a park bench, no doubt experiencing hard times, sharing a pithy observation about... something. But what? For all practical purposes the caption is lost, leaving us with an incomplete gag. Heritage Auctions identifies this as a published New Yorker cartoon, and indeed it looks a bit familiar, but even that information leaves hundreds of Stevenson cartoons to sort through if one wishes to find it.

James Stevenson, The New Yorker,
 Heritage Auctions, December 30, 2012


I gave the archives a cursory glance and this is the nearest thing I could find. The published 1981 drawing below is clearly different, but the situation is quite similar. So these could either be two distinct cartoons with similar staging, or else alternative versions of the same cartoon. The speaker is smirking in the Heritage cartoon, and looking aghast in The New Yorker's 1981 cartoon. I think the same caption could work either way, but with a quite different nuance, of course. The Heritage drawing would convey a bit of smug self-satisfaction at thumbing one's nose at the world, and the 1981 cartoon gives more of a sense of belated awareness of just what personal loss one's ill-considered, defiant actions can lead to.

James Stevenson, "One day, I decided to hell with it--across the board."
The New Yorker, June 22, 1981, Page 46

James Stevenson, "One day, I decided to hell with it--across the board."
The New Yorker, June 22, 1981, Page 46


I'm the first to admit that I blog from a state of ignorance. If you know something that I don't, feel free to share it.

James Stevenson, The New Yorker,
 Heritage Auctions, December 30, 2012
http://comics.ha.com/c/item.zx?saleNo=121253&lotNo=10771
James Stevenson, [Possible Caption: "One day, I decided to hell with it--across the board."]
The New Yorker,
 Heritage Auctions, December 30, 2012
July 13, 2014 Update:  Here is another cartoon with a pair of park bums by James Stevenson, who returned to this theme several times. On May 24, 1960, Newbold Morris succeeded long-time Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, the City's "master builder" who held the post for the previous 26 years. This cartoon seems much earlier than the Heritage Auctions art.
James Stevenson, "I fail to see any difference between the administration of Robert Moses and the administration of Newbold Morris." The New Yorker, September 10, 1960, page 37
James Stevenson, "I fail to see any difference between the administration of Robert Moses and the administration of Newbold Morris." The New Yorker, September 10, 1960, page 37

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