Wednesday, April 8, 2009

William Steig's Quirky Cartoons

Above: "Why pick on me?"—from the book, The Lonely Ones.

William Steig began drawing cartoons to help his family financially during the first Great Depression, and sold his first cartoon in 1930 to The New Yorker magazine. He went on to publish 1600 cartoons, including 117 covers, in The New Yorker magazine. He remains The New Yorker’s longest-running contributor.

Above: William Steig working at his desk, circa late 1930's.

Mr. Steig's successful career spanned over 60 years. In the late 1960’s he wrote his first children’s book, and went on to write more than 30 children’s titles. His picture book, Shrek, formed the basis of the 2001 animated film. Mr. Steig passed away in 2003 at age 95.

Above: Three William Steig books included in the compilation book, The Steig Album.

Above: A spread from the The Agony in the Kindergarten chapter from the book, The Steig Album.

The book, The Steig Album (circa 1953), is a compilation of 7 complete books of The New Yorker cartoons by William Steig from the 1930's through the early 1950's.

Above: "Wipe that smile off your face."—from The Agony in the Kindergarten.

Mr. Peacock adores these idiosyncratic, emotional, and semi-abstract William Steig cartoon drawings, from the mid-century.

Above: "He's in a negative phase right now."—from The Agony in the Kindergarten. Mr. Peacock is feeling like this himself today!

These “simple” child-like drawings from that time period are fraught with anxiety and humor—with a little darkness and crankiness thrown in for added appeal.

Above: "She hates to get dirty."—from The Agony in the Kindergarten.

I laugh, and sometimes wince, when I look at these kooky little drawings. Mr. Peacock’s favorite chapters (or books) from The Steig Album are: The Agony in the Kindergarten, and The Lonely Ones.

Mr. Peacock found these small milk glass trays (above and below), separately at different flea markets. They're 6.5" x 4". The illustrations remind me of William Steig's work from the mid-century. They’re made by Bernard Creations of Yonkers, New York—who I believe produced novelty gifts.

The illustration credits are printed, “H. Gardener 1956 and 1958.” I haven’t found any other information on them, but I still keep my eyes open for other trays. I’m sure they made a complete series of trays with these humorous taglines and illustrations.
Above: "It's nothing but work, work, work, day after day after day."—from The Agony in the Kindergarten.

Mr. Peacock found his copy of The Steig Album years ago at a dusty old used bookstore, but you can still find an inexpensive copy here, or on eBay.



Charming quirks...always learn something new from inspiring as always* LUV!!!

Mr. Bluehaunt said...

A fave....I own all of these books. He was a genius. So many of the drawings are a little sad....but in a good way.

Mr. Peacock said...

Thanks Lenore Nevermore!
By the way, I like your blog!

You're right, Mr. Bluehaunt, they are a bit melancholic...I agree, he's genius.

Kate said...

Those trays feature "Nebbishes" by Herb Gardner.

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