Archive for the ‘Illustration’ Category

Exhibition | Comic Strip Originals

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Charles Forbell, Naughty Pete,
The New York Herald, 23 October, 1913
Private collection



Pioneers of the Comic Strip
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
Frankfurt | Germany
Until 18 September 2016



Lyonel Feininger, The Kin-der-Kids,
Sunday page, Chicago Tribune, 29 April 1906
Collection Achim Moeller, New York,
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016



It was the mass-produced, throwaway quality of comic book art that first attracted the interest of pop artists in the 1950s, who set about reproducing carefully selected details from them as large paintings. In consequence, wider attention was drawn toward the exceptional qualities of the original source of this inspiration: the newspaper comic strip. Countless millions of these were printed, and many more produced, but few from the trailblazing, early years have survived.

Cliff Sterrett, Polly and Her Pals, detail
13 November 1927
Private collection



Frank King, Gasoline Alley,
The Denver Post, 24 August, 1930
Private collection,
© Estate of Frank King



Although the format had existed in Britain since the early 1880s – Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday, first published on 3 May 1884 is regarded as the first comic strip magazine to feature a recurring character – comic strips first began to appear in American newspapers in 1897, immediately captivating the middle and working classes, as well as fascinating newly arrived immigrants. Their success there in the early 20th century was integral to the meteoric rise of newspapers as mass media that, due to the development of high-performance printing presses and decreasing paper costs, became affordable for all US citizens.

Comic strips would gain such importance that the growth or decline of a newspaper became dependent on their popularity, and they became tactical weapons in the war between American media barons, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.

Winsor McCay, Little Nemo in Slumberland,
The New York Herald, 23 September, 1906
Private collection



Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt’s new exhibition, Pioneers of the Comic Strip, presents around 230 rare examples produced between 1905 and the 1940s, including original drawings, and features six outstanding, primarily American illustrators, who shaped the genre’s early history: Winsor McCay, Lyonel Feininger, Charles Forbell, Cliff Sterrett, George Herriman, and Frank King.

All images courtesy Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt


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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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Design | Forgotten Swiss Lamm that Roared in Italy

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Fashion 1960, for professional travellers, la Rinascente, 1960
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



Lora Lamm – La vita è bella
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Zürich | Switzerland
Until 16 August 2015



The garden – the house in the country – the city terrace, la Rinascente, 1956
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



The celebrated department store chain, La Rinascente, founded in 1917, (in Thai ownership since 2011) remains little known outside of Italy. With the exception of Switzerland, the same can be said of Swiss polymath designer / illustrator / art director, Lora Lamm.

La Rinascente was one of a number of innovative companies, including the tyre manufacturer, Pirelli, that during the post-war period latched on to the idea – pioneered by Olivetti – of establishing in-house advertising and PR departments that would develop a rapport with a new breed of designers with whom they collaborated to produce highly-creative advertising and promotional material.

Lamm, though often previously overlooked – she doesn’t rate a Wikipedia entry – whose work was synonymous with La Rinascente’s success during the period, was a major contributor to Italian design in the 1950s and 1960s. This month, in recognition of her contribution to the advancement of Swiss design both nationally and internationally, the Swiss Federal Office of Culture has awarded her the annual Grand Prix Design Award 2015.

Sales, 1957
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



Fashion spread, la Rinascente, c 1960
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



Roles, Pirelli, 1961
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



Lamm (b 1928), studied graphic design from 1946 to 1951 in Zürich under, among others, the former Bauhaus master Johannes Itten, and was afterwards drawn to flourishing Milan, which was enjoying an economic boom. After gaining a foothold at Studio Boggeri, where well-regarded Swiss designers were already working, she later moved to Panettone Motta Milano as a packaging designer. In 1954, on the recommendation of the Swiss graphic designer Max Huber, who was already an established designer at La Rinascente – he had designed their logo – Lamm was taken on by the company, where she was soon made responsible for the design and production of the store’s in-house magazine, Cronache.

