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Famed New Yorker Cartoonist, Saul Steinberg, ALS on the Possible Publication of his Mural, The Americans

Item: 20458
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STEINBERG, SAUL. (1914-1999). Romanian-American artist best known for his illustrations in The New Yorker. ALS. (“Saul Steinberg”). 2pp. 8vo. On a single sheet. New York, February 9, 1959. On The New Yorker letterhead to influential French art publisher, curator and designer ROBERT DELPIRE (1926-2017).

I’m sorry I couldn’t answer sooner – as usual. The Maquette looks pretty good and I hope it’s going to look even better when I’m finished. I found a good title – I think – and this week I’ll write the introduction, design the title page, send you the photograph, give you a sequence of the order in which the plates should be shown, etc. The color reproduction is good but not truthful. I enclose here a piece of the wrapping paper that was the basic color of the collage. Compare it to the strange – not bad looking – orange that came out instead – in your box and the other plate reproduced in the dummy.

Can something be done? I understand, this is the fault of the color photographs – I would be happier if a bit of sobrieté were injected into the orange. Please let me know and send me proofs as soon as they come out. I hope you are well…”

While studying architecture in Italy, Steinberg began his career as a cartoonist, contributing to European publications and publishing his first New Yorker drawing in 1941 while waiting for a visa to enter the U.S. His subsequent contribution to The New Yorker was immense and included hundreds of drawings, 85 covers executed in an unmistakable style that has since become synonymous with the publication. Although Steinberg is best known for his magazine illustration and his nearly sixty year association with The New Yorker, he worked in a variety of media, including collage and murals.

Saul Steinberg, mural The Americans

Saul Steinberg, The Americans

Saul Steinberg, mural The Americans

In 1957, Steinberg was invited to create a mural in the American Pavilion for the 1958 Brussels Expo – the first world’s fair since 1937. His montage, entitled The Americans, used “brown-paper cutouts, wallpaper fragments, handmade paper, newspaper comics, and other pieces in various shapes and hues, [to create] a stunning, inventive panorama of America, from small-town Main Street to big-city cocktail party. Brimming with visual puns, semi-abstractions, distorted figures, and modernist white space, The Americans represented Steinberg’s effort at cultural diplomacy,” (“America, the Great Colossal Collage: Saul Steinberg’s Forgotten Masterpiece,”, Cembalest). Although the pavilion itself was lauded by critics, Steinberg’s “nuanced sensibility didn’t mesh with the populist idea of great American art at that moment, and the mural didn’t make much of a splash. Some reviewers took potshots at The Americans; most ignored it completely… Steinberg’s art was left out of the Official United States Guidebook,” (ibid.).

However, the mural undoubtedly contributed to Robert Delpire’s decision to commission Steinberg to illustrate the cover of Robert Frank’s seminal photography book Les Americains, published in France in 1958. The American edition, which appeared the following year, did not include Steinberg’s artwork.

Our letter regards Delpire’s plan to publish Steinberg’s Brussels murals in book form, though he never did.

Written on recto and verso. Folded with minor wear and in very good condition.

Famed New Yorker Cartoonist, Saul Steinberg, ALS on the Possible Publication of his Mural, The Americans

$750 • item #20458

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