Another Look at Steig

The Steig Album-cover

When I was visiting my parents recently, I pulled The Steig Album off their bookshelves. My father bought this book when he was a student at Alfred University in upstate New York. He said Steig was popular with his colleagues in the 50s.

What surprised me most about the images in this book was how different the majority of them are to the work we know from his later children’s books, some of which Julie Paschkis mentioned in her post Ode To Steig.

steig sylvester

His earlier work was darker, often presenting a sardonic look at human nature, like these drawings from “About People.”

W Steig-Spiteful little man.

W Steig-Woman desiring to attract friendship.

His depiction of relationships is accurate and insightful, but hardly flattering, like his section, “Till Death Do Us Part: Some Ballet Notes on Marriage.”

W Steig - Darling – Hold me tight.

W Steig - When you and I were young, Maggie.

W Steig - You live your life and I'll live mine.

W Steig - Impasse

W Steig - Reconciliation.

You get the feeling from this book that Steig understands every aspect and conundrum of human existence –

W Steig - About People: Ennui

W Steig - Embarrassment

– and had little patience with us.

W Steig - Persistent Faces: Hero Worshipper

But the humor was always there.

Steig’s many drawings of children indicate his keen eye for capturing moments of  juvenile inquisitiveness and camaraderie.  These cartoons appeared in The New Yorker in the 40s.

W Stein-Worm

W Steig-Espionage and–  counter-espionage.

W Steig-"Toity more years we'll be toity-seven."

He underscored the pain, frustration, and anxieties of childhood as well, as in these pieces from the section, “The Agony In The Kindergarten.”

W Steig - Mother knows whats best for you, dear.

W Steig - Well Speak up, what is it?

W Steig - We don't play with that sort of children.

W Steig - "Willie!"

Steig didn’t begin to write children’s books until he was 61. His first children’s book was published in 1968. Somewhere in his first six decades, I think he softened a little.

My daughters loved the Dr. De Soto books, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Abel’s Island. Another of our family favorites was The Flying Latke, by Arthur Yorinks. Steig created the background illustrations for this wacky holiday book, and played a cameo role as the newscaster in the story. The book came out in 1999. He was ninety-two.

The Flying Latke news page

Long live William Steig.

William Steig as "The Newscaster"

 

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5 responses to “Another Look at Steig

  1. Hear, hear! Thank you, Margaret!

  2. I first knew his work in “CDB” http://www.amazon.com/C-D-B-William-Steig/dp/0671666894 (please excuse the Amazon link, but I couldn’t find anything else with the older, line drawing on it) and he always reminded me of other mid-century pen and ink illustrators. It was later that we had a kid, and I started to read the Dr DeSoto books — I was glad to know more of his work

  3. Thanks, because I can never get enough Steig!

  4. Wendy Wahman

    Oh, my favorite, favorite. Margaret, thank you.

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