Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Of Eggs and Arno

Last week if you were on eBay searching for original art by Peter Arno, you would have found a somewhat disconcerting original illustration. The eBay seller describes it as "a bold and dramatic cartoon / illustration of a man with a broken egg." The seller goes on to assert it "is by the famous American cartoonist Peter Arno" and adds "I am not sure what this illustration was created for." Indeed.

The seller, random926, has 100% positive feedback on eBay, which should be reassuring. So what's your gut reaction? Does this look like the work of Peter Arno? Of course it doesn't.

The signature appears a bit shaky and unsure of itself.

So we have questionable artwork and a questionable signature. Should we declare it a fake? Calling this a fake will upset at least two people:  the buyer and the seller. The seller is $158.02 wealthier as a result of this sale. The buyer thinks he has snagged an Arno for a ridiculously good price. Only a fool would tread on their mutual satisfaction. But what if one had proof that this work isn't by Peter Arno? What if there were someone—a humble blogger, say—who could produce this proof? Well, friends, proof is at hand.

It's time to go to your bookshelf and get down your copy of Graphis Annual 75-76. If you can't find your copy, don't panic—I'll show you mine. Let's all turn to page 36. There we see a pair of black-and-white double-spread advertisements from Diamond International Corporation published in the trade press. The first is for window trays for meat and the second promotes protective packages for eggs. Now we know what this illustration was created for. "A broken egg may not seem like much to you—but it can cost you a customer." Note that neither advertisement is signed by Peter Arno and that they were published in the mid-70's a few years after his death in 1968.

So who is the artist? Who is the art director? What is the agency? These are questions Graphis always addresses. The answer to all three queries is Clark L. Robinson.

Clark L. Robinson died late in December of 2014. Presumably, some time between his death and the appearance of this artwork on eBay, someone decided that this illustration could pass for an Arno original. All it needed was a convincing signature...

Well, the art was good enough for the Graphis Annual. But it's not good enough to be a Peter Arno.

The eBay anticlimax:

eBay Listing Ended March 24, 2016

eBay Item Description

EBay Bid History
One bidder acts in the first few hours and the other acts in the last ten seconds.

March 15, 2017 Update:  Alas, this Clark L. Robinson art has now been framed and matted and put up for sale at Tennessee auction house Chelsea Collectibles in December as an original Peter Arno. The estimate was a jaw-dropping $1,500 to $2,500. Happily, even with a starting bid of $600, it failed to find a buyer.

Chelsea Collectibles, December 12, 2016 sale, Lot 64
Lot passed.

April 12, 2017 Update:  This work by Clark L. Robinson with a forged Peter Arno signature has once again been put up for sale at the same Tennessee auction house, Chelsea Collectibles, and with the same ridiculous estimate.

April 15, 2017 Update:  Today I notified the auction house that this is the work of Clark L. Robinson and not of Peter Arno. An auction house representative responded promptly and read this blog post, taking some material. The auction house revised the listing to "attributed to Peter Arno, artist may be Clark L. Robinson." I would be more definitive, but Chelsea Collectibles deserves some credit. The estimate and opening bid have been lowered. Peter Arno's name remains in the title to lot 181.

Note:  Who was Clark L. Robinson? Here's his obituary.

While we're at it, who was Peter Arno? Consult my posts about Peter Arno.

Better still, take a look at Ink Spill's posts about Peter Arno. You can reserve your copy of Michael Maslin's new biography Peter Arno:  The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker's Greatest Cartoonist on

You'll also want to check out Chris Wheeler's impressive Arno archive.

Finally, don't miss Attempted Bloggery's posts on advertising. Heck, I've got it in my blood.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Peter Arno's Lost Horse

A set of cocktail napkins designed by Peter Arno was offered on eBay in 2013. There are seven napkins here; presumably one has been lost. It seems a horse has been lost as well, but perhaps not irrecoverably. Both the drawing and the caption seem a bit simple, but the overall style is recognizably Arno's. Similar cocktail napkins were issued in other designs and colors, generally celebrating the aftereffects of alcohol.

