Saul Steinberg: Illuminations

Saul Steinberg: Illuminations

by Joel Smith
     
 


Best known for his barbed and brilliant art for The New Yorker, Saul Steinberg (1914–1999) did much more. He executed public murals, designed fabrics and stage sets, was an inventive collagist and printmaker, and turned his magic touch to the fields of painting, sculpture, advertising, and even wartime propaganda. This is the first comprehensive look…  See more details below

Overview


Best known for his barbed and brilliant art for The New Yorker, Saul Steinberg (1914–1999) did much more. He executed public murals, designed fabrics and stage sets, was an inventive collagist and printmaker, and turned his magic touch to the fields of painting, sculpture, advertising, and even wartime propaganda. This is the first comprehensive look at Steinberg’s extraordinary contribution to 20th-century art, which was that of a modern-day illuminator, putting word and image in play to create art that spoke to the eyes, and minds, of readers.
An introduction by poet Charles Simic tracks the origins of Steinberg’s darkly comic sensibility in the “Balkan bazaar” of his native Romania. Joel Smith shows how architectural training and an early rise to fame as a cartoonist in Fascist-era Milan honed the artist’s gift for subtle graphic invention, and explores why one of the most visible, prolific, potent, and cosmopolitan careers in postwar American art has so thoroughly evaded serious study. Tracing the evolving motives that underlie Steinberg’s multi-layered activity, this handsome volume also raises fundamental questions about the historiography of modernism and the vexed status of “the middlebrow avant-garde” in an age of museum-bound art.
Previously unseen sketches, documents, and printed matter from the artist’s papers illustrate the essay, career chronology, and entries for 120 objects featured in this important book.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Steinberg (1914-1999) is best known for his New Yorker drawings, but he also created murals, advertising art, collages, fabric designs, masks, greeting cards and stage sets, all of which are represented in this copiously illustrated volume published in conjunction with a traveling retrospective. Born in Romania, Steinberg emigrated in 1942 to the United States, where he quickly rose to fame with drawings that employ the visual language of the cartoon but add an inventiveness that Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Simic lauds in his introduction. In the lucid text, art curator Smith (Steinberg at the New Yorker) calls these calligraphic drawings "illuminations," since, like illuminated manuscripts, they combine word and image, and also because they throw light on subjects "too small to be noticed." Immediately understandable yet infinitely complex, the drawings combine art and joke, and have unexpected depth that Smith explores in his commentaries. Steinberg created these visionary drawings in such a wide variety of styles that art critics have always found them impossible to categorize by turning up surprises in unlikely places. Smith compares him to the little dog he added to scenes in old picture postcards absorbed in his own world, sniffing out details others miss. This splendid catalogue is a worthy tribute to Steinberg's genius. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Beautifully illustrated with 175 color and 135 black-and-white images, this catalog accompanies the second major retrospective of works by prolific and versatile artist Saul Steinberg (1914-99). Like the show itself, which travels from New York to Washington, Cincinnati, and Poughkeepsie, NY, through 2008, the book examines Steinberg's works since 1978 while revisiting never-before-exhibited pieces from the 1940s and 1950s. Divided into two main sections consisting of essays, a career chronology, and a catalog with annotated entries describing 120 featured works, it is primarily the brainchild of exhibition curator Smith (curator of photography, Princeton Univ. Art Museum; Steinberg at The New Yorker), who takes a revisionist approach to Steinberg's oeuvre, claiming in his scholarly essay that the multitalented artist placed his myriad works within the art historical canon by situating his modern-day "illuminations" between the private and public and the commercial and art worlds. Providing the first comprehensive picture of Steinberg's extraordinary contributions to 20th-century art and suggesting lacunae in the historiography of Modernism, this book also includes an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Charles Simic. Thoughtfully conceived, well documented, and beautifully presented, this highly recommended book belongs on the shelves of large public, academic, and special libraries.-Cheryl Ann Lajos, Free Lib. of Philadelphia Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300115864
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
11/15/2006
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
10.00(w) x 12.00(h) x (d)

Meet the Author


Joel Smith is curator of photography at the Princeton University Art Museum and author of Steinberg at The New Yorker. Charles Simic is professor of English at the University of New Hampshire and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

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