Thursday, December 27, 2018

eBay 101: Falling Upon a New Yorker Cartoon?

An eBay seller has recently listed a wash drawing with the intriguing title "Original NEW YORKER Cartoon Art 1930s." The initial Buy It Now price was a robust $2,000, albeit with a Make Offer option. The seller, toys24-7 based in Scottsdale, Arizona, has earned an eBay rating over 2700 of which 99.5% of the feedback is positive. That's impressive. So let's have a look.

The artwork, if we can call it that, depicts a girl slipping and falling in a puddle of water. The technique is sloppy and unprofessional. The grasp of anatomy is not even rudimentary. For example, both legs have an extra angulation at mid-thigh. This is more of an illustrated pratfall than a gag cartoon anyway. It is probably meant to be cute. There is no signature and no written caption, although there seems to be some deliberately-obliterated writing on the lower margin of the full sheet:

The verso, as by now one might expect, has no New Yorker markings and indeed no markings of any kind to indicate it was published anywhere. To anyone not trying to sell it, this is obviously the work of an amateur.

eBay Listing Retrieved December 19, 2018

eBay Item Description

Now actively monitoring my browsing of the auction site, eBay soon wrote to tell me the item and one other similar drawing were discounted to $1,500.

But wait. Already these have been marked down to $1,250 each. Even the seller recognizes these are grossly overpriced. Alas, they will remain overpriced however much they are discounted after Christmas.

For those like toys24-7 who may never have seen a 1930s New Yorker cartoon, here's one example, and it even includes a puddle:
"Oh, don't be an ass, Herbert!"
Perry Barlow
The New Yorker, April 20, 1935, page 18

I confess—I chose a good one.

So what is this eBay seller really in possession of? It certainly never appeared in the New Yorker or in any other magazine for that matter. My best guess is that it's a wash drawing done by an amateur perhaps attempting to ape the style of Grace Drayton, famous for her Campbell Soup Kids. I don't have an example of her art depicting a fall into a puddle exactly, but here's a Campbell's Kid eager for some water sport.
Grace Drayton
Campbell's Soup advertisement

A 1921 ad, on the other hand, shows how she handled the subject of ice skating. (Imagine, if you will, a leisure activity taking place on a big frozen puddle.)
Grace Drayton
Campbell's Soup advertisement, 1921

Grace Drayton
Campbell's Soup advertisement, 1921

Look, sellers on eBay have the same weakness we all do. Without doing their homework, they want to believe every slapdash find of theirs is of great cultural significance and value. Naturally then at least some eBay sellers are a little too eager to conclude that whatever random drawing they have chanced upon must certainly be a lost masterpiece once published in the New Yorker.

But we know better, don't we? Of course we do.

December 30, 2018 Update:  The asking prices continue to drop.

January 1, 2019 Update:

January 5, 2019 Update:

Note: After all these years of my writing this blog, one might think it's unfair of me to go after someone for knowing less about New Yorker cartoons than I do. Unfair or not, rest assured I have no intention of letting up.

Quick Links to the Attempted Bloggery Archives:

eBay 101

Perry Barlow

Artist Unknown

Ice Skating


Attempted Bloggery's Fallen Index


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