"I've lost a horse! Have you seen a horse?"
Peter Arno cocktail napkin
"I've lost a horse! Have you seen a horse?"
Peter Arno cocktail napkins

A few others from the series were sold by an etsy store.

Peter Arno assorted cocktail napkins

"Gad! Stop that screaming"
Peter Arno cocktail napkin

"An' now a dash o' bitters."
Peter Arno cocktail napkin 

"I've lost a horse! Have you seen a horse?"
Peter Arno cocktail napkin

April 11, 2023 Update:  For sale at Macy's in 1936 and advertised in The New Yorker:

Note:  An entirely different set of Peter Arno cocktail napkins may be seen on Ink Spill.

Even if you haven't seen a horse, maybe you've seen these posts about Peter Arno.

Finally, don't miss Chris Wheeler's impeccable Arno archive.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Peter Arno for Barney Gallant

Peter Arno's caricature of Barney Gallant can be seen in a print advertisement for Barney's, presumably a lower Manhattan speakeasy. The ad reportedly dates from 1930 which would place it in the Prohibition Era. Barney Gallant's claim to fame was that he was the first New Yorker to be arrested under the Volstead Act. The advertising copy stating "that dinner service has now been resumed" may well be a reference to some much later legal matters. The caricature shows Gallant's dark complexion, bushy eyebrows, receding hairline and a five-o'clock shadow. Arno can hardly be accused of flattery, but based on a contemporary photograph by Nickolas Muray it may be a fair likeness. The smile seems genuine.
Peter Arno, Barney's

Nickolas Muray, Jon Murray Anderson and Barney Gallant

An eBay listing has a variant of this ad announcing entertainment by Walter O'Keefe and Bobby Dolan. This listing gives the date as 1955, which is extremely unlikely because New York City phone numbers were expanded to two letters plus five digits in December of 1930.
Peter Arno, Barney's

Barney Gallant was associated with a number of establishments during the Prohibition years. Information about this image from the National Gallery of Art and from the Museum of the City of New York do not agree.
Golonkin, Joseph Webster, Speako Deluxe, lithograph c. 1928 [according to the National Gallery of art]

Yet another location:

"Walter O'Keefe has returned. New Songs served with the sauce of new nonsense." Now what do you suppose that means?
"Gee!  I'm Marvelous in the Bath-Room" (1928)
Walter O'Keefe

Note:  These links should also keep you entertained:

Attempted Bloggery's posts about Peter Arno.

Ink Spill's posts about Peter Arno.

Attempted Bloggery's notes on advertising.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Charles Addams: Rabbit Ears

The New Yorker's Easter 1983 cover was created by Charles Addams. The bunny family of four are gathered in front of the television set, a jeweled egg reminiscent of Fabergé. Cable television was not yet universal and the TV set therefore has an antenna often called—very appropriately in this case—rabbit ears. A rare cover signed by the artist was sold at Heritage Auctions in 2014.

Charles Addams, Signed cover, The New Yorker, April 4, 1983

Heritage Auctions, April 20, 2014
Note:  Visit the archives for further blog reading about the following topics:
Charles Addams
Signed magazine covers


Saturday, March 26, 2016

My Entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #514

Here is my entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #514 for March 21, 2016. The drawing is by Liam Francis Walsh.

"What does cartoon logic say about us using our guns?"

These captions didn't advance:
"We need to rock harder!"
"I knew we should have taken the merry-go-round!"
"Well, the good news is they aren't gaining."

March 28, 2016 Update:  The Finalists

April 11, 2016 Update:  Winning Caption

Note:  Last week, P. C. Vey finally got a handle on the office briefcase. Actually, three handles. Whatever the case, Contest #513 clearly means business.

Chase down the collected blog posts about Liam Francis Walsh including some old Caption Contests.

It might just be time to try on your Easter bonnet and these Easter posts as well.


