Apr 2, 2014
11:56 PM
Arts & Entertainment

'When The New Yorker Moved to Connecticut'; Westport a Hotbed for Covers

'When The New Yorker Moved to Connecticut'; Westport a Hotbed for Covers

Eve Potts was looking through a book of The New Yorker covers and noticed that hundreds had been created by artists who lived in and around Westport, a town where she had lived for many years. Eventually she was to discover that 17 artists who lived in the Westport area produced 767 covers between 1925 and 1989.

Potts curated a charming and fun exhibit, “Cover Story: The New Yorker in Westport” that hangs on the walls of the Westport Historical Society now through July 5. More than 44 of the covers depict scenes in Westport.

See The New Yorker's own take in When the New Yorker Moved to Connecticut

As Potts and her committee researched the subject, they would discover that the artists not only knew each other, but they were good friends. They bowled together on Friday nights. They played golf in the summer. They had dinner parties. They even traveled to

He got up in the middle of the night and wrote down 100 ideas and took them to The New Yorker. Europe together. Can you imagine touring the Coliseum with Charles Addams, creator of The Addams Family?

In fact, James Geraghty, art editor of The New Yorker from 1939 until 1973, once said that the question he was most often asked, by people all over the world, was “What is Charles Addams really like?”

One answer, according to Dorothy Curran, who was on the committee for the exhibit, is that Addams bought the headstone of a child from a farm in upstate New York and used it as a coffee table in his New York penthouse.

Geraghty has a prominent place in the exhibit. He did not draw a single cover; however, he did have a hand in the creation of thousands of them over his 34 years as art editor. He collaborated with the artists, helping to refine their ideas “through many iterations” as the exhibit says. He also chose the cartoons, tweaking both drawings and captions.

Geraghty began as an idea man for The New Yorker. He had been writing comedy for radio but it was a hard sell. One night his wife told him about a small ad in a writer’s magazine that said ideas were needed for cartoonists. He got up in the middle of the night and wrote down 100 ideas and took them to The New Yorker. When one was used, the magazine paid him $18. In a very a short time, legendary editor Harold Ross hired him to be the art director.

Geraghty was to end up in Westport because cover artist Perry Barlow suggested it when the Geraghtys were looking for a house in Chappaqua. Barlow and his wife, along with fellow cover artists, Alice Harvey, Garrett Price and Helen Hokinson, were already in the Westport area. The four were all friends from their days at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Geraghtys moved to Rayfield Place in Westport and soon after they moved again to a house in Weston on seven acres at the corner of Old Redding Road and Kellogg Hill Road. There were two barns on the property and cover artist Reginald Massie and his wife were among those who stayed in an apartment there.

Geraghty and his hospitable wife most likely drew others to the area, where their friendships were supportive, rather than competitive, Curran said.

Geraghty’s daughter, Sarah Geraghty Herndon told us, “I think people enjoyed my dad. He was charming and funny.” Herndon remembers swimming with other families in the Darrow’s river. That would have been the Wilton home of Whitney Darrow, Jr., who drew two covers and 1,500 cartoons over a 50-year period. “He was considered a master draftsman, a witty, satiric cartoonist and adept caption writer; in contrast to some of his colleagues, he wrote his own,” said the exhibit’s biography.

Charles Saxon and his wife Nancy were close friends with the Geraghtys and in 1956, Geraghty brought Saxon to The New Yorker, where he became a staff cartoonist, producing 92 covers and 700 cartoons, often satirizing the Wall Street tycoons and “country club matrons” who were his New Canaan neighbors.

Garrett Price produced his first cover for The New Yorker in the magazine’s first year, 1925. His covers, like those of his fellow artists, often depicted social trends, or whatever was happening in the world around them, with wry, sophisticated humor.

A December 1942 cover by Price depicts a woman bringing home a Christmas tree on a bicycle, as snowflakes fall. The scene reflected the reality of both gasoline rationing and the shortage of men, who were off fighting a war.

Perry Barlow’s March 1951 cover, one of 135 he produced, depicts the life of a commuter, as so many of the covers and cartoons did. In one, the train station waiting room is filled with women chatting animatedly, while a hand-lettered sign says the 6:25 train is 55 minutes late.

A May 1960 cover by Arthur Getz depicts the construction of I-95 as it cuts an uncompromising and discordant slash through beautiful countryside -- probably Greens Farms. The thruway did indeed destroy many farms, homes, and neighborhoods. Getz created 213 covers over 50 years, more than any other artist. He had an eye for composition, as Curran noted, but also, “he could do wonderful things with full-blown daylight or darkness.”

A November 1942 Charles Addams cover depicts what appears to be a traditional Willow pattern blue and white platter until one looks closely to see that it contains fighter planes trailing smoke, a battleship and canons firing in front of a traditional pagoda.

The most characteristically “Westport” cover is Albert Hubbell’s August 1973 rendering of the open-air pavilion at Compo Beach. It was as elegant then, as it is now.

One of the most striking covers is James Daugherty’s September 1925 cover depicting an art deco female tennis player in aqua and yellow. Daugherty had been greatly influenced by the 1913 New York Armory Show with its ultra-modern art. He won a Newberry Medal in 1940 for a children’s biography of Daniel Boone and his art hangs today hangs in the Smithsonian, the Whitney and the Museum of Modern Art.

Potts and her committee developed a small second exhibit, “Can’t Tell a Book by Its Cover …” The August 31, 1946 issue contained only one article, the story of six survivors of Hiroshima’s bomb, told by John Hersey. The article later became a best-selling book. The cover of the magazine, however, depicted all the idyllic activities of a beautiful summer’s day.

Hersey was a member of the bowling group and golf group and purchased a home on South Turkey Hill Road, one later bought by Martha Stewart.

Other artists featured in the main exhibit included Edna Eicke, Donald Reilly, John Norment, Mischa Richter, David Preston and Lee Lorenz.

Lorenz is the only one of the 17 artists who is still alive today. He created 10 covers and 1,800 cartoons, succeeding Geraghty as Art Editor in 1973. Lorenz said he was not the front-runner for that position, but got it because Hoyt “Pete” Spellman from the business side recommended him. When Lorenz asked why, Spellman replied, “Because you’re so good at managing the softball team.”

A number of the adult children of the artists, and two of Geraghty’s children, will speak at the Historical Society on Saturday afternoon, April 12.

The Westport Historical Society is located at 25 Avery Place in Westport. Hours are 10 to 4, Monday through Friday, and noon to 4 on Saturday and Sunday. The Society will open on Sundays through April 26.

The  “Cover Story:  The New Yorker in Westport” will run through July 5, 2014. For more information check their web site at www.westporthistory.org or contact the WHS at 203-222-1424.

Editor's note: This story appears in the spring issue of Fairfield County Life magazine, a publication of Minuteman Newspapers.

'When The New Yorker Moved to Connecticut'; Westport a Hotbed for Covers

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