Inspired by the latest graphics produced for international department stores in New York and Tokyo that she mixed freely with the rational, modernist influences she brought from Switzerland, Lamm rapidly imposed her own design vision that served the management’s purpose of attracting female clientele to La Rinascente.

Schools department, la Rinascente, 1958
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, Poster Collection



After Huber left the store in 1958, Lamm was put in sole charge of the creative department, producing the company’s catalogues, posters, advertisements, invitations, mailers, packaging and other publicity, but still found time to carry out freelance work for Pirelli, Elizabeth Arden and Olivetti.

The light, positive feelings embodied in her work for the store characterised by illustrations of charming, child-like simplicity, and by fluid and elegant typography, was carried through to her posters for Pirelli. Here she juxtaposed whimsical illustration against perfectly-drawn black, scraper-board images of tyres, and often used photography.

In 1963, Lamm returned to Zürich, where she still lives and continues to work.

Lora Lamm – La vita è bella, currently showing at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich’s Schaudepot is an exhibition concerned almost exclusively with the designer’s poster work. A limited selection of original Lora Lamm poster designs is available to buy via the Swiss gallery, Artifiche.

All posters designed by Lora Lamm, © the artist, courtesy of Museum für Gestaltung Zürich



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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Design | Modernist Posters

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Paul Rand,
Minute Man, 1974
Estimate $1,000 > $1,500



Modernist Posters
Swann Auction Galleries
New York City | USA
Exhibition May 2, 4, 5, 6, 7
Sale 7 May 2015
13.30 EST / 18.30 GMT



Pentagram,
AIA New York
Group of ten posters,
1990s > 2000s
Estimate $2,000 > $3,000



Richard Avedon,
The Beatles
One of four posters
and a banner, 1967
Estimate $2,000 > $3,000



If you punch ‘American posters’ into Google search, and click the Images option, page upon page of disordered, unsifted stuff will come up. There’ll be a few great designs you recognise instantly. Just a few. Much of it will be mediocre. A lot of it will be rubbish. You’ll wonder what some of it is doing there. If you refine your search and put in, say, ‘American film posters’, the first few pages at least will roughly match the subject, but it’ll be a random selection of everything with those key words attached. You could do the same for American music posters, or advertising posters. If you happen to  find a couple of items that you like, even if the colour is reasonably accurate, they’ll probably be in low resolution, so the detail will be fuzzy, which means you won’t get more than a general idea of what the original poster is like. If you feel like buying a poster, you’ll be lucky to find an original, and, if it’s more than a few years old, you’ll most likely have to put up with a copy, having little idea of the quality until it arrives.

Now that bidding online is commonplace, sales like next week’s Modern Posters at New York’s Swann Auction Galleries are open to a worldwide market, which is great for them, but in turn also allows us to look at a vast amount of original, often rare examples of graphic design on our computer monitors, or mobile devices, in fairly decent image resolution. The beauty is that all of the material has been examined by experts, and usually comes from private or corporate collections. These days, the sale catalogues, available in book-form for most auctions that can be ordered in advance on-line, are usually very well-researched and well-produced, and contain detailed information on each item, its provenance and general state. Sometimes the catalogues themselves become, over time, collectable.

Kenneth D Haak & Paul Smith,
Get All The News / And Get It Right /
The New York Times, c 1951
Estimate $1,000 > $1,500



George Maciunas,
USA Surpasses All The
Genocide Records!, 1969
Estimate $400 > $600



Often, just as on eBay, you can bid up to a certain deadline, but taking part in the live sales is more fun. With a bit of savvy and a few deft clicks, you can buy a design classic at a good price and arrange to have it delivered direct to your door. Better still, even if you have no intention of buying, but happen to be in the right place – in this instance, New York – you can stroll around the viewing exhibition inspecting any or all of the lots for free, returning as often as you want before the sale starts.

