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Steinberg at The New Yorker

Steinberg at The New Yorker
Joel Smith
New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2005
NC139 .S65 S58 2005

In 1941, a young Romanian escaped wartime Italy, where he had recently completed a degree in architecture, and began submitting cartoons to a weekly Manhatten magazine. For the next six decades, Saul Steinberg’s covers, cartoons, features, and illustrations would be a defining presence at The New Yorker. As the magazine became a standard-bearer of taste and intelligence in American letters, Steinberg’s drawings emerged as its visual epitome, and the artist gained recognition as one of the great originals of his epoch. This richly illustrated volume opens with a captivating introduction by the artist’s friend and colleague Ian Frazier. Joel Smith’s essay, the first to draw on unpublished material in Steinberg’s papers, explores the remarkable range and unceasing evolution of a major American modernist - one whose art reached a grateful public not from museum walls but from the pages of the periodical he called "my refuge, patria, and safety net."

All eighty-nine of Steinberg’s New Yorker covers appear in full color, as do many drawings that were printed inside the magazine when art was reproduced there only in black-and-white. Steinberg at The New Yorker assembles the artist’s most beloved, intuitive, and brilliant inspirations. Wartime portfolios chronicle his tours of duty in China, India, North Africa, and Italy; in peacetime, the artist pays indelible visits to Hollywood, Moscow, Berlin, and Samarkand. He populates New York with stoical cats, precocious children, puzzled couples, and a menagerie of vivid grotesques. Thinkers grapple with demons of their own making; speakers speak past one another in the graphic dialects of street map and scribble. Words go on the warpath, numbers guard their secrets, and question marks and rubber-stamp men march in formation. A squad car’s siren emits an ornate Art Deco fountain of sound, a grinning crocodile strolls with his flamingo wife on a moonlit Florida beach - and in the world viewed from 9th Avenue, Japan, China, and Russia are pale abstractions just over the horizon, somewhere beyond New Jersey.

In the course of inventing each other, Steinberg and The New Yorker did much to invent postwar visual culture. A vibrant celebration of one of the most original and engaging artists of the twentieth century, Steinberg at The New Yorker brings alive a genius, a magazine, and an era.

Quoted from dust jacket.