The World of Saul Steinberg:
A Mirror Reflecting the Forlornness of Modern Man
The poet Heinrich Heine once called himself un romantique défroqué, an unfrocked romantic. What he meant to say was that, although an adept at the romantic way of life, he had yet preferred to strip off all grave solemnity and escape into the broad light of our common day. Under this confession we sense both a boyish pride over his successful emancipation and a pang of conscience over his apostasy.
The draughtsman Saul Steinberg is an unfrocked Surrealist. He went through the usual apprenticeship of the modern artist: the French Impressionists, Picasso’s superb contour, Klee’s solipsistic musical revery, the extravagances of the Futurists. His figures, like those of the surrealists, inhabit a world governed by dream logic and dream perspective. His art addresses the irrational component in man, the soft spots in our emotional make-up. He is a teller of everyday fairy tales, a visionary of the chimerical, a metropolitan fantaisiste. But he appeals not only to the connoisseurs and snobs but also to a wider audience. And he draws his caricatures for the New Yorker and other American popular magazines without the slightest feeling of compunction. The remarkable thing is that the masses seem to follow him through his tortuous reveries.
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