Friday, March 25, 2016

Peter Arno's Side-Show for October 1937

Peter Arno's cartoons for the October 1937 issue of College Humor are wordless; they tell their story without the use of any captions. In the first drawing, a secretary is shocked to learn that all is not well within the office. This cartoon seems to be an anomaly in terms of subject matter. Is this really the lighthearted, devil-may-care corporate gag the college crowd was looking for in1937?

"Peter Arno's "Side-Show," College Humor, Vol. 6, No. 2, October 1937, page 10

On the second page, Arno has a two-panel gag revealing the back-and-forth of the operating room.

"Peter Arno's "Side-Show," College Humor, Vol. 6, No. 2, October 1937, page 11

Note:  Artist Peter Arno published cartoons over many years in College Humor. This week I have presented his contributions from five issues:  July 1936 and May, July, September, and October 1937. His New Yorker cartoons are generally well known, but there are many other forgotten Arno treasures hidden away in hard-to-find issues of College Humor and likely many other magazines. Ideally, these lost classics should be seen and appreciated by today's Arno fans. So to all you collectors of vintage paper, get out your camera and start shooting. If you've got the Arno, I've got the blog.

What sort of a man created these cartoons? Peter Arno's fascinating story will be told in Michael Maslin's brand new biography coming your way on April 19 from Regan Arts. Peter Arno:  The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker's Greatest Cartoonist is available right now for pre-order on, where you can also get new ping-pong paddles for your home theater. Home operating theater, that is.

Michael Maslin's Ink Spill blog has many fine posts about Peter Arno, all of which are worth a look-see. Some of the recent ones even mention the College Humor posts that have been all the rage here at Attempted Bloggery this week.

This copy of College Humor, Vol. 6, No. 2, dated October 1937 resides in the Steven Boss humor magazine collection at Columbia University. Of the magazine issues currently in the collection, this is the fifth and last with any Arno cartoons. The good news on the horizon is that more magazines donated by Mr. Boss—including other issues of College Humor—will soon be making their way to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Thanks once again to comics librarian Karen Green for making  my research possible. Left to my own devices, I'd still be trying to find the card catalogue. By the way, I hope to have several more posts based on the Boss collection in the not-too-distant future.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Peter Arno's Side-Show for September 1937

A couple of readers noted that Peter Arno's College Humor cartoons don't look entirely like his more celebrated New Yorker work. The cartoons in College Humor seem edgier and angrier. They are a little  less sophisticated and, perhaps appropriately, a little more sophomoric. They do not look like New Yorker rejects that have been sold elsewhere or repurposed. Rather, it seems they are a separate product line created by Arno for this specific market.

In the September 1937 issue of College Humor, Arno gives us three more cartoons. First up, he exposes hiring practices in the theatrical business—or do they expose themselves?

"Don't bother, Mrs. McGrady—these letters of recommendation are sufficient for the cleaning up job!"
"Peter Arno's Side-Show," College Humor, Vol. 6, No. 1, September 1937, p. 10

On the next page, Joe's oversells its menu and Albert's wife takes her words too literally.

"No! We ain't got Myrna Loy!" [above]
"Albert! I haven't a thing to wear!" [below]

"Peter Arno's Side-Show," College Humor, Vol. 6, No. 1, September 1937, p. 11

What's on our menu? Unlike Joe's, of course we have Myrna Loy:
William Powell and Myrna Loy
Scene from "Double Wedding" (1937)
Directed by Richard Thorpe
Screenplay by Jo Swerling

Note:  Over the years Peter Arno published many cartoons in College Humor, and this week I'm presenting all of them from July of 1936 and from May, July, September, and October of 1937. His work is in many other issues too, and if one of these is in your collection I'd love to hear from you.

Yesterday's blog post was mentioned on Ink Spill! Here you can read it and all of Ink Spill's posts about Attempted Bloggery.

Michael Maslin's spanking new biography of Peter Arno will be published on April 19 by Regan Arts. Peter Arno:  The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker's Greatest Cartoonist can be pre-ordered on, where incidentally you can also buy something nice for Albert's wife to wear.