Swann’s auction includes archive Swiss, Polish, German, French and Japanese posters, as well as many by British artists. There’s a 1907 poster by Munich secessionist artist Franz von Stück, and a Peter Behrens design for the Deutsche Werkbund exhibition, 1914. Swiss polymath Max Bill is represented by an advertising poster (1932) for the modernist furniture company Wohnbedarf. No less than seven Cassandre posters are in this sale, including his famous Dubonnet (c1956) work, estimated at $2,000 – $3,000. Nine single lot Edward McKnight Kauffer posters range in estimated price from $500 > $18,000, while three Abram Games WWII works will also be sold. There’s a Massimo Vignelli (1963) poster for Pirelli, and a square poster by Gerit Rietveld.

Andy Warhol,
Fifth New York Film Festival /
Lincoln Center, 1967

Estimate $1,500 > $2,000



Tomi Ungerer,
The Voice / The Magician, 1968,
for The Village Voice
Estimate $500 > $750



Constantly exposed to a lot of American TV and films, and some American magazines – up until recently, unless we visited America, had access to the Art Director’s Club annuals, or specifically searched for them on the internet, Britons and Europeans rarely had the opportunity to see a representative selection of original American posters, let alone buy them. Comprising roughly 50% of the total number of lots, a small sample of these accompany this post.

The Modern Posters sale at Swann Auction Galleries also includes rare non-poster items, such as Herbert Bayer and Walter Gropius’s Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar 1919 – 1923, bound volume, and Bayer’s Austellung / Europäisches Kunstgewerbe exhibition catalogue (a copy of which is in the MoMA collection), both with bold and uncompromising typographic cover treatments. There’s also a group of 7 copies of bauhaus, the school’s magazine, first published in 1926, with cover designs by Herbert Bayer, Joost Schmidt and Hannes Meyer, from the 1928-29 period, for which bidding is expected in the $3,000 > 4,000 bracket. A group of 8 issues of the magazine Vanity Fair, published between 1930-35 is estimated at $700 > 1,000.

Images Courtesy Swann Auction Galleries



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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Illustration | Comic Art @ Serious Prices

Friday, March 6th, 2015

Nat Neujean, Tin Tin et Milou, 1976
Bronze, 180 cm
Estimate €140,000 > 180,000



Bande Dessinée / Comic Strip Art
Sotheby’s
Paris | France
Exhibition until 6pm today
Auction 7 March 2015



Blutch, Vous n’avez encore rien vu, 2012.
Poster for the film by Alain Resnais, 2012

Pastel on paper
Estimate €3,000 > 3,500



Gabriele del’Otto,
Amazing Spiderman 682,
Arc Ends of the Earth
, 2012.

Alternative cover illustration
Mixed media on paper
Estimate €4,800 > 5,000



Floc’h, Michelle Obama’s Fashion Show
Cover of The New Yorker’s
The Style Issue, 16 March 2009

Mixed media
Estimate €2,200 > 2,500



Like many of my peers during the latter years of the 1960s, in my teens I collected American comics. And I suppose because he was supposed to be a teenager too, DC Comics‘ Superboy was a particular favourite. Naturally I also liked Superman, Batman, and The Flash. I admired the Marvel Comics’ superhero Daredevil, who, even though he had been blinded by radiation – in the process gaining super powers – managed to look great and perform amazing feats. The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Spiderman and Thor were more Marvel favourites, and I used to scare myself half to death with DC Comics’ Tales from the Crypt.

They had no connection to DC Comics, but I had grown up with DC Thomson & Co Limited’s children’s weeklies, The Beano, Topper and The Dandy, and later, The Victor and The Hotspur, and when I delivered newspapers, I always looked forward to reading the Oor Wullie strip in the Scottish paper The Sunday Post, before pushing it through one of my regular letterboxes. Oor Wullie means Our Willie. Originally created by DC Thompson editor R D Low in 1936, it was drawn for many years by Dudley D Watkins (1907 > 1969). Our Wullie’s trademarks are spiky hair, dungarees and an upturned bucket, which he often uses as a seat. When our own kids reached the right age, my wife and I regularly bought them Oor Wullie, and The Broons annuals for Christmas, which they – and we – read over and over again, and which their friends were always keen to borrow.

