From cartoons to the New Yorker, Saul Steinberg’s was a unique artist whose doodles spread across different mediums. Prior to the war, Steinberg studied architecture in Italy, and with Fascism on the rise, he was arrested and spent six weeks in an internment camp. Steinberg’s cartoons were published in Harper’s Bazaar, LIFE and Mademoiselle in 1940 thanks to Cesar Civita, an illustrator’s agent, whom he had met in Milan. When he left Italy in 1941, he moved to the Dominican Republic and a year later to New York.
His New York circle consisted of other painters, designers and New Yorker contributors. He also wore many hats in his career as a publication artist, ad artist and designer of textiles and stage sets.
By 1946 many of his drawings were published in the New Yorker. The drawings were simplistic, single-lined drawings that showed off Steinberg’s witty humor.
A particular project Steinberg created was a series of paper bag masks that both he and his friends wore in photos by Inge Morath. The idea spawned after Morath arrived at Steinberg’s place only to be answered at the door by the artist himself wearing one of his paper bag masks. In a collaboration series that was ongoing between 1959 and 1963, the idea fit right into the idea of disguise that was a big theme to his art. As explained on a piece of New Yorker stationery, found at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and Yale University, “The mask is a protection against revelation.”
The masks were easily drawn with the use of ink, crayon or colored pencil.
See more in Saul Steinberg Masquerade
If you enjoyed this, perhaps read this!