Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dialogue of Sardinia and Paris: Saul Steinberg Original New Yorker Art

My little survey of original New Yorker cover art continues with this disarming example by the brilliant Saul Steinberg. Needless to say, it is not your typical magazine cover from the early 1960's, and it is by no means even a typical New Yorker cover. The remarkable $27,000 price tag five years ago at Bonham's reflects the market's high regard for Steinberg's extraordinary originality and inventiveness.
Saul Steinberg
Original artwork for The New Yorker, October 12, 1963

Saul Steinberg, The New Yorker, October 12, 1963[%27-value_low%27]&back_to_year=2003&date_range=past&main_index=lot&department=&query=Yorker%2Bcover&create_facets=False&value_data_range_display=


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rites of Spring: James Thurber New Yorker Cover Art

Spring is definitely in the air in this original artwork for The New Yorker of April 27, 1940. Is it my imagination, or do the men seem a bit overwhelmed? James Thurber's idyllic cover illustration sold for $12,000 at Swann Galleries in January.

James Thurber, Original Artwork for The New Yorker, April 27, 1940
James Thurber, The New Yorker, April 27, 1940


Friday, June 28, 2013

Tailored for War: Perry Barlow New Yorker Cover Art

In 2009, an example of original New Yorker cover art by Perry Barlow was sold at Heritage Auctions. The 1942 illustration imagines a world where a well-to-do young man prepares for wartime by heading out to an exclusive tailor. The United States had recently entered the second World War, declaring war on Japan on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Germany declared war on the U.S. four days later and America reciprocated by declaring war on Germany on December 11 of that year.

It's a fine piece of cover art, although the original has some condition issues; it is light struck and has pasted-on art corrections. The auction sales price of $478 seems very low, and is perhaps a result of the dated subject matter more than the condition of the artwork.

Perry Barlow, Original Artwork for The New Yorker, April 18, 1942
Perry Barlow, The New Yorker, April 18, 1942

Perry Barlow, Original Artwork for The New Yorker, April 18, 1942

Note:  This is the first appearance here of Perry Barlow and I accept full responsibility for the glaring oversight. You know, you just might be able to convince me to display additional artwork by this illustrator if you have any you'd care to share. How about it, folks?


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Street Scene: Paul Degen Preliminary New Yorker Cover Art

Well, this is a bit different. The eBay seller of this original unsigned artwork by Paul Degen states that it is a cover proposal for what was eventually The New Yorker's cover of June 9, 1980.  In an inspired bit of understatement, the seller's description explains that the "final version was changed slightly."

I'm having a bit of difficulty seeing the relationship of this drawing to the published cover. Yes, both images show nearly unpopulated street scenes, evidently in Lower Manhattan. Both show a street curving off to the right out of sight. Both show small-scale though quite charming apartment buildings set against the distant towers of the New York skyline. Each shows one single parked automobile in approximately the same part of the street. Beyond that, there's not much these two images share. The buildings don't seem to be the same, and the street doesn't seem to be the same. There is little foliage in the sketch, and quite a lot in the published cover.

Still these may indeed be related, if more in concept than in actual location. It must have taken quite a lot of effort to get from this cover proposal, if indeed it is that, to the finished work. I suspect that there may have been a number of intermediate street sketches of this sort as the artist tried to clarify exactly what he wanted to record.

Paul Degen, Preliminary Artwork for The New Yorker, June 9, 1980

Paul Degen, The New Yorker, June 9, 1980

Note:  Does anyone know the street location of either the preliminary sketch or the published cover? I personally never step out of the grid.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Poison Ivy: Ilonka Karasz New Yorker Cover Art

An eBay seller in the U.K. currently offers two examples of original New Yorker cover art by Ilonka Karasz. The example presented in yesterday's post had what the seller referred to understatedly as "some fading." Similarly, today's example suffers from the malady of "slight flaking." Both are described as being in "very good condition," but their defects are in no way trivial.

Ilonka Karasz's artwork should delight collectors, but there should also be some acknowledgement by dealers that condition affects price. Instead, the eBay seller has raised the price on this flaky painting from 7,500 GBP to 8,000 GBP.

