Saul Steinberg: Illuminations

December 1, 2006, through March 4, 2007

Saul Steinberg (1914–1999), an artist whose magic lit up the pages and covers of The New Yorker for six decades, was the subject of a major retrospective exhibition. Saul Steinberg: Illuminations featured more than one hundred drawings, collages, and sculptural assemblages by the artist whom many regard as not only a comic genius but among the greatest draftsmen of the modern era. The exhibition was the first full-scale review of his career, from the 1930s to the 1990s, and was organized by the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College.

Steinberg is best known for his work for The New Yorker, including his widely adapted 1976 rendering of a New Yorker's view of the world. The exhibition brought to light the prolific and diverse activity for which Steinberg was celebrated from the time he arrived in New York in 1942. Having studied architecture in Milan, where he gained early fame as a cartoonist, in America Steinberg became a propagandist, illustrator, fabric and card designer, muralist, fashion and advertising artist, stage designer, and tireless creator of image-jammed books. Until his decision, in the 1960s, to concentrate his efforts on gallery art and The New Yorker, Steinberg's sleek, barbed, inventive line was seen—and mimicked—everywhere from highbrow journals to Christmas cards, disseminating the look of modernism to a popular atomic-age audience.

The exhibition featured rarely seen works from the collections of private lenders and the Saul Steinberg Foundation. The catalogue for Saul Steinberg: Illuminations, published by Yale University Press, features an introduction by poet and critic Charles Simic and an essay, chronology, and object entries by Joel Smith. The volume's more than three hundred illustrations include color plates of works in the exhibition and many sketches, never before seen, from the Saul Steinberg Papers at Yale University.

After the Morgan, the exhibition traveled to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. (April 6–June 24, 2007), and the Cincinnati Art Museum (July 20, 2007–September 20, 2007) before concluding at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College (November 2, 2007–February 24, 2008).

Concurrent with the Steinberg retrospective at The Morgan Library & Museum is a thematic exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, A City on Paper: Saul Steinberg's New York.


This exhibition was organized by the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York, with support from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

The exhibition at the Morgan was made possible by the Charles River Fund, The Margaret T. Morris Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the Charina Foundation, the Kautz Family Foundation, and the Roy J. Zuckerberg Family Foundation.