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The Cartoon Looks At Art



Every week, thousands of people eagerly anticipate the arrival of the New Yorker in their mailboxes. Invariably, they will fly through the pages of the magazine, stopping not at Anthony Lane's cinema critiques or the few poems that miraculously won print space in that issue or John Updike's review of the latest book to come across his desk. Horrible to admit, but these readers even dare to flip past Hendrik Hertzberg's relentless pursuit of George Bush's policies. What these unabashed admirers, aficionados, cognoscenti, call them what you will, want are the cartoons. Those humorous observations on life from the pen strokes of Jack Ziegler, Robert Weber, Roz Chast, William Hamilton and Lee Lorenz and dozens of others produce an adrenaline high, and their fans crave them just as much as they do their caffeine fix every morning.

The popularity of the cartoon is easy to understand: The visual impact of a single insouciant panel can pack more pleasure for a reader than miles of print can ever hope to achieve. Particularly the ones that make it into the pages of the New Yorker. Since its auspicious debut in 1925, the magazine has presented a platform for the symbiotic relationship between cartoonist, reader and cartoon. The umbilical cord that binds the cartoon to the New Yorker is, perhaps, one of the strongest ties in publishing that exists. The comic genius who conveys a witty commentary on the human experience trusts that his fans are well-educated and sophisticated enough to instantly grasp his spoof on the social butterflies or the politicians of the day. What began as snooty takes on society in the 1920s has evolved into playful asides by master commentators/illustrators.

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