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Saul Steinberg: Illuminations
December 1, 2006 - March 4, 2007
Saul Steinberg (1914-1999), an artist whose magic lit up the pages and covers of The New Yorker for six decades, is the subject of a major retrospective exhibition making its debut at The Morgan Library & Museum from December 1, 2006, through March 4, 2007. Saul Steinberg: Illuminations features more than one hundred drawings, collages, and sculptural assemblages by the artist whom many regard as not only a comic genius but among the greatest draftsmen of the modern era. The exhibition is the first full-scale review of his career, from the 1930s to the 1990s, and was organized by the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College. (right: Three Liberties, 194951, Ink and watercolor on paper, 14 x 23 inches (35.6 x 58.4 cm). The Saul Steinberg Foundation, New York, SSF 6470)
Steinberg is best known for his work for The New Yorker, including his widely adapted 1976 rendering of a New Yorker's view of the world. The exhibition brings to light the prolific and diverse activity for which Steinberg was celebrated from the time he arrived in New York in 1942. Having studied architecture in Milan, where he gained early fame as a cartoonist, in America Steinberg became a propagandist, illustrator, fabric and card designer, muralist, fashion and advertising artist, stage designer, and tireless creator of image-jammed books. Until his decision, in the 1960s, to concentrate his efforts on gallery art and The New Yorker, Steinberg's sleek, barbed, inventive line was seen - and mimicked - everywhere from highbrow journals to Christmas cards, disseminating the look of modernism to a popular atomic-age audience.
"The Morgan Library & Museum is delighted to be the New York City venue for this extraordinary exhibition," said the Morgan Director, Charles E. Pierce, Jr. "As the range of works in the show makes clear, Saul Steinberg, with all his abundant gifts - as a draftsman, an eloquent satirist, and a critic of contemporary culture - was a modern exemplar of the art of illumination, a history that has its great home at the Morgan."
The exhibition features rarely seen works from the collections of private lenders and The Saul Steinberg Foundation. According to curator Joel Smith, author of the 2005 book Steinberg at the New Yorker (Abrams), "Saul Steinberg's last American museum retrospective, in 1978, reflected the priorities of a living artist who wanted to be sure the public saw his career as that of a focused, museum-worthy figure. Today, what is most fascinating about Steinberg's art is the vast range he commanded, from High to Low, from murals to magazines, from caricature to cartography. To look at Steinberg's career in its full duration, depth, and variety is to catch a close-up view of the energies and contradictions of the twentieth century. You might also find yourself smiling a lot." (right: I Do, I Have, I Am, 1971, Ink, marker pens, ballpoint pen, pencil, crayon, gouache, watercolor, and collage on paper, 22 3/4 x 14 inches (57.8 x 35.6 cm). The Saul Steinberg Foundation, New York, SSF 912)
The catalogue for Saul Steinberg: Illuminations, published by Yale University Press, features an introduction by poet and critic Charles Simic and an essay, chronology, and object entries by Joel Smith. The volume's more than three hundred illustrations include color plates of works in the exhibition and many sketches, never before seen, from the Saul Steinberg Papers at Yale University. The exhibition is supported by a grant from The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.
After the Morgan, the exhibition will travel to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. (April 6- June 24, 2007), and the Cincinnati Art Museum (July 20, 2007-September 20, 2007) before concluding at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College (November 2, 2007-February 24, 2008).
Concurrent with the Steinberg retrospective at The Morgan Library & Museum is a thematic exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, A City on Paper: Saul Steinberg's New York.
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