Steinberg’s Genius Line

Sadly, my only encounter with the great Saul Steinberg was when, as a newly hired art director for the Times OpEd page, I called him. He was one of the first on my list of artist-heroes to contact when I got my dream job. The call did not go well.

I was warned that he was angry that a few of the starring OpEd regulars were at times more than a little influenced by his work – they copied it. Actually, who could not be influenced by his brand of Eastern European comic surrealism? It was the work that launched a thousand careers! But he was particularly upset with the OpEd page because at its inception, his work was used once as a “spot” and not used again.

The response to my invitation to return to the OpEd was cold and snippy: “Why don’t you get [name]?!! He does me well,” he said before abruptly hanging up. I didn’t even have a chance to be charmingly obsequious. Nonetheless, I loved Steinberg’s work from the moment I found this 1948 edition of his first anthology, All In Line, which included cartoons and visual commentary from his time at PM newspaper and in the army during WWII. Here are some of my favorites.

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