Hergé, Le petit vingtiéme.
Recto: Tintin, honneur au jubilaire.
Cover illustration, Le petit vingtième,
#49, 15 December 1938
Indian ink and white gouache on paper
Verso: Tintin, Fifth Anniversary
Journal Tintin Belgian #39,
26 September 1951.
Cover illustration rough
Pencil on paper
© Hergé-Moulinsart
Estimate €450,000 > 480,000



On trips to Paris, we always made a bee-line to FNAC in the rue de Rennes, spending hours leafing through the illustrated books, especially the Barbar stories, begun originally in 1931 by Jean de Brunhoff, who died in 1937, and continued from 1946 by his son Laurent (b 1925). Although they weren’t actually in comic book form, each story was constructed with lots of sequential, situational drawings. It was possible to ‘get’ the story, even without reading the French text – which neither of us could. Our other favourites were The Adventures of Tin Tin, created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi (1907–1983), who wrote under the pen name Hergé. I, at least knew these illustrators’ names and work, but there was a huge raft of contemporary illustrated comics and comic books available in the shop, full of the most amazing work, that wasn’t, to my knowledge at the time, to be got anywhere in the UK, except for a single, poky shop called Forbidden Planet, off Tottenham Court Road in central London. There had been others – Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed, started in 1969, which had followed another called Weird Fantasy, but Forbidden Planet, founded in 1975, outlived them and today claims to be the world’s biggest chain of comic shops, with massive online sales. Now, as the Japanese manga phenomenon proliferates and the graphic novel becomes ever more popular, Sotheby’s Bande Dessinée / Comic Strip Art sale, tomorrow, is a timely opportunity to sample a broad, international cross section of the genre, via the exhibition, the sale, the online catalogue or the printed version, available via their website.

Jacques de Loustal,
Le Gardien 2013

Oil on canvas



Frank Miller, Sin City,
Volume 3, The Big Fat Kill
,
Vertige Graphic, 1996

Indian ink on paper
Estimate €15,000 > 18,000



Ana Miralles, Djinn
Novel illustration
Mixed techniques on paper
Estimate €12,000 > 15,000



On leaving university, my first job had been at The Sunday Times – at that point, incidentally, owned by DC Thompson. In my thirties and early forties, as Art Editor of The Sunday Times Magazine – a weekly supplement to the newspaper – I was probably commissioning more illustration than anyone else in magazines (except, perhaps the art editor at The Radio Times) in London. The Sunday Times Magazine didn’t run a cartoon strip, but when I was asked to redesign Watchword the children’s magazine of the Royal Society for Nature Conservation (which The Sunday Times supported) its editor was keen to have one in it. We settled on the idea of a girl and a boy who would make discoveries in the natural world together. I came up with their names: Flora & Fauna which became the strip’s title. I believe it ran for around five years. It was my first and only involvement with the commissioning of comic strip illustration.

All images courtesy Sotheby’s



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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due must be borne by the source supplier



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All Categories | Storms, Smoke & Power Cuts

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

Apologies!
Due to a combination of wild storms that blew smoke from the wood fire back down the chimney, setting off  alarms in every room, and covered everything in a fine layer of soot, and the power cut that, in amongst all of this, plunged our friends’ isolated, converted corn mill where we were staying into deep, velvety darkness, The Blog isn’t posting this week.

In the meantime, you might like to take a look at our reminder of the diverse range of international visual arts and events-related subjects we posted in 2014.

Best wishes for 2015



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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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All Categories | Omnipresence 2014 / 2015

Friday, December 26th, 2014

2014 proved to be an exciting year at The Blog.

We published posts relating to exhibitions as diverse as Egon Schiele; The Radical Nude at London’s Courtauld Gallery, and Robert Heinecken: Object Matter at MoMA in New York, to another about VKhUTEMAS – often called the Russian Bauhaus – at Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau museum. We admired rare and exotic posters in The Art of Travel, exhibited at Cannes during the annual film festival and auctioned afterwards by Christie’s.

