Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Cover Story: The New Yorker in Westport"

On January 26, I visited the Westport Historical Society for the opening of two exhibits highlighting the Westport area's connections with the New Yorker magazine. The show in the Mollie Donovan Gallery is called "Can't Tell a Book by Its Cover." The book in question is the New Yorker's landmark issue of August 31, 1946. The magazine's cover by Charles E. Martin depicted a lively summer park scene. There was nothing on the cover to indicate that inside the issue the entire magazine was given over to a single article for the only time in its history. It was Hiroshima by John Hersey, a report on the terrible impact of the first atomic bomb dropped on Japan, and one of the most important pieces ever published in the magazine. Hersey moved to Westport soon after its publication. The exhibit is curated by Brian O'Leary.

Charles E. Martin, The New Yorker, August 31, 1946
The issue's sole editorial content is John Hersey's Hiroshima.
Hiroshima by John Hersey
The New Yorker,
 August 31, 1946, page 15

By far the larger exhibit is "Cover Story: The New Yorker in Westport," an examination of the region's extraordinary attraction for a number of talented and prolific New Yorker cover artists. James Geraghty was hired by the magazine initially as an "idea man" in 1939. He went on to serve as the New Yorker's art editor from 1939 to 1973. Encouraged by Perry Barlow and Dorothy Hope Smith, James and Eva Geraghty relocated to Westport, Connecticut and began a family. Later, in turn, Geraghty introduced many of the magazine's new generation of artists to the Westport-Weston community.

Albert Hubbell, The New Yorker, August 20, 1973
Compo Beach, Westport, CT, July 3, 2013
Westport News

No fewer than 17 New Yorker artist came to live or spend weekends in the Westport and Weston area and collectively they were responsible for an extraordinary 767 covers through the years up to 1989. This remarkable statistic was discovered by exhibit curator Eve Potts. The artists are Charles Addams, Perry Barlow, Whitney Darrow, Jr., James Daugherty, Edna Eicke, Arthur Getz, Alice Harvey, Helen E. Hokinson, Albert Hubbell, Lee Lorenz, Reginald Massie, John Norment, David Preston, Garrett Price, Donald Reilly, Mischa Richter, and Charles Saxon. Reproductions of many of their covers are on display in the Scheffer Gallery. There are also a few examples of original art. The descendants of Mr. Geraghty and of some of the artists were involved in the creation of this show, and we even get to enjoy some rarely-seen Geraghty family photos.

The exhibition focusses on cover art and not on cartoons. This drawing by Whitney Darrow, Jr. is not part of the show and it was obviously not created for the New Yorker but rather for a local branch of the Red Cross. I include it here to serve as an example of the kinds of ties to the community the New Yorker's artists were to develop.
Whitney Darrow, Jr., "Congratulations, Mr. Hinton, and welcome to Westport."
American Red Cross, Westport, CT

My visit to the Westport Historical Society began here on the front porch. The Society's annual meeting preceded the opening of the exhibits, so the event was very well-attended. The WHS is now open on Sundays for the duration of the exhibits, effectively extending the show by one day to April 27.
"Cover Story:  The New Yorker in Westport" and
"Can't Tell a Book by Its Cover..." exhibition banner
The Westport Historical Society, January 26, 2014

Even before the New Yorker published its first issue in 1925, a community of artists and writers had become established in the Westport area including George Hand Wright.
George Hand Wright, City Slickers, early 1920's, Scribner's
Collection of Edward F. Gerber, President of the Westport Historical Society
In 1925, the New Yorker took note of an early generation of Westport artists.

Introductory remarks in the Scheffer Gallery

Members of the Geraghty family

Family members of some of the artists and of Mr. Geraghty

John Norment, Original cover art for the New Yorker, January 28, 1980
Gouache and ink on paper
Framed alongside the published cover
Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection #1121

Garrett Price's preliminary 1954 cover sketch showed homes with garage doors opened and garage lights turned on for the returning commuters. These details were minimized in the published cover, which instead emphasized the lights within the homes.
Garrett Price, Preliminary cover art for the New Yorker, February 6, 1954
Ink wash and watercolor on paper
Framed alongside the published cover
Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection #1121

 Just look at how Arthur Getz's original cover artwork retains its vibrant colors after 55 years!
Arthur Getz, Weekend Painters Packing Car,
Original cover art for the New Yorker, August 30, 1958
Private Collection

Arthur Getz, The New Yorker, August 30, 1958

Sorry, but I couldn't keep the reflections of the opening reception out of this photograph of framed original cover artwork by Arthur Getz. You'll just have to go and see it for yourself. It's on view through Sunday April 27.
Arthur Getz, Weekenders Goodbye,
Original cover art for the New Yorker, September 1, 1962
Private Collection
Arthur Getz, The New Yorker, September 1, 1962

March 22, 2014 Update: The popular exhibition has been extended through July 5, 2014.

Note:  The website of the Westport Historical Society is here.

Michael Maslin looks at some photographs from the exhibit on Ink Spill here.

Arthur Getz produced more covers for the magazine than any other artist. A few of my blog posts appear here.

Albert Hubbell appears here in this blog post.

My favorite cartoon by John Norment is one of my favorite cartoons by anyone. It appears in a Valentine's Day post here.

Garrett Price was mentioned on Attempted Bloggery here.

Did James Geraghty's retirement result in the New Yorker running two very similar gags in the magazine? I have no idea, but see for yourself what happened when Three Cartoonists Walk Into a Bar here.


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