Review: The Lost Art of William Steig

Review: The Lost Art of William Steig

For over 70 years, William Steig provided the cartoons that graced the cover and pages of the venerable magazine the New Yorker. His figures — including children and octogenarians — are beloved by many. Many folks are aware of Steig for his most famous creation, Shrek. 

In the new book Cats, Dogs, Men, Women, Ninnies & Clowns: The Lost Art of William Steig, the cartoonist's career is chronicled through his masterful manipulation of a vast cast of characters. Balancing 450 never-before-published drawings, Steig's widow, Jeanne, provides amusing annecdotes that shed light on William's unique take on life. In the introduction, fellow cartoonist Roz Chast makes light of Steig's unique world view. She writes, "I had the sense that these cartoons were made by someone who had had to create his own language." 

Her thought rings true in the drawings. 

Chapters are arranged by subject. Flip through pages of "Ladies & Gents," "Dogs," and "Odd Ducks,"  and you'll immediately get a sense of Steig's unique style. There is much humor and an immediate charm in everything his pen formed. 

The book details a great character, and does so with a remarkable charm. Highly recommended for all interested in comic history, and everyone who likes to look on the lighter side of life. 

As Jules Feiffer writes in the afterword, "Whatever it was that drove him to go beyond that boundary where other cartoonists feared to tread, Steig broke ranks with the rest of the cartoon pack and moved on into uncharted territory." His work set new standards, and pushed forward what comics themselves could be through fully self-styled universe. 

Cats, Dogs, Men, Women, Ninnies & Clowns: The Lost Art of William Steig by Jeanne Steig (Abrams ComicArts; September 2011; ISBN 978-0-8109-9577-2) 

Tags: cartoon, book, william-steig
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