We showed a selection of compelling images from Roxanne Lowit Photographs Yves Saint Laurent, a glitzy new book – with an introduction by no less a figure than Pierre Bergé – and wrote about Vitra’s more modest new publication Everything is Connected, which relies totally on visual language rather than written text to relate the company’s labyrinthine story.

We loved Korean artist Lee Bul’s captivating installations at the UK’s Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, and the Museum für Gestaltung’s 100 Years of Swiss Design exhibition – as well as the accompanying Lars Müller book – showing selections from the Museum’s consolidated collections, now housed at the Schaudepot in Zürich’s burgeoning New Toni development.

We covered the Saul Steinberg 100th Anniversary Exhibition at Pace MacGill in New York, and we assembled our own photographic tribute to The Years of ‘La Dolce Vita’, from the paparazzi images on show at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, in London.

We published extracts from Christie’s International Head of 20th Century Decorative Art & Design Philippe Garner’s scintillating interview with Zeev Aram, on the subject of Japanese furniture designer Shiro Kuramata. And we salivated over Serge Mouille’s 1950s sculptural lighting included in Phillips Design sale in New York.

We hope the journey so far has been as interesting for you as it has for us.

As the globe – at least in communication terms – continues to shrink, the cultural landscape forever widens and diversifies. What was formerly remote has often become more easily accessible. In response, 2015 will see The Blog extending its reach and venturing into geographical and subject areas we may have so far ignored, exploring and gaining entry for our followers to a broader range of thought-provoking, disparate and topical events in the omnipresent visual arts and associated artistic disciplines.



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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Illustration | Drawing Fashion Forward

Friday, December 19th, 2014

At Home, 1967
Published in The New York Times Magazine

Mixed media
© Courtesy of Estate of Antonio Lopez and Juan Ramos
and Galerie Bartsch & Chariau



Drawing Fashion.
Masterpieces of a Century
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Hamburg | Germany
19th December 2014 > 3 May 2015



I own a copy of Paris Vogue’s ‘Homáge a Paris’ June / July 1985 issue, the cover illustrated with a painting of a bare-shouldered, three-quarter length female model against a minimal evening backdrop of the city, unmistakable because of the small, blurred, floodlit silhouette of the The Arc de Triomphe in the distance, placing her, unmistakably on the sophisticated and romantic Champs-Élysées. Hands, clenched below her chin, she wears long black gloves, with diamond earrings and a diamond necklace. Her black hair is piled high on top of her head. Her black-mascara’d eyes closed in ecstasy, her full red-lipped mouth with even white teeth smiles wide with sheer delight. The perfect picture of Parisian glamour – a huge gold ribbon cinches the waist of her spangled black dress, and, extending off both sides of the cover, binds her image to the magazine. The message is unmistakable. The artist who created it was René Gruau (1909 > 2004).

Georges Lepape
Untitled, 1915
Published on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar

Watercolour and gouache
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014



Mats Gustafson
Kopfbedeckung, 2005
Fashion from Comme des Garçons

Watercolour
© Mats Gustafson / Art + Commerce



Réne Gruau
Untitled, 1955
Fashion from Dior
Published in International Textiles

Brushed ink and gouache
© Nachlass Réne Gruau



Gruau, whose heyday was in the 1940s and 50s was one of the main attractions in the enormously successful, Drawing Fashion: 100 years of fashion illustrated exhibition in 2010 at London’s Design Museum. From today, and deservedly so, re-jigged and rearranged to suit the new venue, the same material is getting a fresh outing under the title Drawing Fashion. Masterpieces of a Century at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. The new exhibition celebrates the genre as represented in 165 images, covering the whole of the 20th century period, with a few examples from the 21st, from the unique collection of original artworks of renowned Munich art dealer Joelle Chariau.