This copy of College Humor, Vol. 6, No. 1, for September 1937 is one of the many treasures in the Steven Boss humor magazine collection at Columbia University. Imagine, if you will, my recent visit to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Surrounded by serious scholars delving into the great questions of our age, I flip through decades-old humor magazines and try to contain my laughter. None of this could have happened without the assistance of comics librarian Karen Green.

The archives also have a couple of posts about Purim.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Peter Arno's Side-Show for July 1937

The July 1937 issue of College Humor has three more cartoons by the splendid Peter Arno. For the full-page lead-in, Arno reminds us that we should never be oblivious to the mating habits of our peers.

"See here! Won't you two have a bit of nourishment?"
"Peter Arno's Side-Show," College Humor, Vol. 5, No. 3, July 1937, p. 18

The second page of cartoons consists of second thoughts, first from a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman and then from a visiting art critic.

"Well, madam, I WAS going to sell you a vacuum cleaner!" [above]
"It's good, Peasley—but is it you?" [below]

"Peter Arno's Side-Show," College Humor, Vol. 5, No. 3, July 1937, p. 18

Social Notes from All Over:  Wilma Bard spends a night on the town and gets to meet the dapper Peter Arno:
"Tugboat Minnie" (1939)
British Pathé

Note:  The great Peter Arno published many cartoons over the years in College Humor, and this week I'm sharing cartoons from the issues of July 1936 as well as from May, July, September, and October 1937. If you have access to other issues containing Arno cartoons and to a working camera, why not drop me a line?

Yesterday my blog post was noted on Ink Spill! Check out the link for all the Peter Arno posts to appear on that site.

Yes, it's time to clear off your nightstand and make room for Michael Maslin's new biography of Peter Arno, coming to you April 19 from Regan Arts. Peter Arno:  The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker's Greatest Cartoonist is available for pre-order on, which incidentally can also fix you up with all of Peasley's art supplies, although you'll still have to find your own model.

This copy of College Humor, Vol. 5, No. 3, for July 1937 resides in the Steven Boss humor magazine collection at Columbia University. They keep it under lock and key in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library but they're willing to show it to bloggers and other model citizens. It helps to have comics librarian Karen Green in the loop. And there's a lot to see so a bit of nourishment before your research couldn't hurt.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Peter Arno's Side-Show for May 1937

In 1939, Peter Arno's second marriage would end in divorce as his first did in 1930. After that, he didn't marry again. His lead cartoon for "Peter Arno's Side-Show" from the May 1937 issue of College Humor seems to harbor a particularly bitter view of romance. The caption reads "Stop falling in love with me. Do you want to spoil everything?" It's a funny line, sure, but not really a funny situation. The woman's affectionate gaze is in marked contrast with the man's angry determination to avoid commitment. There's something very sad here. This unmarried couple may share the same bed, but they are not going to share a fulfilling life together.

"Stop falling in love with me! Do you want to spoil everything?"
"Peter Arno's Side-Show," College Humor, Vol. 5, No. 1, May 1937, p. 10

The two other gags are much lighter fare. The first features a rogue fiddler in the concert hall and the second has one of Arno's weak, unmanly stock characters.

"Well, anyway I played with the Philharmonic!" [above]
"By George, sir, I wish I had my xylophone sticks here!" [below]

"Peter Arno's Side-Show," College Humor, Vol. 5, No. 1, May 1937, p. 11

Note:  Peter Arno published many cartoons over the years in College Humor, and this week I'm going  to present five issues' worth from 1936 and 1937. I'd love to share more if any readers would care to send scans or photos from other issues to which Arno contributed.

Did you catch it? Yesterday's blog post was featured on Ink Spill! For me, that's like Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show being on the cover of the Rolling Stone. Now you can read all 22 of Ink Spill's posts about Attempted Bloggery. Oh, stop me, I'm gushing.

