Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Peter Arno

"Well, by gad, Madam, something nipped me!"

While scanning problems persist (my office setup is mostly to blame) I also now can't get Photoshop 7 to cooperate with the OS so these slightly off-kilter images will have to do. And I presume that the original copyrights for all belong to THE NEW YORKER so be advised.

Peter Arno cartooned for THE NEW YORKER and other magazines from 1925 until his death in 1968, which is to say he was still in print during my early childhood and was almost ubiquitous in cartoon and humor anthologies for years afterward. His stuff was a bit too sophisticated for me as a kid, but later I learned to love his style, his flawless sense of composition and character, and his bold use of tones to establish light and dimension. His humor is somewhat mean and a little elitist, but it is almost always funny. The impact of some of these single panels (usually published full page as seen here) is often startlingly punchy and solidly funny in a laugh out loud way. These are from a compilation published in 1979 titled, simply PETER ARNO. There are a number of older collections available from used book sites, for any who are interested.
"Well, there's your 'nearby military academy'!"

I put Peter Arno in the same camp as illustrator Jaro Fabry, (who was more lyrical but similarly spare) and to some extent Earl Oliver Hurst,who applied a similar sense of light and shade application in his color work. The number of artists who were influenced in his aftermath would include too many to list, but I'll throw in Syd Hoff and the very early work of William Steig.  Disney story artist Vance Gerry had a touch of Arno in a lot his work as well, along with echoes of Sam Cobean and Marc Simont.

 The three Arno classics I picked here I chose mainly for the exemplary economy used to convey everything from mood & attitude, to setting & perspective. Deceptively simple and highly expert.

"'WHICH ONE?' Good heavens, are you mad?!"

5 comments:

chrisallison said...

I found some of Arno's books at Movie World, in Burbank. I really like his humor and your analysis has led me to a greater appreciation of his art. It's definitely clear. It's so goddam unappealing to me tho, and leaves so much to be desired. But that's part of an education, taking apart things you like and things you don't.

Keep introducing more gag artists if you can, Will! I've found that I am just discovering a whole new world of cartoonists that I never knew existed. Gahan Wilson, John Callahan, Peter Arno, George Booth, etc.

Mattieshoe said...

He's always been one of my favorite "New Yorker" cartoonists.

brilliant use of angles. they aren't just random square tumors jutting out from the construction like most modern "Angular" art.

twothousandsixer said...

You should check out Seth's ITS A GOOD LIFE IF YOU DON'T WEAKEN. It chronicles his pseudo-fictional search for an Arlo-like artist named Kalo.

Will Finn said...

2006'r--I did indeed read IT'S A GREAT LIFE some years back. Seth's re-creation of NEW YORKER style humor was right on target.

What I didn't learn until later is that the title comes from a bittersweet old ballad from the 1930's. The Beau Hunks did a good recording w/ vocals on an album called CONTRASTS.

warren said...

I have to admit that much of the New Yorker style humour is a bit lost on me, but I love the simplified sophistication of many of those artists. If you get a chance, please post some more inpiratos! Always fun to see.

I'll try to dig up some scans I've got as well, namely some Kremos and Russell Patterson gags that Shane Glines never published in his excellent book about Patterson.