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.


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