Ilonka Karasz, Original Artwork for The New Yorker, June 25, 1955
Ilonka Karasz, Detail Showing "Slight Flaking" of the Original Artwork for The New Yorker, June 25, 1955

Ilonka Karasz, The New Yorker, June 25, 1955
The seller got this magazine cover image from another eBay listing, a common enough practice.
This piece was available on eBay for 7,500 GBP through May 4.

The Current eBay Offering Price is 8,000 GBP.

The eBay Item Description

[End of eBay Listing]

Jacob Bigelow, Toxicodendron radicans (Rhus radicans, Poison Ivy)
from American Medical Botany, 1817-1820

Ilonka Karasz, The New Yorker, June 25, 1955

Ilonka Karasz, Original Artwork for The New Yorker, June 25, 1955

Image added October 16, 2013

October 8, 2016 Update: Sold!
eBay Listing Ended September 11, 2016

Note:  Yesterday's post shows another treasure by Ilonka Karasz.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Central Park: Ilonka Karasz New Yorker Cover Art

Original artwork for a 1928 springtime cover of The New Yorker by Ilonka Karasz has been available for a short while on eBay, offered by a seller in the U.K. The red and green pigments particularly have faded over 85 years, with mostly bold blues and yellows remaining in the artwork. It is still quite charming.

Ilonka Karasz, Original Artwork for The New Yorker, April 21, 1928
This is a highly stylized view of 1920's Central Park and the landmarks are a little tricky to identify. At first I thought the body of water on the right must be Central Park Lake. After all, rowboats are out on the lake, as they are today. The problem with this is that the body of water on the left must then be Conservatory Water, but this is also shown with rowboats. Today there are no rowboats in Conservatory Water, only model boats, and it's just about impossible to imagine rowboats going out on this tiny pool of water even in unfettered 1928.

The view is towards the southwest. The skyline of Central Park South is prominent, with the tallest building in the center being not today's familiar Essex House, but perhaps it is in the very location where Essex House is today. Construction on Essex House began in 1929, a year and a half after this cover was published.

From where exactly did Ilonka Karasz create this image? Did she work from a high-rise apartment building on Fifth Avenue? Did she work from a hill in Central Park? Did she just imagine it? I tried to recreate the view with Google Earth, but Central Park South is way too distant from Central Park Lake for this convincingly to be what Ms. Karasz has painted so exquisitely.

So what other two bodies of water could this be? Hinrich's 1875 Guide Map of Central Park reveals an interesting detail. The Pond in the southeast corner of the Park by the Plaza Hotel has a roadway or bridge dividing it into two parts. Today the part extending to the north and west, the body of water on the right in the cover illustration, is no longer there. That space is apparently now occupied by Wollman Rink, built in 1949.

This original artwork remains on eBay, where the seller quietly acknowledges "some fading." The optimistic asking price is 7,500 GBP for this faded rose, although there is also the more realistic Make Offer option.

Ilonka Karasz, Detail of Original Artwork for The New Yorker, April 21, 1928

Ilonka Karasz, The New Yorker, April 21, 1928

EBay Item Description

[End of eBay Item Description]

Hinrichs' 1875 Map of Central Park
On this 1875 map of Central Park, a possible line of sight for the 1928 New Yorker cover can be envisioned running between Conservatory Water (here Ornamental Water) and Central Park Lake (here the Lake) somewhat diagonally towards Central Park South on the left. Alternatively, the line of site can be imagined running between the two sections of the Pond at the lower left. Today Essex House is located on Central Park South between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.
This is a Google Earth view toward Central Park South looking between Conservatory Water and Central Park Lake. Central Park South is simply too far away for this to be the view Ms. Karasz painted.
I believe this Google Earth view is an approximation of  the vantage point shown on The New Yorker cover of April 21, 1928. Wollman Rink, built in 1949 on the former site of part of the Pond, is shown on the right with its summer season Victorian Gardens Amusement Park setup. The remainder of the original Pond appears to the left. Today the Pond is not teeming with rowboats, but there are ducks.
Ilonka Karasz, The New Yorker, April 21, 1928

Note:  Any original artwork by Ilonka Karasz should be of great interest to readers of this blog. Collectors who would like to share images of original art publicly are welcome to contact me.

