Eye-catching compositions for magazine cover art and humor cartoons engage, amuse, and enlighten viewers. These tightly constructed, cleverly conceived designs capture the mood of an era or distill the essence of complex economic and social conditions—all within the confines of a single frame.

Keeping Up With Technology

Alan Dunn depicts the Library of Congress as a miniaturized temple of knowledge against the backdrop of the nation’s capitol. His witty commentary on the capacity of microfilm to compress the content of the Library’s collections in the 1960s did not accurately forecast the future. Even with today’s digital technologies and online access, the Library’s storage needs for books and multi-format resources has increased exponentially. One of more than 1,900 drawings that Dunn contributed to the New Yorker magazine, this example displays his crisp pen-and-ink technique and deft rendering of architecture.

Alan Dunn (1900–1974). The Library of Congress in Microfilm, 1966. Published in the New Yorker, September 17, 1966. Ink and graphite or crayon on paper. Swann Memorial Fund Purchase, 2007. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (001.00.00)

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/timely-and-timeless/cover-designs-and-single-panel-cartoons.html#obj0

“Affettuoso (with Feeling)”

In this lively drawing titled Discord, the British satirist Thomas Rowlandson portrays the singer as a “type” whose exaggerated features—wide open mouth, head thrown back, closed eyes, and mannered posture, parody the composer’s instruction noted on the music, “affettuoso,” which means “with feeling.” This example is one of three drawings by Rowlandson in the Prints and Photographs Division; its outstanding collection of British satirical prints also includes more than sixty etchings or engravings designed by this masterful caricaturist, watercolorist, and social observer.

Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827). Discord, ca. 1780–1799. Watercolor, ink, and graphite. Gift of Mrs. Annette Kauffman, 2008. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (022.00.00) [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-19175]

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/timely-and-timeless/cover-designs-and-single-panel-cartoons.html#obj1

Breach in Etiquette

Arnold Roth depicts a riveting, amusing moment of breached etiquette during the 1970s lettuce boycott. With brilliant control of watercolor and delicate ink lines that recall drawings by such past masters as Thomas Rowlandson, Roth shows an outraged guest leaping over a dinner table to thrust a forkful of lettuce into his hostess’s face. Widely recognized as a highly versatile, award-winning cartoonist and illustrator, Roth practices his art with a flair and inventiveness that have made him popular in both the United States and England. His drawings often appear in leading American periodicals, as well as in the British magazine Punch before it ceased publication in 2002.

Arnold Roth (b. 1929). Toward a modern ettiquette [sic]—lettuce boycott, ca. 1970s. Drawn for the Saturday Review of Literature. Watercolor and ink. Art Wood gift/purchase, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (023.00.00) © Arnold Roth [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-09135]

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/timely-and-timeless/cover-designs-and-single-panel-cartoons.html#obj2

Spirit of the Jazz Age

John Held, Jr., evolved his signature style of thin-lined drawing and vibrant color to fashion definitive Jazz Age images such as this flapper, flanked by a trombonist and a saxophonist. Her slim, stylish figure and active silhouette typify the pleasure-seeking, revolutionary American beauty of the 1920s. Held’s drawings graced the pages and covers of McClure’s, Judge, Life, and the New Yorker. He also created costume and set designs for musical productions, illustrated books, and comic strips including Oh! Margy, Joe Prep, and Rah Rah Rosalie.

John Held, Jr. (1889–1958). [Female vocalist flanked by musicians], ca. 1927. Published as the cover of McClure’s Magazine, August 1927. Gouache, watercolor, pen, and ink. Swann Memorial Fund purchase. 2003. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (024.00.00) © Estate of John Held, Jr. Courtesy of Illustration House, Inc. [Digital ID # LC-DIG-cph-3g12960]

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/timely-and-timeless/cover-designs-and-single-panel-cartoons.html#obj3

With Timely Wit

Two archaeologists enter a cave to discover splendidly painted beasts on walls that curiously spiral upward. Charles Addams’s cartoon of a cavern brings to mind the interior of the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) that had opened in October 1959, less than a year before publication of the cartoon. This drawing demonstrates Addams’s special gift for connecting disparate visual ideas. Best known for creating the popular, macabre Addams Family cartoon characters in 1946, Addams produced more than 1,300 cartoons published mainly in the New Yorker during his life.

Charles Addams (1912–1988). [Cave drawings], 1960. Published in New Yorker, June 11, 1960. Ink, watercolor, gouache, and pastel. Swann Memorial Fund purchase, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (025.00.00)

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/timely-and-timeless/cover-designs-and-single-panel-cartoons.html#obj4

A Picture of Worry

Cramped and contorted, an Everyman figure peers from a picture frame covered with miniaturized U.S. currency, legal documents with stamps, a MasterCard, images of a house, and a bottle of chardonnay. Symbolizing financial obligations and material desires, these encircling objects overwhelm the anxiety-ridden figure. Canadian artist Anita Kunz produced this strong, conceptual work for an article on investors’ ambivalence about investing for the future at a time when many were experiencing financial hardship because of the 1990s savings and loan crisis.

Anita Kunz (b. 1956). Fear of Finance, 1991. Published as cover of Washington Post Magazine, April 13, 1991. Watercolor, gouache, and acrylic with collage. Gift of the artist, 2003. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (026.00.00) © Anita Kunz, 2003 [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-03325]

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/timely-and-timeless/cover-designs-and-single-panel-cartoons.html#obj5

Caveat Emptor

Roz Chast spoofs American advertising in her colorful, yet delicately drawn design. The array of offers touts candy bars that cause weight loss, “Vitamins That Make You Smarter,” and culminates with an order form to send $25 million to Madoff Industries—a timely, painful reminder of the millions lost by clients of Ponzi-scheme-perpetrator Bernard Madoff. Chast combines an engaging style with sly, often sharp and offbeat humor in her work that has won her wide popularity and critical acclaim. She had her first cartoon published in 1978 in the New Yorker, which has since published more than 1,000 of her drawings.

Roz Chast (b. 1954). April Fool, 2009. Watercolor and ink. Published as cover of New Yorker, April 6, 2009. Swann Memorial Fund purchase, 2009. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (027.00.00) © Roz Chast [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-31373]

Bookmark this item: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/timely-and-timeless/cover-designs-and-single-panel-cartoons.html#obj6

Back to top