Today June 15 2014 is 100th Birth Anniversary of one of the greatest cartoonists of all time: Saul Steinberg
Saul Steinberg: "I am a writer who draws."
"When Steinberg did the cartoon of the two men duelling in the mouth of a
giant alligator, and the one with the assortment of question marks, in the
early sixties, his cartoons became equal parts philosophy and art, and no part
And, truthfully, if this evolution in Steinberg’s style hadn’t happened, there
wouldn’t be a five-hundred-and-ninety-one-page tome about him.
But I must admit that I’m a big fan of his early cartoons..."
Vasant Sarwate's (वसंत सरवटे) is very fond of the late Saul Steinberg's cartoons, particularly his later ones.
In his book 'Vyangkala- Chitrakala', 2005 ('व्यंगकला - चित्रकला'), he says this about Saul Steinberg's cartoon above:
"चित्र पाहताक्षणीच आपल्याला यातली गफलत ध्यानात येवून गंमत वाटते. मागाहून अधिक विचार केल्यावर त्यातला खोल अर्थ कळायला लागतो. जगात निर्भेळ सत्याचा आग्रह धरण्यात अर्थ नाही; तसे संपूर्णपणे सत्य कुठेही मिळणे अशक्य आहे व परिस्थिती आपण स्वीकारल्याखेरीज इलाज नाही. असा काहीसा विचार हे चित्र सुचवते."
(The moment we see the picture we are amused by realizing error in it. Later when one thinks one starts to get the deeper meaning to it. There is no point demanding the absolute truth in this world; that kind of truth is impossible to attain anywhere and there is no remedy other than accepting the reality. The picture suggests such kind of thoughts.)
So what was the truth (or TᴚUTH?) about the life of the cartoonist himself?
Deirdre Bair tries to answer it in 'Saul Steinberg: A Biography'.What do some of the reviews of the book say?
JANET MASLIN, The New York Times, December 13 2012:
"...The overly protective Saul Steinberg Foundation did Steinberg a huge disservice by forcing Ms. Bair to paraphrase documents and denying her the right to reprint more than a smattering of his art.
Those obstacles might not have been wholly insurmountable, but Ms. Bair does a flat job of paraphrasing, and she displays scant critical insight into the many tics, motifs and obsessions that run throughout Steinberg’s work. She also fails to convey any sense of the vaunted Steinberg charisma — although, as she says in an afterword, interviewees would typically smile at his memory and say something like, “What a wonderful man he was, and oh, how I miss him!” The wonderful man is absent from “Saul Steinberg.” In his place is a cranky, abrasive misanthrope who somehow made himself popular with many big droppable names..."
'cranky, abrasive misanthrope'? So did he look like this?
A Saul Steinberg drawing that was published in The New Yorker in 1954
DEBORAH SOLOMON says about the book:
"...Who was Saul Steinberg? His acquaintances thought of him as an elegant dandy who seemed catlike in his refinement. In his prime, he lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, dined out most every night and held forth at dinner parties with piquant erudition and wit. But behind the thick glasses and mandarin mask lay a haunted figure, a fearful man who visited indignities upon himself and those around him. As Bair reveals, his love life was a string of infidelities, and crabbiness was his default mood...
...By then he had met Hedda Sterne, an abstract painter and fellow Romanian émigré who valued books and reading as much as he did. Together, they practiced speaking English and declared a moratorium on their native Romanian, “a language of beggars and policemen,” as Steinberg scoffed. They married in 1944, at City Hall in Manhattan. Just a few weeks later, they were entertaining a pregnant friend when Sterne looked out from the kitchen into an adjoining room and was startled to see her husband passionately kissing their guest. “In a way, sex was his life,” Sterne later said. “He deprived himself of true union because he was not ever in love.”..."
(The New York Times, November 21 2012)
JONATHAN LOPEZ says in WSJ, November 30 2012:
"...He pursued affairs and even propositioned the teenage daughters of acquaintances, for which he was reprimanded by outraged parents. On one occasion, according to Ms. Bair, he invited a friend's 19-year-old daughter—a girl he had known since she was in diapers—to spend a weekend in the Hamptons in order, he said, to enjoy some time in the country. Drawing upon her interview with the girl—now an adult—Ms. Bair informs us that "in the middle of the night, she woke up, 'petrified with fear,' to find him in her bed. He embraced her, but she 'froze and wouldn't budge,' until he eventually 'just sort of gave up and went to his own bed...'"