Collection in Focus: Mixed Media Portraits

Joel Smith discusses the ways that various artistic media can overlap and intersect. In this case, we examine photography, drawing, and sculpture.

Saul Steinberg (1914–1999) was an artist whose magic lit up the pages and covers of The New Yorker for six decades and is regarded by many as, not only a comic genius, but among the greatest draftsmen of the modern era. 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. 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 camera has played many overlapping roles in the history of artful communication on the page. A defining visual practice of the modern age, photography has exerted an ever-evolving influence as a medium of fine, commercial, and folk art; as a transformative mode of mass-market technology; and as an unparalleled means of visual documentation. The Morgan collects visually arresting photographs from fields of endeavor that the medium has helped to invent or to reinvent. The photograph has redefined what is beautiful, credible, memorable, shareable, and even perceptible. The Morgan’s collection of Modern and Contemporary Drawings spans the twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries, illuminating the diverse contributions made by artists working on paper to the history of modern art.

Video by SandenWolff