If possible, I would like to add to this post a good photograph or two from the 1920's, give or take a couple of decades, showing a view of the southeastern portion of Central Park from a similar vantage point to this one. Ideally, the photo should include the two distinct parts of the Pond as it existed then and maybe even the skyline of Central Park South. Can somebody help?


Monday, June 24, 2013

My Entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #385

Please pull over to the side of the road and check out my latest entry in The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #385 for June 24, 2013. The drawing is by Christopher Weyant.

"Look, we can work through the math here or I can take you
downtown and the judge will appoint you a tutor."

 July 1, 2013 Update:  The Finalists

July 22, 2013 Update:  Winning Caption

Note:  Read my previous entry in the Cartoon Caption Contest here.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Attempted Bloggery: Two Years and Counting

It was two years ago today that I unleashed my spanking new blog on an unsuspecting world. Beforehand, I had produced no trial posts and I had no master plan. I just began doing it and I suppose that was a good enough approach for me. The very earliest posts here are perhaps a little bit clunkier than what I'm creating now, but the overall taste and temperament of the blog haven't changed very much because my taste and temperament haven't changed very much. In fact, I still like the same stuff I liked in the 1970's.

Over these two years I have produced, on average, slightly more than one post per day, for a running total of 785. Although I have only a scant 20 public followers, there have been over 225,000 page views since inception, and that number is currently growing by about 10,000 a month. For a blog that's anything but universal in its appeal, that seems to me to be a pretty reasonable number. Of course, I'd always be pleased to have more readers. In fact, most nights I go to bed wondering whether tomorrow will be the day this blog finally goes viral.

Even without that, I'm having a pretty good time here. Do you know what I love about blogging? I love not having an editor! Anyone who has read, for example, my New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest entries has to be aware that I don't have proper supervision. I'm the only boss here. There is no imperious blog committee urging me to push things in a new and more popular direction. With obscurity comes freedom.

My blog, then, reflects my freedom to write pretty much whatever I want. One thing that I have been astonished by is the reaction of the Chinese people, who as far as I can tell have no pressing reason whatsoever to visit this blog. Nevertheless, they have been coming in droves--well, very small droves--and despite an authoritarian government placing harsh restrictions on internet access, many have exercised a new-found freedom to bypass central censorship by coming here, of all places. Over the past month, China very briefly placed sixth here among page views by country before lapsing back to seventh place behind Canada. I find that remarkably refreshing and encouraging even though I don't fully understand it.

So what does the future hold? I can't really say. After all, I didn't know I'd be entering The New Yorker's Cartoon Caption Contest until I actually tried it back in April and decided to go public with my unlikely efforts. It really wasn't planned.

What I do anticipate is relocating Blog Central to a suburban refuge, but I don't yet have a clue in what fashion this will alter the content of my blogging. I certainly don't expect to compose any posts with useful tips on outdoor grilling, but who knows? We shall see together, won't we?

Note:  You can read my very first blog post here. See how it all got started.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Thoughts of Spring: André François New Yorker Cover Art

This rather unconventional artwork for the cover of The New Yorker is by André François. It is executed on a burlap bag in charcoal and oil. It was published in the spring of 1963. Although one is struck by the rough appearance of the illustration, particularly the central face, this unfinished quality successfully places the emphasis on the man's thoughts, which are decidedly not at his office desk.

The New Yorker, of course, had the luxury of a subscription-based readership. Newsstand sales were not paramount among the magazines concerns. Cover blurbs were nonexistent and thoughtful cover artwork was always welcomed. More than a decade after this, François was to use a rectangle of unfinished wood with applied feathers as the medium for another unconventional New Yorker cover illustration.

André François
Original artwork for The New Yorker, April 20, 1963

André François
The New Yorker, April 20, 1963

André François
La tête fleurie
Image added May 4, 2019

Note:  It's been more than a year since my last post about André François. I must be losing my touch.