Looking at Illustration: Arthur Getz – April 1957

I’ve been flipping through more Arthur Getz cover art from The New Yorker and came upon this beauty from 1957. Let’s take a look.

Art by Arthur Getz. Prints available through https://condenaststore.com/art/arthur+getz

Mr. Getz was an expert at capturing small moments of New York City’s outdoor culture, and what is more ubiquitous in NYC culture than the sight of heavy construction parading right under the nose – or just over the heads – of the citizens? This scene of the renovation of a brownstone is as busy with textures and colors as a paisley tie, but hangs together beautifully thanks to his composition and palette.

The first thing I notice in Getz’s composition is how he directs your eye. Your view naturally starts at the upper left where there are sunlit construction workers and juicy detail in the nearest brownstone’s lovely oriel window. From the top left your eye slides down the chute and the wood planks, past the palisade of old doors to the dump truck; you inevitably climb the intricate façade of the buildings to the right of the truck, up and up to the hazily blank sky, where you can’t help but land with a thud on the bulls-eye of the whole scene, the wrecking ball. It’s a superb construction, sweeping your eye all around the view.

In landscape painting there is a general rule that warm colors advance and cool colors recede. This scene adheres to the rule with great success, with the warm brownstone tones closest to us, the middle ground scene of doors and rubble painted in slightly cooler shades, and the background sky and skyscrapers in the coolest, grayest tones – even that yellow apartment building is about as chilled a yellow as you can get in paint. I love how the artist ties together the scene by splashing periwinkle blue here and there – on a couple of the doors, under the scaffold, the brownstone handrail, the debris chute, one plane of the roof gable, and even high up on the top balconies of that yellow building. Getz’s loose but masterful treatment of the brownstone’s architecture is so admirable too, from the carvings and rustications in the massive sandstone shapes to his seemingly casual squiggles indicating the elegant wrought iron balustrade of the staircase.

Finally let’s point out Mr. Getz’s effective use of angles to make this scene dynamic and yet balanced. There are a number of strong diagonals echoing through this composition, that drive from the upper left to lower right, as I’ve indicated here:

They are formed by weighty, dark masses within the picture and give it a dynamic leftward and downward push. The scene does not ‘fall over’ from all that thrust though, because Getz brilliantly balanced all those forces against one thin, gangly yet very important element: the crane arm holding the wrecking ball. Its push is from lower left to upper right, and because it is a dark structure against the lightest part of the picture, and is more finely detailed than all the dark chunky shapes, and it holds that formidable feature of the portentous wrecking ball, it balances all that leftward thrust and makes the scene satisfyingly stable.

Arthur Getz created a stunning snapshot of NYC life here, marrying its iconic brownstone architecture with the careless jetsam of city construction zones. I would call this one of his best works ever for The New Yorker.

I wrote another cover review which you can read HERE. To see other New Yorker covers by Getz go HERE .

— Pat Achilles

My NYC Rockefeller Tree Christmas Card

It’s not too early to think about the holidays – I’m already working on three clients’ holiday cards for their businesses

Because of this, I’ve recently added a Christmas card to my listings on Etsy – one I drew last year for my family, in the classic New Yorker black & white style, not long after my first cartoon appeared in the New Yorker. If you’ve ever seen this iconic tree you never forget its overwhelming presence!

I drew this cartoon in black prisma pencil and painted it in ink washes. (Closeups of the art are on my Etsy page) It shows the legendary tree at Rockefeller Center, which about 100 million people visit each year, teeming with lights but with one small dark area; a small child looking up comments, “They missed a spot.”

Inside the card is the message “May your Christmas be filled with Peace and Joy and a thousand twinkling lights!”

Single cards are available on my Etsy shop HERE and boxes of 8 cards are available on my website store HERE.If you’d like more than 8 cards, or would like to use this card for your company holiday card, email me and we’ll work out the details. And if you live near me in the Central Bucks area and want to avoid postage charges, simply email me what you’d like to order and you can pay when you pick up the cards from me.

Looking at Illustration: Arthur Getz – October 1957

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I’ve been looking through the illustrations of Arthur Getz, one of my favorite New Yorker cover artists. Getz painted 213 covers for the iconic magazine between 1938 and 1988. In addition to illustration work, he painted cityscapes and landscapes – ‘fine art’ sold through galleries – although he sometimes signed them with his middle name, Kimmig, because at the time a fine artist was not supposed to cross the line into commercial art.

A particular favorite of mine is his cover from 1957:

Art by Arthur Getz. Prints available through https://condenaststore.com/art/arthur+getz

The moment it captures is utterly American, isn’t it? To the left, the bustling, spangly city with silhouetted crowds in frenetic motion, and in the foreground the relaxed parking attendant, contentedly oblivious to the high life a few blocks behind.

The skill and techniques of this artist make the painting especially appealing to me. The blazing city lights in the distance are warm, but it’s cold moonlight fluorescing down on the garage attendant – that’s the opposite of what you’re taught in painting class! Warm colors are supposed to come forward and cools recede – but Mr. Getz makes this inversion work beautifully. The covers of the magazine our fellow’s reading are slightly brightened with the reflected light bouncing off the pavement – reflected light is a detail that a  master’s eye notes, and novices often overlook. The splashes of neon red far off in the city are balanced by that rusty red wall to our protagonist’s left; there’s even the faintest red haze in the air above the cars in the garage, a delicate touch to offset all that chill October air.

And our attendant’s pose, balancing on the chair – another master stroke.  Let me explain: when you draw a standing figure and you want it to look steady, not tipping over, you draw it so the supersternal notch – that’s the central notch between your left & right collarbone – is directly over the inner ankle of the leg bearing the weight of the body – this makes the figure looks solid.  Well, Mr. Getz has this gent perfectly balanced: if you imagine where his supersternal notch is, and draw a line straight down, it’s directly over the spot where the chair leg bearing the man’s weight touches the pavement. This acrobatic bystander is not going to tip over!

The contrasts in tone all around our nonchalant hero seal the deal for me. After your eyes take in the whole scene, where does your attention go? To the crisp lightning-white page edges of that magazine and that tiny cusp of face and finger illuminated by the October moon. That’s intentional – they are painted with a razor edge and surrounded by blacks and neutral grays to draw your gaze like a pinpoint. The same goes for the swatch of city on the left, the contrast is so high between the yellows and blacks that you can’t not look at them – but even though those marks are skillful, they are vague, to give an impression of buildings and lights. The painting strokes in and around our parked friend’s figure, instead, are descriptive, deliberate and masterful.

There’s sometimes a bit of friction between illustrators and fine artists, over whether illustrations deserve the same esteem that framed paintings are given.  If you ask me, this Garage Nocturne by Arthur Getz could hang in a museum next to Hopper’s Nighthawks any day.

– Pat Achilles