Saturday, September 25, 2021

Modernist Museum Copyist: Richard Taylor Proposed New Yorker Cover Art

Over the years, cartoonists have had a lot to say about modern art. Let's face it, Richard Taylor's museum copyist would not be turning a gallery goer's head if she were copying an old master. But why exactly is the man looking on in disbelief? If the art is worth visiting, as he is doing, why is it not worth studying, as she is doing? 

That may be the problem with this as a New Yorker cover proposal—and it could hardly be anything else. Both the man and the woman are taking this art seriously, yet in order for us to smile at the gag, we have to view the woman's copying as somewhat frivolous.

Richard Taylor's signature

Richard Taylor's other signature

Richard Taylor
eBay listing ended August 9, 2013

Richard Taylor
eBay item description

Note:  The eBay seller asserts there is another New Yorker cover by another artist "with this nearly identical concept." I confess I am at a loss to identify what cover this could be. Can anyone help me out?

In 2010, the then-owner of this art listed it on the Comic Art Fans website here.

September 26, 2021 Update:  In the comments section, John makes the persuasive suggestion that the eBay seller refers to Constantin Alajálov's New Yorker cover of February 11, 1933. The cover gag does indeed depict a museum copyist, but it is certainly not about—ahem!—
Constantin Alajálov
The New Yorker, February 11, 1933

I agree with John that this cover is much funnier than Taylor's proposal. The eBay seller's contention that Taylor's idea would have to be purchased in order to be reworked to this degree and assigned to another artist seems unlikely to me; it is no longer Taylor's original concept. Still, 1933 was two years before Taylor's first appearance in the magazine, and it is conceivable The New Yorker would have wanted to use a more proven artist (Alajálov's work had been in the magazine since 1926). I wonder, though, whether Taylor could have been thinking of this cover and why he was passed over for it (if indeed he was) when he drew the following 1936 cartoon:
Our Modern Gallery of Ancient Favorites:
Rape of the Sabines

Richard Taylor
The New Yorker, October 31, 1936, page 25

The Alajálov cover appeared before Taylor was a successful contributor to the magazine. Therefore, alternatively, Taylor might have been unaware of it when he submitted his own cover proposal of a museum copyist.

A spot drawing (artist unknown?) of a city clothesline and a cartoon by Richard Taylor



  1. Thank you as always for your fascinating website.

    May I suggest that Constantin Alajalo's cover of 11 February 1933 uses a very similar (but funnier) idea?

    Also, I have been led to believe that Harold Ross was prudish about depictions of the nude. This cover suggests that's not entirely true!

    1. Constantin Alajalov, of course.

      I couldn't get "preview" to work.

    2. Thanks, John. I agree with you that this 1933 cover is much funnier than Taylor's proposal. I have added it to the post. I also agree that too much has been made (by Brendan Gill?) of Ross's supposed prudishness.