Friday, February 19, 2021


 After a delay of 100 years we can finally celebrate the arrival of a compilation of work by the brilliant T.S. Sullivant.

Sullivant was part of that blessed generation of ink worshippers that included A. B. Frost, Heinrich Kley and Charles Dana Gibson, and he was as good as any of them.

At 400 pages, this book provides a large, juicy selection of Sullivant's work.  Here Sullivant shows us how the very first cartoonist got his inspiration:

And note how beautifully Sullivant portrays the kaiser dangling from the devil's pitchfork

One of the many delights of Sullivant is how he played with weight.  He could make a pig as heavy as a sack of concrete or as light as a football:

He specialized in drawing massive dinosaurs, elephants and hippos that tripped lightly along:

I was thinking about writing an appreciation of Sullivant's work for this post, but the new book contains such excellent and insightful essays that they'd put my humble observations to shame.  Working artists such as John Cuneo, Peter de Seve and Steve Brodner write loving tributes that demonstrate they are as adept with words as they are with pictures.  

Cuneo writes: 
It takes a second to figure out what's going on.... There's an extra beat of discovery as the viewer is compelled to pause a moment and look a little harder to earn the reward of recognition.  A lesser exaggeration would offer a much quicker "read" but Sullivant will have none of that.  In an age where every image on every page or online platform competes with a trillion others to catch even the most fleeting of glances, I find great pleasure in the drawings of an artist who trusted his skill enough to know that the viewer would accord his work the extra scrutiny it demanded.      

What a wealth of talent and imagination are on display in the pictures and essays of this book.  


kev ferrara said...

For my money Sullivant was the best of them.

He could draw as well or better than the others, he referenced more transparently, his style was clearer and more unique, he was more consistent, he was sillier and freer, and he had the most generosity of spirit. His work is, at its deepest level, good-natured.

For me, he was eventually rivaled only by Harry Rountree.

Wes said...

Even the humor holds up after 100 years. The cavemen are hilarious.

MORAN said...

I've waited for a book like this.

David Apatoff said...

Kev Ferrara-- If you're a Sullivant fan, I think you'll really enjoy the perspectives of the working artists in the book. They adore Sullivant, as did earlier generations of artists such as Walt Kelly and Walt Disney. It's amazing there hasn't been a book of his work before.

Certainly Sullivant was good natured, and as this book shows, truly hilarious. I think Frost was great in similar ways. Kley, Gibson, Coll, etc. were brilliant too, but in different ways.

Wes-- agreed. Don't you love the smile on that cartoonist as he watches someone get hit on the head?

MORAN-- I've waited for this one too. The reproduction is very respectable and the book is high quality, although one could've wished for more images shot from the original drawings.

xopxe said...

The stampeding elephant is awesome.

Larry Rippee and Molly Rea said...

Isn’t this about time. A book I sort of thought would never happen.

chris bennett said...

Here's the best caveman joke I ever heard:
A caveman is chipping away at rocks and flints and then tossing the results away randomly on the ground. Another caveman sees him doing this, goes over to him and asks; "What are you doing?"
The first caveman shrugs and replies: "I don't know, but I call it archaeology."

comicstripfan said...

Major Rupert Hughes in the Montgomery Advertiser (Alabama) on October 8, 1918:

“…The American cartoonist, T.S. Sullivant, who has drawn so much laughter from the readers of Life, lost the use of his right hand…He learned to draw with his left and his followers never knew the difference.”

V. Robard in Godey's Magazine, September 1897:

“Though [Sullivant] had always drawn more or less for his own amusement, he never took his art seriously until he reached the age of thirty-three, when, after a comparatively brief study at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts [sic] in 1887, he apprenticed himself to E.B. Bensell, an illustrator of the old school, who drew on the woodblock.”

[from Allan Holtz’s excellent blog “Stripper’s Guide]

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