Monday, November 12, 2007

ALL IN A LINE Cartoons by Saul Steinberg

Before Sacco and Rall, there was Steinberg, drawing another war from another generation.

Below are some of his sketches from ALL IN A LINE, Copyright 1945 by Saul Steinberg; first Penguin edition 1947, reprinted by arrangement with Duell, Sloane & Pearce, Inc.

The first half of the book are (mostly) wordless cartoons and humorous drawings. The second half appears to be taken, with little or no redrawing, straight from his sketch book.

I love the POV drawing on the right hand side. Who knew you could have an open bottle of ink inside a military cargo plane?

His line work always impressed me as a combination of Sempé and Van Gogh.

Some great drawings to linger over, and I wish there were more books like this today. The 2000 PBS documentary They Drew Fire was about the formal hiring of artists to cover the war, and why it was done. To my knowledge, Mr. Steinberg was not among these fellows, but moreso an ordinary Navy grunt, jotting down his impressions, which makes him just as valuable.

Perhaps best known for his 1976 "View of the World" cover to the New Yorker magazine, Mr. Steinberg was one of those guys whose cartoons were just a beginning of what would be a life of fine art. The Saul Steinberg Foundation link here.


Mark Anderson said...

Steinberg is one I never feel like I really understand. Maybe I should search this out... thanks!

Anonymous said...

Man, this is so great. Thanks, Mike.

A little background on Steinberg's military experience from his NyTimes obit:

"...on the same day that he became a United States citizen he was given an ensign's commission in the Navy. He was assigned to teach Chinese guerrillas how to blow up bridges, and for a year flew the mountainous route known as the Hump from China to India, making sure that the explosives reached their destinations.

Then Mr. Steinberg was sent to North Africa and Italy by William Donovan, the director of the Office of Strategic Services. His assignment was to draw cartoons that would inspire anti-Nazi resistance within Germany. Mr. Steinberg made lurid images of Hitler with skulls hiding behind him and of Mussolini's twisted face with one eye popping out. These and other drawings were dropped behind enemy lines and printed in Das Neue Deutschland, a resistance newspaper created by the O.S.S.

During the war The New Yorker published Mr. Steinberg's visual reports from Asia, North Africa and Europe and satiric drawings of Nazis. In one drawing, ''Benito and Adolf -- Aryan dancers,'' Mussolini and Hitler are wrestling half naked. But the artist, now Lieutenant Steinberg, also did drawings of military life: pictures of G.I.'s bewildered by Europe and waiting for mail from home. His pictures were published in 1945 in a book called ''All in Line,'' the first of many collections of his drawings.

In 1946...Mr. Steinberg was discharged from the Navy..."

Mike Lynch said...

Mark, I agree with you. There is a lot to look at when I see a Steinberg drawing -- and "drawing" is the operative word here. I don't think that he necessarily has a gag in mind all the time. The first half of the ALL IN A LINE book is a mix of gags and spot drawings. I admire his work, and see how he's maybe more of a dadaist than a cartoonist.

Austin, thanks for the info. from the NYT! That's great stuff!

A. Taylor said...

The open bottle of ink is not on a cargo plane, he's inside a Chinese junk or some kind of boat. Looks somewhat similar to the cargo plane interior in the left hand illustration, but look again - totally different location.

Mike Lynch said...

Mr. Taylor, I bow to your powers of observation! You are correct; it's a junk not a plane!