Speaking of Ink Spill's author, I can't wait to read Michael Maslin's new biography of Peter Arno, coming April 19 from Regan Arts. Peter Arno:  The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker's Greatest Cartoonist is available for pre-order on Amazon. Why not order your copy along with a set of xylophone sticks?

The above copy of College Humor, Vol. 5, No. 1, for May 1937 is part of the Steven Boss humor magazine collection at Columbia University. It is housed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library which recently welcomed me as an "independent researcher." Yes, that's what they call your humble blogger in the halls of the Academy. You should hear what they call me everywhere else. Much thanks to comics librarian Karen Green for directing me to the right shoeboxes.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Peter Arno's Side-Show for July 1936

In its July 1936 issue, the magazine College Humor announced "a brand new feature by the inimitable Peter Arno." It was called "Side-Show" and it occupied a two-page spread in the magazine typically with one cartoon on the left-hand page and two panel cartoons on the right. So let the Side-Show begin. Step right on in.

Peter Arno leads off with a full page cartoon bearing the caption "Exactly what do you expect to gain by this, Mr. Benkly." The smart college student of 1936 knew exactly what Mr. Benkly expected to gain, and therein lies the supposed humor, but is this dumb blonde joke more amusing or menacing? The woman shows no hint of giving consent here; indeed she expresses only alarm. Mr. Benkly is forcibly blocking her exit from an extremely uncomfortable situation. Even in 1936, this should have raised a red flag.

"Exactly what do you expect to gain by this, Mr. Benkly?"
"Peter Arno's Side-Show," College Humor, Vol. 2, No. 2, July 1936, p. 10

The benign interchange between the female passenger and the conductor in the second cartoon involves a kind of double-or-nothing coin toss wager with the fare, presumably a dime. As the New York City transit fare was 5 cents between 1904 and 1948, the ten-cent fare being wagered with the conductor must be a more expensive service, perhaps a ferry or intercity bus. These would have been quite familiar to college students, most of whom had to be somewhat regular travelers. The proffered wager, which the conductor finds annoying, is probably not nearly as clever or droll as the woman seems to think.

The final cartoon is much closer to what we expect to see from Peter Arno. You know the Normandie. It was an ocean liner immortalized in a famous poster by A. M. Cassandre. This cartoon is set not on the ship itself but in one of the Normandie's lifeboats. The humor, of course, lies in the eventual realization of what the couple must have been doing there in the first place.

"Twenty cents or nothing!" [above]
"My God! Somebody's launched us." [below]

"Peter Arno's Side-Show," College Humor, Vol. 2, No. 2, July 1936, p. 11

Today the most popular image of the Normandie is the iconic poster, published about two years after Arno's cartoon.
A. M. Cassandre, Normandie, Paris, circa 1938.
Estimate: $15,000 to $20,000 (2011).
Sold for $16,800 with buyer's premium.

Don't worry, it seems there's a '70's reference for every occasion:
"Sideshow" (1974)
Blue Magic

Note:  While this is Peter Arno's first regular Side-Show feature in College Humor, he published many cartoons in the magazine prior to this issue. If your humor library includes any of these issues with vintage Arno cartoons, please forward scans or photos to Attempted Bloggery. A world lacking a sense of humor awaits your decisive action.

Peter Arno, easily one of the top cartoonists of all time, died in 1968 and now, just forty-eight years later, his first full scale biography is to be published on April 19 by Regan Arts. Peter Arno:  The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker's Greatest Cartoonist by Michael Maslin is available for pre-order on Go ahead, try offering them double or nothing.

Poster artist A. M. Cassandre was a master of the genre. See how much his L.M.S. Best Way poster of 1928 sold for at Swann Auction Galleries in 2012.

The copy of College Humor, Vol. 2, No. 2, for July 1936 seen in this post is located in the Steven Boss humor magazine collection at Columbia University in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. Who says higher education has lost its way? Thanks to librarian Karen Green for letting me know where Columbia hides the good stuff.