Monday, April 11, 2016

Peter Arno's Negligee Negligence

Reader and contributor David from Manhattan writes about a 1932 Peter Arno original sold on eBay last spring. It has a fascinating provenance and some related caption variants, prompting him to offer up some research too.

Peter Arno, "Do I know anything about this, Parsons"
Original art, The New Yorker, July 23, 1932, page 10

Photos courtesy of David from Manhattan

"Do I know anything about this, Parsons?" was published in the July 23, 1932 New Yorker. Dimensions are 15 x 12. According to the Long Island seller, the art was a gift from Arno to John Hay Whitney. Parsons was changed to Edgar to amuse Mr. Whitney. The real Edgar was Edgar Woodham, his "pilot-valet." At least that's the story via the seller's grandfather, who was employed by the Whitney family. He came acrosss it in the 1960s, while helping to clean out Greentree, the Whitney estate in Manhasset. I've included an article I found on-line that mentions Woodham ("Local Pilot Makes Forced Landing," etc.). His injuries were pretty serious, though I could not determine if this ended his career. It sounds morbid, but I like that Fred Opper's obituary is in an adjoining column, not to mention Andrew Mellon's headline.
The Kingston Daily Freeman, August 27, 1937

Edgar Woodham hurt in plane crash, right.
Frederick Opper obituary, left.
The Kingston Daily Freeman, August 27, 1937

Before he sent it off to the framer's, Arno made a change in caption, as can be seen on the back. I don't know who's hand that's in. The original mat, which had damp stains, repeated the new caption; condition made it impossible to use, and Arno's use of an exclamation point rubbed me the wrong way, so I printed up a new version, as can be seen in an iPhone shot. The change is entirely this owner's responsibility. While the magazine preferred a question mark, Arno's exclamation point feels dated and wrong. Any future owner is free to go back to the magazine's caption.
Amended caption:  Arno's Parsons becomes Edgar

New caption:  "Edgar! Do I know anything about this?"

Why Arno never reprinted this, I have no idea, even though a number of New Yorker cartoons from this period suffered the same fate. I realize a lot of the early stuff just hasn't held up too well, but the Edgar/Parsons drawing still feels fresh. Oh well.

Is this a likeness of Edgar Woodham?
Photos courtesy of David from Manhattan

Thank you, David! Now here's last summer's eBay sale which shows the damp staining to the mat:
Peter Arno, "Edgar! Do I know anything about this!"
Original art, The New Yorker, July 23, 1932, page 10

Peter Arno, "Edgar! Do I know anything about this!"
Original art, The New Yorker, July 23, 1932, page 10

Arno caption variant: "Edgar! Do I know anything about this!"
Water damage is evident on the mat.

Verso. Arno's original caption was apparently "Parsons! Do I know anything about this!"

eBay Listing Ended June 14, 2015

eBay Item Description

eBay Bid History
The auction goes to the bold. The bidder placing multiple bids with small increments loses.

[End of eBay Listing]
Peter Arno, "Do I know anything about this, Parsons?"
The New Yorker,
July 23, 1932, page 10

Peter Arno, "Edgar! Do I know anything about this!"
Original art, The New Yorker, July 23, 1932, page 10

Note:  Thanks once again to David from Manhattan for helping to make this blog—not to mention this world—a better place.

Anyone possessing a likeness of pilot-valet Edgar Woodham should come forward now.

Got some of your own original New Yorker cartoon art to show off? Why not join David and share it here? Got an idle pilot-valet on your hands? Why not offer his services to a congenial blogger?

Sure, Hemingway and Fitzgerald they've got covered, but do you realize not a single university offers a graduate degree in Arno Studies? The good news is you can still do some rigorous independent study and I can get you started. Follow these links to obtain the higher education you deserve:

Peter Arno's new biography by Michael Maslin is for sale at and, pretty soon, everywhere.

Peter Arno is the subject of a conversation coming to the Butler Library at Columbia University on April 18. It's doesn't count as credit towards a PhD, but what do you want for free?

Peter Arno posts appear on Ink Spill, which happens to be the blog of Arno's biographer. Small world.

Peter Arno is also featured in Chris Wheeler's Cartoon(ist) Gallery.

Peter Arno is in the April Vanity Fair.

Peter Arno is in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

Peter Arno posts are right here on Attempted Bloggery too. The things I do for you!


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