|Saul Steinberg | photo by Inge Morath, 1958|
Saul Steinberg (1914-1999) is not easy to categorize within the world of art. His work resides somewhere between cartoons and art galleries, and somewhere between the written word and the picture. In fact, Steinberg considered himself a writer who happened to draw. He enjoyed the visual pun, and he made his line work pass through many dimensions.
|Saul Steinberg | detail, The Line, 1959|
The drawing above is a detail of a much longer and more elegant drawing. With apologies to Steinberg, I've shortened it for the sake of this blog format.
|Saul Steinberg | The Rabbit, 1959|
Saul Steinberg, the son of a book binder, was born in Râmnicu Sărat, Romania. He went to the University of Bucharest, where he studied philosophy for a year. He then moved to Italy to study architecture in Milan, and graduated from the Politecnico di Milano in 1940. Because of anti-Semitic laws, Steinberg fled Italy before World War II. His departure from Italy was difficult; first he went to Portugal and was deported back to Italy. Next he traveled to the Dominican Republic, and then finally to the United States.
It's interesting to note that Steinberg was able to leave Italy in part because he forged a part of his passport. The visual language of passports, proclamations, and bureaucracy in general — along with the texture of elegantly indecipherable calligraphy — remained a major element of his art.
|Saul Steinberg | detail, ALBUM, 1953|
|Saul Steinberg | Prosperity, 1959|
For many years, Steinberg contributed to the New Yorker magazine. His love of the visual pun was coupled with an interest in American mythology and symbolism. Above, Unemployment is skewered by Semantics, and Inflation is skewered by Statistics.
|Saul Steinberg | Ship of State, 1959|
|Saul Steinberg | View of the World from 9th Avenue, 1975|
Saul Steinberg's most popular and enduring drawing is the New Yorker's view of the world, an idea that has been copied many times.
|Saul Steinberg | Nuthatch Still Life, 1974|
|Saul Steinberg | Louse Point, 1969|
|Saul Steinberg | The Tree, 1970|
All these images come from Saul Steinberg, an Alfred A Knopf publication that was issued in conjunction with a 1978 retrospective exhibition, held at the Whitney Museum of American Art.