Split into seven sections – the first two representing a particular style or epoch – the extravagant art deco of the 1910s and twenties is followed by the more dignified fashions of the thirties and forties. Each subsequent decade is represented by its outstanding illustrators – the fifties by René Gruau (1909 > 2004), the sixties to eighties by the remarkable, prolific and highly-influential New Yorker, and close associate of Karl Lagerfeld, Antonio (Antonio Lopez, 1943 > 1987), who worked in Paris from 1969 to the mid 70s. Then come those who are still working today like, sensitive master of the watercolour wash, the Swede, Mats Gustafson (b 1951), the Swiss, François Berthoud (b 1961), of whom Anna Piaggi Vogue Italia fashion contributor and style icon – wrote: ‘While François illustrates fashion in an apparently formal and decorative way, in reality he analyses his subject in depth and with an elegant sense of detachment before recreating it in his atelier-laboratory…. with a sharp sense of irony and a visual culture rooted in conceptual art!’ This section also includes Parisian Aurore de La Morinerie (b 1962), who spent two years studying the Chinese calligraphy that was to become a formative influence on her style.

François Berthoud
Girl in a room
, 1996
Fashion from Jil Sander, published in Interview Review

Monotype and oil
© François Berthoud



The Fashion Illustration Gallery (Paris) website has examples of work by most, but not all of the big names from the 20th and 21st centuries. Their list is dived into two alphabetically-ordered groups – the younger illustrators, followed by the more mature or no longer living, or so it appears – which puts flavour of the moment, David Downton, whose slick, nostalgic style pays tribute to those who went before him – such as Gruau – right at the top. It’s interesting to see, however, some young people like Daisy De Villeneuve, with her own inimitable, primitive style, pushing the genre in a very personal and alternative direction. Former fashion designer, Richard Haines‘ matter-of-fact, laid-back watercolour sketches come close to caricature. Award-winning, Japanese fashion illustrator Hiroshi Tanabe, who quickly became established after leaving college in 1990, has an assured graphic hand that produces reduced, often minimal images with a whiff of the 1970s about them, which are at the same time bang up to date.



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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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Exhibition | Saul ‘The New Yorker’ Steinberg

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Chest of Drawers Cityscape, 1950
Gelatin silver print


Saul Steinberg
100th Anniversary Exhibition
Pace + Pace / MacGill Gallery
New York City | USA
Until 18th October 2014


What is a cartoonist? What is an illustrator? Where does one draw the line between illustration and fine art? What happens when you mix illustration with photography; is the end product an illustration or a still life photograph? If you draw something on a 3D object and photograph it; is the result an illustration, or a photograph? And, what if the person who did the drawing, wasn’t the photographer? Whose work is the final image? Does any of these questions matter? Certainly not to Saul Steinberg whose unique creations, equally at home on the pages of magazines and on gallery walls, can’t be confined to a single category or movement, nor did he allow his palette to be bound by any restrictions. His art, if that is how we choose to refer to it, informed by cubism, surrealism, dadaism and pop – indeed he fraternised with many key figures across all areas of the arts, including Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier, Vladimir Nabakov, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul-Satre, to name but a few – is both catholic and democratic, his influences from high art as well as from low, his subject areas from Wall Street to the gutter.


Girl in Tub, 1949
Gelatin silver print


I first came across Steinberg’s View of the World from 9th Avenue, 1976, reproduced as a poster, hung on the kitchen wall of some illustrator friends, at the Royal College of Art halls of residence in London, in 1977. They’d just returned from New York – which I was yet to visit – bringing the poster back as a souvenir. Having up to that point only ever seen the city in photographs or films, its colossal architecture dominating everything else, leaving me daunted at the thought of ever going there, I was struck by the simplistic, friendly Steinberg depiction of New York as a place in which the people at street level just carried on as they might in any European city – going to work, shopping, wandering around the broad pavements of Manhattan, oblivious to events elsewhere in their country, and beyond. And later, when I’d seen a few Woody Allen films, it occurred to me that here were some life-size characters, who might have been the miniature people that populated Steinberg’s illustration.

