Saturday, April 01, 2006
ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part three
© The Saul Steinberg Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
Saul Steinberg was one of the greatest illustrators of all time. He was so damn smart you could warm your hands by the intellectual glow from his drawings. Yet, his brilliant content never overpowered his images. Art critic Robert Hughes wrote that Steinberg exhibited a form of "graphic intelligence that had not been imagined in American illustration before him."
This lovely drawing is not one of his more famous or elaborate images, but I selected it because it shows very simply how Steinberg's mind provides fresh insight into the most elemental ingredients of our world: as he scans the horizon line, he plays with the fact that water makes straight things crooked, then uses that to make crooked things straight (the evergreen, the lightning bolt) and ends with the coup de grace: the straight flag pole is now corrugated but the waving flag has become straightened!
Steinberg's art could never be contained by words or images alone. He really required the marriage of the two. He was perhaps the 20th century's leading example of illustration as an irreducible art form.