Friday, May 26, 2017

William Von Riegen in College Humor, February 1938

In the uncomplicated world view of College Humor magazine back in the winter of 1938, Mr. Strinch and Mr. Blair are the generic names of successful men who quite naturally find themselves on the receiving end of the attentions of young women. After all, why wouldn't they be? The reader doesn't even need to see Mr. Strinch; it's enough to get an eyeful of his barely-dressed girlfriend. She may be lounging about informally, but she still addresses him formally ... as Mr. Strinch. The joke is that the young woman's mother knows she and Mr. Strinch are going to a show but she's ignorant of their level of intimacy, something that we can glean from her lack of proper evening wear. Still, it's strictly a physical intimacy, and that's probably just fine with the collegiate crowd. But maybe it shouldn't be.

Mr. Blair, on the other hand, owner and chief executive of the family industry, seems somewhat befuddled by his secretary's willingness to offer her services after five o'clock for time-and-a-half. Depression or no, both the women in these cartoons seem to have greatly undervalued themselves.

The artist for both drawings is William Von Riegen, who has drawn the fully-clothed woman more alluringly.

"Mother says to bring me home right after the show, Mr. Strinch."
William Von Riegen, College Humor, Volume 7, No. 2, February 1938, page 23

"Do I get time and a half if I stay after five o'clock, Mr. Blair?"
William Von Riegen, College Humor, Volume 7, No. 2, February 1938, page 35

Note:  This copy of College Humor is part of the Steven Boss humor magazine collection at Columbia University. I went into the Rare Book & Manuscript Library more than a year ago looking for Peter Arno cartoons and I came away with a lot more than I bargained for. Librarian Karen Green, the Curator for Comics and Cartoons at Columbia, oversees the collection of some 5,600 humor magazines. Word is she does a lot of other things too.

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Blog Post No. 2200: Peter Arno Drawings from the Estate of Frank Modell

Cartoonist Frank Modell (1917-2016) started working at the New Yorker around 1946 as an assistant to James Geraghty, the art editor. Geraghty, among his many responsibilities, personally handled cartoonist Peter Arno, the magazine's most talented and most temperamental cartoonist. A number of unpublished Arno originals now have come to light from Mr. Modell's estate. He had in his possession at least one cover rough and at least five cartoon roughs plus one published drawing. Most of these predate Mr. Modell's time at the magazine. A few lack captions. A few have been carelessly folded and sustained considerable paper loss. While some of these conceivably could have been gifts from Mr. Arno, most of these might very well have been forgotten scraps left carelessly about the office which no one wanted and which Mr. Modell had the foresight to grab and take home before they were lost forever.

Four such cartoon roughs were offered for sale in March by Lotus International Auctions LLC. The lot went unsold. Two other drawings from the Modell estate are now in the collection of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State. We'd better have a look at everything. Let's start with the Lotus auction:

It's never a good idea to lead with a blurry image.

"Now stop and think a minute–did I bite you?"
Peter Arno, preliminary cartoon art
 The New Yorker, July 5, 1930

Condition aside, it's not bad, but Arno was not satisfied with this image. He went on to lower the vantage point to a dog's eye view in the published version of "Now stop and think a minute—did I bite you?" This lower camera angle gives us a more wide-angle view of the scene with the vertical lines diverging exaggeratedly toward the top. Arno also has repositioned the assailant so that his back is now toward us and we can appreciate the sheer power of his windup. The cartoonish stances seen in the rough have been eliminated and we now have a far less awkward and far more dramatic scene. The two principle figures veer away from each other in a V which exaggerates the diverging lines of the background. Their arms serve as counterweights, transforming the V of the figures into an M. The contrast of light and dark is more pronounced. Thus a gag cartoon that was already worthy of publication in just about any magazine in America was reworked by Arno into something substantially more effective.
Peter Arno, The New Yorker, July 5, 1930, page 14


The next piece started out as a promising Peter Arno gag, but it didn't end up that way:
"And what, may I inquire, were you doing in my house?"
Peter Arno, preliminary New Yorker cartoon art, c. 1949

"And what, may I inquire, were you doing in my house?"
Peter Arno, preliminary New Yorker cartoon art, c. 1949

"And what, may I inquire, were you doing in my house?"
Peter Arno, caption to preliminary New Yorker cartoon art, c. 1949