Even so, I didn’t consciously go looking for Steinberg’s work – as I had done for that of Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast, the Push Pin Studios design and illustration heroes of my early college years. And when I started working for a living, I knew that behind the cover of the The New Yorker – which a few of my journalist colleagues at The Sunday Times Magazine studiously read, toting the latest issue around the office as symbols of their literary status and aspirations – there were great swathes of words, which to me, as a ‘visual journalist’, held little appeal. So, although I was certainly aware of his fame and that he was held in high regard, I never knew, until now, that over six decades, Steinberg’s work featured on the cover of The New Yorker no less than 90 times and appeared 1,200 times on its inside pages, before he ended his collaboration with the magazine in 1987 (recommenced, 1993), or that his View of the World from 9th Avenue is regarded by connoisseurs as one of his most notable creations for the magazine – ripped off, adapted, its text changed to suit many major cities across the country, his lawyers were constantly in pursuit of the perpetrators.

Up until I first visited New York in 1997, some nineteen years after seeing the poster, despite what had become my almost daily contact with photographers and sometimes with illustrators based there and elsewhere in the United States, the city remained for me remote, beyond my horizon. And a few more years would pass before I stumbled across a fascinating little book called Saul Steinberg Masquerade (Viking Press, 2000, a reprint, or perhaps re-design of the original Steinberg: The Mask, 1966). It contained The Mask series, an inspired collaboration by Steinberg and the photographer, Inge Morath, between 1959 and 1963, in which Steinberg’s friends posed anonymously in group and individual photographs, having donned paper bags drawn with plain or fantastic faces. Morath had become fascinated by Steinberg and his ‘Steinbergian universe’, whilst living in Vienna in the 1940s, long before she came into contact with him; it wasn’t until she joined Magnum and moved to Paris, where she met Henri Cartier-Bresson, who had taken a portrait of Steinberg, that she even knew what he looked like. Cartier-Bresson described him as ‘un homme délicieux, d’une si grande intelligence’. Irving Penn, too, would create a studio portrait of Steinberg wearing one of his nose masks, in 1966 – during his long career, he sat for many famous photographers, including Arnold Newman and Lee Miller.


Untitled, c 1950
Gelatin silver print


Saul Steinberg (1914 > 1999) was a Jewish Romania-born American. He studied philosophy and literature at the University of Bucharest, and trained as a draughtsman during the 1930s, in Milan. Fleeing Italy’s new anti-semitic laws, in 1941, he arrived in the United States the following year, and had his first one-man show there a year later. He married the only prominent abstract expressionist artist, Hedda Sterne, in 1951, but left her and took up with a German photography and design student in 1960. His work has been the subject of dozens of exhibitions around the globe and produced numerous publications. Saul Steinberg 100th Anniversary Exhibition at Pace + Pace / MacGill Gallery includes work from five decades of Steinberg’s career, exploring the man who himself explored the world and adapted his medium to suit whatever he found in it. Saul Steinberg: A Biography by Deirdre Blair was published by Nan A Talese / Doubleday in 2012. The Musees Strasbourg website has a useful and succinct Steinberg biography in list form.

The Saul Steinberg Foundation is a nonprofit organisation established as a result of the artist’s will. His collection of his own works was divided between the Foundation and Yale University, which also received Steinberg’s archives. The Foundation holds the copyrights to Steinberg’s artworks and writings.

While Steinberg remains for many ‘The man who did that poster’, The New York Times called him ‘a veritable Leonardo of graphic drollery,’ in 2006. On the Magnum Photos site, in the credit for an Inge Morath portrait of him, shot as part of the Mask series, it might have amused him to see himself still quaintly referred to as a ‘draughtsman’, which is perhaps as good a description as any.

All images by Saul Steinberg, © The Saul Steinberg Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, USA. Courtesy Pace and Pace / MacGill Gallery, New York, USA


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All Categories | The Blog Will Return Next Week

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Untitled #1, Norfolk, UK

Untitled #2, Norfolk, UK

Untitled #3, Norfolk, UK

Photographs by Pedro Silmon, 2014




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All Categories | The Blog Team is on Holiday

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Kielder Water from below the Kielder Observatory, Northumberland, UK

Kielder Observatory, by Charles Barclay Architects, completed 2008

Photographs by Pedro Silmon, 2014




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The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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