Friday, February 26, 2010

BACKSTORY: Saul Steinberg

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Ralph Caplan, columnist for the AIGA: Voice and design writer, consultant, and teacher of over fifty years. A writerly type with a curious eye even at young age, he explained that numbers were not his friends, least of all in the classroom. As a child, Caplan loved to pass time during arithmetic hour by crafting stories around numbers ("5 was always the hero. 2 was a woman. 8 was an older woman. 7 was a wise guy. 9 was a con man.") in secret, lest anyone might think he was crazy for doing so. Years later, a New Yorker cover by illustrator Saul Steinberg featuring two numerals--5 and 2--sitting down for a drink would assure him that he was quite alright. 

Amused by Ralph's anecdote, I was curious to know more about Saul Steinberg and looked him up as soon as I got home.  I hadn't realized that Steinberg, as the New Yorker's resident illustrator of over sixty years, was the man behind so many covers and drawings I've always loved but never bothered to look further into. Aside from his behemoth collection of illustrative work for the weekly, Steinberg worked in a variety of other mediums, including painting, sculpture, and collage. Check out a few of my favorites after the jump.
Fingerprint Landscape, 1950.
graphite and ink on paper, 14 1/2 x 11 1/8"

Girl in Bathtub, 1949.
gelatin silver print, 12 3/4 x 11 1/4"

Graph Paper Architecture, 1954.
ink and collage on paper, 14 1/2 x 11 1/8"

View of the World from 9th Avenue, 1976.
ink, pencil, colored pencil, and watercolor on paper, 28 x 19"
cover drawing for The New Yorker, 29 March 1976.

Main Street--Small Town, section of The Americans mural, American Pavilion, Brussels World Fair, 1958.
collage, mixed media, and enlarged photographs, approx. 10 x 20'

[all images from Saul Steinberg Foundation]

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