Sunday, April 09, 2006


For thirty years, William Steig did yeoman work drawing competent drawings of mildly amusing domestic scenes. He supported his family through the Great Depression making pleasant cartoons for the New Yorker. I was never impressed with his work during this phase.

However, beneath the surface Steig idolized the drawings of Pablo Picasso. And beginning in the 1960s-- that great decade of cultural liberation-- Steig abandoned his old style and began drawing in a much wilder, more intuitive style. Gone were his discipline and control. Gone were the predictable domestic scenes. In their place came drawings of nymphs and satyrs penned in a child-like scrawl, Victorian ladies with immense bottoms, knights wrestling with butterflies and all kinds of fanciful subjects portrayed with rich, exciting pen work.

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This drawing is a little unusual for Steig during the 1960s-- many of his drawings of the period were drawn in just a few carefully chosen lines. One of the things I really like about this drawing is that when the subject of a squabbling old couple called for frenzied chicken scratching, Steig had the range and courage to do it.

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