October 22, 2004

The Discovery of America

Saul Steinberg (1914-99) was ‘one of America’s best known artists’, yet, until a month ago, I was completely ignorant of his work. I am grateful then, to Mr P___ for his e-mail, in which he warmly recommended that I look up Steinberg’s book The Discovery of America, or, more specifically, the German-language edition of the same, Die entdeckung Amerikas, as published by Diogenes Verlag in Zürich in 1992. The images that follow are thumbnails from scans of pages in my lately-acquired copy of that book. Click on the thumbnails to see the drawings in full.

Detail of drawing by Saul Steinberg from 'The Discovery of America'.

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Detail of drawing by Saul Steinberg from 'The Discovery of America'.
Born in Romania, he studied philosophy and literature in Bucharest. After enrolling at the Politecnico in Milan as an architecture student in 1933, he began contributing cartoons to the satirical biweekly Bertoldo. On October 25, 1941, while awaiting an entry visa to the United States, Steinberg published his first drawing in The New Yorker. Over the next six decades, 642 drawings and 85 covers captivated New Yorker readers. In these same years, more than 80 one-man shows of Steinberg’s art were mounted in museums and galleries throughout America and Europe.
Detail of drawing by Saul Steinberg from 'The Discovery of America'.

The Discovery of America presents nearly 200 drawings dating from 1945 to ‘91 selected and sequenced by Steinberg himself. My first impressions were of a great diversity in the drawings’ styles and subjects, coupled with a tremendous vitality in their execution. Steinberg drew vibrant cityscapes, sleepy small-town scenes, stylised portraits, empty landscapes. His cartoons variously ‘quote’ from art-deco, modernism, expressionism and pop-art. Humour pervades his work, and is as often good-natured as it is quizzical or ironic.

Detail of drawing by Saul Steinberg from 'The Discovery of America'.

None of the illustrations in The Discovery of America carry titles or captions, so I can’t add much by way of explanation to these images. One exception is the picture thumbnailed immediately above, which evidently reworks this apparently famous 1976 New Yorker cover image of Steinberg’s, View of the World from 9th Avenue.

Detail of drawing by Saul Steinberg from 'The Discovery of America'.
Steinberg defined drawing as ‘a way of reasoning on paper,’ and he remained committed to the act of drawing in an era dominated by large-scale painting and sculpture. Throughout his long career, he used drawing to think about the semantics of art, reconfiguring stylistic signs into a new language suited to the fabricated temper of modern life.
Detail of drawing by Saul Steinberg from 'The Discovery of America'.

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Detail of drawing by Saul Steinberg from 'The Discovery of America'.

To see more of Steinberg’s work on-line, check out the gallery at the The Saul Steinberg Foundation pages, or peruse the Steinberg Collection at the New-Yorker-affiliated Cartoonbank site.

Posted by misteraitch at October 22, 2004 06:15 PM | TrackBack
Comments

I've always loved Steinberg; glad you discovered his work! He is totally unique.

Posted by: beth on October 23, 2004 01:44 AM

I really love Steinberg's work since at 11 I descovered his work in the 1958 Universal Brussels Expo in the US booth. He is a great artist.Not only a graphist His work should be shown everywhere in the world.I think He does not have the high level of recognition He deserves.

Posted by: Marc Nassaux on April 4, 2005 12:16 PM

Pictures about history >more

Posted by: kawina on May 26, 2005 03:21 AM

i had find their Picture for a long time they are my #2 foverite astist

Posted by: kawina on May 26, 2005 03:22 AM
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