Thursday, December 12, 2019

Peter Arno, High Society Cartoonist

Above is a famous cartoon by Peter Arno -- Curtis Arnoux Peters, Jr. -- (1904-1968), whose work helped The New Yorker magazine survive its infancy and who was one of its mainstays for the rest of his career. Nevertheless, I suspect that his fame has been fading, like for most of his contemporaries on the magazine aside from Charles Addams. A generational thing, mostly, I imagine.

A brief Wikipedia entry on Arno is here, and here is a more extensive, but perhaps hard to access profile.

Arno was the son of a Wall Street lawyer who became a New York State Supreme Court judge (that's confusing because the top-level New York court is the Court of Appeals in Albany). His family life was highly stressful, his father nearly disowning him after his first and only year at Yale.

Following that, he tried to make a living in music and art, eventually selling a cartoon to the new New Yorker magazine. In this, he and the magazine soon became successful. Arno's subjects tended to be spoofs of New York's upper crust. At the same time, he was a part of that group's night club scene.

Artistically, his cartoons are strongly drawn with skillfully applied washes. Whereas it looks like they were simply dashed off, Arno actually put a good deal of work into them, sometimes making a number of images until he achieved what he wanted.


In his studio.

Arno (at left) with super-debutante Brenda Frazier.

"Well, back to the old drawing board."
Another of Arno's most famous cartoons.

"We want to report a stolen car."

"Come along.  We're going to the Trans-Lux to hiss Roosevelt."
This was from the mid-1930s when President Franklin Roosevelt was unpopular with many of the moneyed class. The Trans-Lux was a movie theatre that featured newsreels.

"I happen to be a MacNab, Miss.  I couldn't help noticing that you're wearing our tartan."

"Valerie won't be around for several days.  She backed into a sizzling platter."

"His spatter is wonderful, but his dribble lacks conviction."

Steeplechase and fox hunting might be confused here, but it's still amusing.

UPDATE: Notice how often Arno depicts eyes as being more vertical than horizontal. Effective for his cartoons. I wonder how he came up with this? Was it borrowed?

1 comment:

Nagora said...

I'm not sure what your image of fox hunting is but the riders very often have to jump fences and gates.

I enjoy your blog immensely; keep up the good work.