By the time of publication in the May 7, 1949 issue, this gag was reassigned to the very capable Sam Cobean, but this is problematic. The idea is clearly better suited to Arno's talents and very well may have been written expressly for him—in fact, it reads to this day like a classic Peter Arno gag. So why on earth give it away to another artist, however adept, who simply can't make the most of it? Arno's treatment of the irate husband is palpably funnier than Cobean's ever could hope to be, and while Arno's composition still needs some fine-tuning (note, for example, the impossible angle of the husband's foot), the finished cartoon should have been an instant sensation. Perhaps an explanation, in part, is that instead of working out the problems in this drawing, Arno had to work on the famous sizzling platter cartoon for publication in this very issue, and certainly no one else could have taken on that assignment. It seems likely that James Geraghty was charged with assigning, and sometimes reassigning, ideas from the gag writers to the New Yorker's stable of talented artists, a task which may not always have been so enviable.
Sam Cobean, The New Yorker, May 7, 1949, page 37

Sam Cobean's gag is long forgotten. Arno's contribution to the same issue is a revered classic that provided the title for his 1949 collection Peter Arno's Sizzling Platter:
Peter Arno, The New Yorker, May 7, 1949, page 35

Another unpublished Arno cartoon from the 1920s has suffered every indignity: tearing, creasing,  paper loss, and caption loss. Usually the two Whoops Sisters are engaged in a bit of cheeky, low-comedy dialogue but, uncharacteristically, only one sister is present here. Still, there would be two speakers. My guess is that the first speaker would be the man with the cane who would say something very proper along the lines of "I say, my good fellow, you've gone and splashed that fine lady!" That would be followed by a very saucy reply from the lone Whoops Sister beginning, inevitably, with "Whoops! ..." Note how Arno uses the perspective lines and the cane to lead our eyes to the poor, bespattered Whoops Sister.
["Whoops!... ?"]
Peter Arno, unpublished Whoops Sister New Yorker gag, c. 1920's


Peter Arno's signature

A final unpublished gag of a hunting party and, it would seem, a car valet looks to be press-ready. It too comes to us missing its caption.
Peter Arno, unpublished New Yorker gag, c. 1930's

Peter Arno's signature

Peter Arno

Lotus International Auctions, LLC Item Description

The Modell estate went to the considerable expense of framing the above four pieces under Museum Glass. The artwork was likely too fragile to be sold otherwise, but opening the bidding at $2,000 was asking a lot for pieces in such sorry condition. Two other works from the estate were donated to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum. Here's how the museum catalogued them:

Peter Arno
Franklyn B. Modell Collection of Cartoon Art
The Ohio State University
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Peter Arno
Franklyn B. Modell Collection of Cartoon Art
The Ohio State University
Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum

Both drawings are dated 1939 by the Billy Ireland, but they're obviously much earlier, let's say 1926-1929. The shower drawing is related to a series of "Why, Auntie" drawings Arno did, none of which are as funny as he seems to have thought they were and none of which appeared in the New Yorker. The idea is to present a scene in which "Auntie" is surprised naked by her nephew in a compromising situation he is too young to understand. Arno's knowing reader could at once take in the nephew's innocence, Auntie's embarrassment, and the erotic fun inherent in the situation—not a bad formula, really, except that it does involve depicting an underage child witnessing something of a salacious nature to make its point. This drawing is apparently unpublished, but it evolved some forty years later into Arno's Lady in the Shower drawing, which was intended by the artist to be a worthy companion to his madcap Man in the Shower drawing, although really it was never in the same league. The notion that Arno couldn't let go of this singular awkward idea over his entire adult life is one that is perhaps best left unanalyzed.
Variation on the "Why, Auntie" drawings and an early precursor to the Lady in the Shower drawing

"Why Auntie—what big eyes you have!"
Peter Arno's Parade (New York:  Horace Liveright, 1929)
Peter Arno's Favorites (New York:  Blue Ribbon Books, 1932)

"Why, auntie! You've got your hat on. Are you going out?"
Peter Arno's Hullabaloo (New York:  Horace Liveright, 1930)
Peter Arno's Favorites (New York:  Blue Ribbon Books, 1932)

"What the hell goes on here, Auntie?"
Peter Arno's For Members Only (New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1935)

Lady in the Shower (New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1967)

