Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Overture: Abe Birnbaum New Yorker Cover Art

Abe Birnbaum's superb original New Yorker cover art depicts a Broadway stage and orchestra pit during the exciting moments of a musical's overture before the curtain rises. Most of the composition is given over to the folds of the curtain, almost an abstraction in the upper half of the image, while the conductor and orchestra are confined to a small corner at the lower right. Such an unconventional use of space is not likely to be seen today on the cover of this magazine or of any magazine.

Today, The New Yorker's covers are still often splendid in their own way, but they are also almost always about generating buzz, and this kind of soft-spoken cover, anomalous in the publishing world of 1954, is now pretty much extinct. Yet it is still very much the quintessential New York experience to attend a Broadway musical and to be overwhelmed at the outset by the vast curtain and all the wonderful possibilities it seems to conceal. What has changed over the last sixty years is that the orchestra has gotten smaller and the instruments today often are electric.

Abe Birnbaum, Original Artwork for The New Yorker, November 6, 1954

Abe Birnbaum, The New Yorker, November 6, 1954

Note:  I'm always interested in hearing from collectors with original New Yorker cover artwork such as this outstanding Abe Birnbaum original. I'm delighted to be able to share images of fine original artwork here.


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