Thursday, April 13, 2017

Peter Arno: Dueling for Publicity

Look what turned up on eBay! A published cartoon by Peter Arno reportedly dating from 1941 is set at a moonlit gun duel. A woman in white delays the proceedings by announcing that the press has yet to arrive. Even before the invention of social media, the media were social.

The drawing is gorgeous: dark, moonlit, possessed of a comic gravitas—how does Arno do it?—for two-thirds of the characters, anyway. The woman seems to inhabit a different, less troubled world. The gag itself is a little on the weak side and the situation somewhat open to interpretation. Is this a duel over the young woman, and is it she therefore who craves the publicity it will bring? Is a potential suitor dueling with her father or with a sugar daddy? If not, why is she getting involved? Things could stand to be a little clearer.

Where then was this published? Not in the New Yorker, it seems, although the typeface used is similar. The eBay seller was unable to say, except that he thought it was from the New Yorker, but that publication surely would never have omitted the comma before boys.

"Wait a minute boys, the reporters aren't here yet!"
Peter Arno, 1941

April 14, 2017 Update:  Mystery Solved!

A reader directed to this post from Ink Spill did a Google Book Search on the caption and was directed to an unspecified issue of the New Yorker from 1941. When I was informed of this, it occurred to me: the reason the caption wasn't in the magazine's cartoon database is that this cartoon was not editorial content but instead was part of an advertisement in the magazine! Given the fancy hats, there was only one product this could be...

By the way, note the exceedingly poor quality of the New Yorker's scan compared to the absolutely superb scan by the eBay seller. The New Yorker was an early adopter of scanning technology—too early, to our lasting regret.

"Wait a minute boys, the reporters aren't here yet!"
Peter Arno, Stetson advertisement, The New Yorker, February 22, 1941

"Wait a minute boys, the reporters aren't here yet!"
Peter Arno, Stetson advertisement, The New Yorker, February 22, 1941

Note:  It should go without saying at this point, but I'll say it anyway: If you know where and when this drawing was published, run, don't walk, to the nearest internet-enabled electronic device, perhaps the very one on which you are reading these words, and send that vital information this way at once. Furthermore, if you know of any other Arno drawings published in magazines other then the New Yorkerthose we know about—scans or photos of said cartoons are urgently needed here.

Wait, it doesn't end there. Original published Arno art, preliminary art, sketchbook pages, correspondence, inscribed books, family photos, press photos, and notebooks are needed as well. The reporter is here, boys!

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