Now it's time we move on from a woman being surprised in a a woman being surprised in a bathtub. It seems this is the only one of Frank Modell's Arno drawings actually to be published, but it appeared in a cartoon collection and certainly not in the New Yorker. The Billy Ireland dutifully lists the subjects of this drawing as sexual harassment, sexual lust, and voyeurism, but unfortunately it's the interracial aspect of this voyeurism that Arno found funny here. He was amused, it seems, by Asian men lusting after white women. Along these lines, a New Yorker cover of his from 1928 shows an Asian servant silently contemplating a modern sculpture of a voluptuous nude woman.
"Hi, Kid, whatchya doin'?"
Peter Arno, original art
Peter Arno's Parade (New York:  Horace Liveright, 1929)
"Hi, Kid, whatchya doin'?"
Peter Arno's Parade (New York:  Horace Liveright, 1929)

Peter Arno, The New Yorker, December 8, 1928

Note:  Well, that's all for now, but it doesn't have to end here. Readers are asked to contribute their own insights that will further help to place these six drawings by Peter Arno from the estate of Frank Modell in their proper historical context.

Open the floodgates! Are there other drawings in the New Yorker's history worked up by one artist and subsequently assigned to another? Readers are invited to share specific examples of different artists' approaches to a single idea drawing prior to publication in the magazine.

A trove of Peter Arno's work is hidden away out there in private collections. Send in scans or photos of what you've got and let's see what we can figure out together.

Frank Modell also owned a preliminary New Yorker cover by Peter Arno. That one was discussed earlier here.

Want to know more? Peter Arno:  The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker's Greatest Cartoonist is Michael Maslin's fascinating biography of the artist published in 2016. It's available on Amazon here.

The Attempted Bloggery Centennial Posts
Blog Post No. 100
Blog Post No. 200:  A Shaggy Dog Story

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What the hell goes on here?


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

William Von RIegen in College Humor, September 1937

Two cartoons by William Von Riegen appear in the College Humor number from September 1937. Each cartoon has a woman speaker. The first young woman is insecure in her golfing skills, but she still manages to drive a double entendre:
"Do you really like my form?"
William Von Riegen,
 College Humor, Vol. 6, No. 1, September 1937

The second young woman is more confident in her skills:
"Plaza 6-8881."
William Von Riegen,
 College Humor, Vol. 6, No. 1, September 1937

Note:  This isn't my copy of College Humor. It is a part of the Steven Boss humor magazine collection at Columbia University. You too can read it and even photograph it in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The library staff doesn't even make you wear gloves. Karen Green, Curator for Comics and Cartoons at Columbia, can guide you to any and all of the 5,600 humor magazines in the collection. It shouldn't take you more than a few years to get through them.

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Tomorrow, we'll take a break from William Von Riegen for blog post no. 2200, if I counted right.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Wiliam Von Rlegen in College Humor, July 1937

William Von Riegen has two cartoons in the July 1937 issue of College Humor. The first takes place at that fraught moment in the wedding ceremony just after we hear the words "speak now or forever hold your peace."
"Yes, I have a word or two to say!"
William Von Riegen, College Humor, Vol. 5, No. 3, July 1937, page 36

Before objecting to this next one, remember that they are consenting adults:
"Will you promise to be a good girl, then?"
William Von Riegen, College Humor, Vol. 5, No. 3, July 1937

Note:  This number of College Humor resides in the Steven Boss humor magazine collection at Columbia University in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. I know. I was there. My thanks to Curator for Comics and Cartoons Karen Green who's there all the time.

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Monday, May 22, 2017

My Entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #570

Lights! Camera! My entry in the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest #570 for May 22, 2017! The drawing is by Robert Leighton.

"Point taken, but I still prefer 'Psycho.'"

Note:  Last week, cartoonist Drew Dernavich sent us a corporate cannonball. My caption misfired. See how Contest #569 made a splash.

Click the aqua link to alight on Robert Leighton in the blog archives.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

William Von Riegen and Buford Tune in College Humor, May 1937?

Two unsigned cartoons from the May 1937 issue of College Humor could be the work of William Von Riegen. The cartoons are reproduced in a horizontal orientation and the signatures may very well have been cropped out of the image. The first deals with a surefire humorous scenario: the shy man who encounters a sexually assertive woman.

