Thursday, 8 July 2010

Comic Classics: The Passport-Saul Steinberg

Famous mostly for his work for The New Yorker Saul Steinberg is that rare breed of cartoonist who was accepted into the folds of the fine art world (see also George Herriman) due not only to the fact that his dabblings with abstraction were no doubt pleasing to the snobbery of the elite, but due to the fact that his highly individualistic and idiosyncratic line work was something to behold. At times painfully simple but always breathtaking, Steinberg turned a stamp or the act of a signature into something beautiful. He used collage to create busy schizophrenic yet subtlety humerus cityscapes and encounters from the little nuances of his party scenes, to simple optical illusions. It's all here in The Passport, a rare-ish collection of his drawings and collages that I first heard about through the excellent little 'Cartooning books of interest' guide by Seth available in issue 8 of Comic Art magazine. Finally owning a copy myself makes me extremely happy, and I probably get a bit too overexcited about the smell of the yellowing pages. The Passport is like a sketchbook with no dud drawings, a playful stream of consciousness that makes you smile. There is a wonderful childlike quality to some of his drawings while others remain solid and refined in their use of line. You can tell Steinberg is an artist, because he is good enough to make his visual approach primitive yet telling, rhythm and humour oozes from every squiggle. Obviously a big inspiration for the likes of Jules Feiffer, R.O Blechman, French cartoonist Sempe and countless artists of their ilk.
Due to the size and the delicacy of this book I have had to make do with pictures from the Internet rather than try and scan it and risk damage. (There are a few copies on Amazon, including a paperback one, but I am unsure of the price now).

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