Monday, February 20, 2017

James Stevenson 1929 - 2017

Above: Mr. Stevenson in the 1960s.

James Stevenson has died. He was 87 years old.

A prolific author and illustrator, he created about a hundred children's books, thousands of New Yorker drawings and covers, as well as a continuing series "Lost and Found in New York" for the New York Times.

James Stevenson interned at The New Yorker magazine offices in the mid-1940s. It was then that he began to give ideas to the cartoonists. He was hired as a full-time "idea-man" in 1949. Stevenson was given an office and, as Michael Maslin notes in his Inkspill blog,

... instructed not to tell anyone what he did. He eventually began publishing his own cartoons and covers as well as a ground-breaking Talk of the Town pieces (ground breaking in that the pieces were illustrated). His contributions to the magazine number over 2000.   Key collections: Sorry Lady — This Beach is Private! ( MacMillan, 1963), Let’s Boogie ( Dodd, Mead, 1978).  Stevenson has long been a children’s book author, with roughly one hundred titles to his credit.  He is a frequent contributor to the Op-Ed page of The New York Times, under the heading Lost and Found New York. Stevenson’s recent book, published in 2013, The Life, Loves and Laughs of Frank Modell, is essential. 

James Stevenson was a writer and an artist, creating many New Yorker covers, around 100 children's books and 1,987 New Yorker cartoons.

His work is vibrant, skillful and full of life. It is a joy to look at. I am so sorry I never had the chance to meet him and let him know how much I loved what he did. Here are a few samples of his prolific output from some of the books I own:


Unknown said...

The Connecticut Post obituary:


DBenson said...

I remember learning that some of the greats like Peter Arno and Helen Hokinson didn't write their own jokes; at first it was like finding out about Santa Claus. I've since made peace with it (and taken comfort that Arno and Hokinson knew their people inside and out, even if somebody else wrote the punchlines).

I just pulled out "Let's Boogie" and noted how Stevenson could do broad comedy (a knight snarkily notes a comrade sent his empty armor into battle) as easily as classic "New Yorker-type" jokes.

That book has a couple of non-comic interludes, one of "freeze frames" from the war years and something about a king making an inspection tour. Were those originally printed in B&W? To my untrained eye they feel like color illustrations.