"You're not the aggressive type, are you, Mr. Walters?"
William Von Riegen [?], College Humor, Vol. 5, No. 1, Ma
y 1937, page 57

The second, which may not be by Von Riegen, may be taken as a commentary on some of the Hollywood sex scandals of the era, particularly those that may have involved aging child stars who continued to take on roles considerably younger than their chronological ages. The depiction here of an infant having an affair with a young woman is clearly meant to be ridiculous, but today it is hard to view this gag as anything but tasteless in the extreme.
"Just how far has your romance with young Robbins gone?"
Buford Tune, College Humor, Vol. 5, No. 1, May 1937, page 59

May 23, 2017 Update: I am now attributing the second cartoon to Buford Tune.

Note:  This issue of College Humor is in the Steven Boss humor magazine collection at Columbia University. The Rare Book & Manuscript Library is home to some 5,600 humor magazines and Curator for Comics and Cartoons Karen Green knows where to find them all.

Are these unsigned cartoons truly the work of William Von Riegen? The first seems very likely to be, the second less so, but, by all means, tell me what you think.

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

William Von Riegen in College Humor, July 1936

A trio of cartoons by William Von Riegen in the July 1936 issue of College Humor are set in a theatre, in a restaurant, and in a tattoo parlor. Nevertheless, they do have one thing in common: in each of these disparate settings, the young woman knows how to leave the man speechless. Two of these men even have similar stunned facial expressions, while the gent in the theatre is left with his mouth fully agape. It's mildly surprising that, in a magazine catering to the college-age crowd, there is a disturbing age difference between the young woman and the considerably older man in two of these cartoons, yet it is the woman who is rather obviously playing the seductress in this pair of gags, and indeed perhaps less obviously in the tattoo parlor gag as well. The appeal of this genre then seems to be young, attractive women making themselves sexually available to either younger men like the sailor or even more aggressively to older men of doubtful physical appeal, provided of course that they're well off financially.

"What do you suggest we do now, Mr. Bromley."
William Von Riegen,
 College Humor, Vol. 2, No. 2, July 1936

"Let's go, Mr. Fenton—I want to show you my etchings."
William Von Riegen,
 College Humor, Vol. 2, No. 2, July 1936, page 47

"A fellow on the U.S.S. Lexington has my picture on his chest."
William Von Riegen,
 College Humor, Vol. 2, No. 2, July 1936, page 49

A fourth cartoon by Von Riegen mocks those soft, flabby types lacking in athletic prowess.
"And this is called the head-lock."
William Von Riegen,
 College Humor, Vol. 2, No. 2, July 1936, page 48

Note:  This issue of College Humor, indeed all the issues of College Humor which have appeared on this blog, may be found in the Steven Boss humor magazine collection at Columbia University. I spent an afternoon in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library over a year ago and I've been blogging about it ever since. Thanks as ever to Curator for Comics and Cartoons Karen Green,

William Von Riegen has been hiding in plain sight for years. His cartoons and illustrations appeared in many publications over some four decades. Today he's not very well-known. I'd be happy to review scans of published cartoons or original artwork in the interest of publicizing the work of this talented yet obscure cartoonist.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Morven Museum and Garden

Today we headed to the Morven Museum and Garden to catch "Bruce Springsteen: A Photographic Journey." The exhibition closes on May 21.


William Von Riegen: Second Thoughts?

William Von Riegen provided cartoons for a variety of markets including the men's magazine Esquire. In 1956, he created a color cartoon which leaves little doubt as to the woman's motivation for seeking marriage. But what of the man? His body language may express some actual tenderness. Von Riegen is skilled in the use of gesture, hands in particular.

"It's all right for you to take their disinheriting you lightly, but
I told all my friends I'm marrying a millionaire!"

William Von Riegen, Esquire, October 1956, page 24

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Today's Walk: A Private Crossing?

On a trail that crosses private property, the owner of the land may grant permission to allow passage. This easement may be revoked at will by the property owner. Sidewalks in Manhattan are, of course, public rights of way, so it is unexpected, to say the least, to find a plaque declaring a patch of heavily-traveled sidewalk on Seventh Avenue to be private property. Yet such a plaque can be found directly across the street from the entrance to Penn Station. Is this a prank? Who would go to the trouble to cement it into the sidewalk?