Saul Steinberg (American, 1914–1999) brought a modernist aesthetic and cosmopolitan sophistication to his gallery art and commercial work—including eighty-five covers and more than twelve hundred internal drawings for The New Yorker magazine—endearing him to many artists, writers, and popular audiences of his era. In 1965, noted author Vladimir Nabokov wrote to the artist, calling his collection of drawings The New World a “magic ledger” that reflected Steinberg’s skill at combining a fantastic imagination with shrewd observation. As Steinberg said, “The purpose of drawing is to make people feel that there is something else beyond the perception. That is essentially what I am playing with—the voyage between perception and understanding.” The works in this exhibition explore Steinberg’s travels, influences, and his diverse range of subjects and drawing techniques. Some of the drawings relate to his many magazine publications, others were included in his book compilations, but most are simply independent drawings of his favorite motifs, such as women in fancy hats, cowboys, cats, cars, soldiers, and architecture. A Romanian-born Jew who had escaped antisemitism in his homeland and Italy, Steinberg brought an outsider’s perspective to the people, places, and politics of postwar Europe and the United States. His witty—and often slightly satirical—studies manage to bring a smile to your face, while at the same time stimulating your mind.
The exhibition includes forty-three unique works, selected from the recent gift of sixty-five drawings, twenty-one prints, and an annotated catalogue from The Saul Steinberg Foundation and six works acquired by the museum in the 1970s. It is co-curated by Nan Brewer, the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s Lucienne M. Glaubinger Curator of Works on Paper, and Andrei Molotiu, senior lecturer in art history, and is based on research conducted by students in the IU course "Curating Saul Steinberg: From the Pages of the New Yorker to the Gallery Wall" (A490/580): undergraduates Meredith Cox, Kristin Davis, Hope Gerber, Morgan Hardin, Erin Hardy, Shannon Hocker, Katama Murray, Cody Rosenberg, Sasha Sears, Samantha Stroud, and Allie Tucker and graduate students Natalie Beglin, Caitlyn Clark, Kerrigan Clark, and Katama Murray. The advice and expertise of Shelia Schwartz, Research & Archives Director at the Saul Steinberg Foundation, are also deeply appreciated.
The exhibition is generously supported by John and Rita Grunwald, Susan C. Thrasher, and The Greig Family Fund.