Friday, June 3, 2016

Peter Arno: The Scoutmaster's Secret

A preliminary New Yorker drawing by Peter Arno seen at Skinner in 2007 is almost good enough to publish, but it does have a problem or two. The speaker, trying to correct a misunderstanding, is depicted a little too awkwardly with his back toward us and his legs at odd angles as he tries to pull away from an exotic and seductive woman. The artist could twist him around so that he faces us, and that might help, but there is still another problem. The situation we're encountering here is a complicated one, and we might read it better the way we read everything, from left to right, seeing the seductress before we see the man's reaction to her. And then there is that obtrusive pillow in the foreground, blocking the woman's leg. Surely that doesn't help the diagonal sweep.

Arno fixes all these problems in the published version, but he goes further. He leaves the scoutmaster's legs parallel, improving the visual flow. He redecorates, moving the flowers forward and leaving the hat on the floor in the foreground. The end result has much greater immediacy. Meanwhile the editors have tweaked the word great into grave, further emphasizing the laughable earnestness of the honest scoutmaster.

"You're making a great mistake, Miss Loesch. We scoutmasters
are not entrusted with military secrets."
Peter Arno, Preliminary art
The New Yorker, July 27, 1940, page 18

Peter Arno's signature



 
Skinner, September 7, 2007, Sale 2371, Lot 788

The published version:
"You're making a grave mistake, Miss Loesch. We scoutmasters are not entrusted with military secrets."
Peter Arno, The New Yorker, July 27, 1940, page 18
"You're making a great mistake, Miss Loesch. We scoutmasters
are not entrusted with military secrets."
Peter Arno, Preliminary art
The New Yorker, July 27, 1940, page 18

May 7, 2017 Update:  The published New Yorker cartoon was collected in Peter Arno's Cartoon Revue (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1941), where it also appeared on the back of the dust jacket.
Peter Arno's Cartoon Revue
(New York:  Simon & Schuster, 1941)
Front Cover


Peter Arno's Cartoon Revue (New York:  Simon & Schuster, 1941)

Peter Arno's Cartoon Revue
(New York:  Simon & Schuster, 1941)
Back Cover


Note:  Well, there you have it:  a lesson from the great Peter Arno in how to turn a work of preliminary New Yorker cartoon art into the real deal. He makes it looks so easy!

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