As I Lay Bathing

Saul Steinberg, Girl in Bathtub, 1949

I used to sit across the table from several very well known designers during meetings for AIGA. I was impressed at their ability to take copious notes while someone was presenting an issue. After a couple of years, I felt inadequate, my notes were singular words that later made no sense to me. Then I saw one of the impressive board member’s notes. They weren’t notes at all, only doodles of buildings, and a dog, or someone standing at a write-board. When I later asked this person what was presented, they were able to explain it perfectly. Clearly these notes were some sort of hieroglyph. Some of the doodles were quite nice, but frankly, nothing came close to Saul Steinberg’s spontaneous and simple drawings.

Steinberg is best known for his View of the World from 9th Avenue. This is his famous 1976 New Yorker cover, of the mental geography of Manhattanites. Maybe I’ve seen this one too many times in a New Yorker’s foyer, but I love some of his other work much more. Steinberg was born in Romania in 1914. He came to the United States in the early 1940s to escape anti-Jewish laws in Italy. This outsider point of view is a constant in all of his work. In addition to the remarkable fresh and light style, each piece sees the world through a filter most of us don’t notice. People in this world are dwarfed by the material world, but seem to muddle through with humor.

Saul Steinberg, Drug Store, 1945

Saul Steinberg, Eames chair, 1952

Saul Steinberg, Untitled, 1961

American Holidays

Saul Steinberg, Santa Claus as Christmas Tree, 1949

Saul Steinberg, Duveen, 1952

Saul Steinberg, Feet on Chair, 1946

Saul Steinberg, No, 1961

Saul Steinberg, London, 1952

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3 Responses to “As I Lay Bathing”

  1. Michele Says:

    Love these doodles!
    Sean, Did you know that people who doodle listen better?
    Study: Doodling Helps You Pay Attention
    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1882127,00.html

  2. Dan McElhattan III Says:

    I always wished Saul did a spot for Disney}s Fantasia. The lines and positioning are intricate yes gestural – Love the movement of his works.
    Thanks for the post. Need to go review my notes…

  3. Sean Says:

    That would have been remarkable. I love the lightness in his drawing