New exhibits 'cover' Westport's ties to The New Yorker over the years
An array of images, from colorful to humorous to iconic, all drawn from a single source -- The New Yorker, "Yes, The New Yorker," its longtime ad slogan -- went on display Sunday at the Westport Historical Society in new exhibits highlighting the magazine's ties to Westport for more than six decades.
Displayed in the main gallery were dozens of New Yorker covers created by 15 artists living in and around Westport and Weston over the years 1925 to 1989. In all, these talents -- including Garrett Price, James Daugherty, Perry Barlow, Alice Harvey, Helen Hokinson, Edna Eicke, Arthur Getz and Charles Addams -- produced more than 750 covers for the celebrated magazine.
The gallery included photos of the late James Geraghty, who was The New Yorker's art editor from 1939 to 1973. Geraghty and his wife Eva lived on Westport's Rayfield Road and later on Old Redding Road in Weston. Several members of Geraghty's family attended the opening reception, among them his daughter Sarah Geraghty Herndon.
"We were aware of his work, but we were just kids. He had a big job but he wasn't recognized publicly," she recalled. "He would get 2,000 cartoon submissions per week and pick 20.
"We knew many of the cover artists and their spouses, like Chuck and Nancy Saxon, Whitney and Middy Darrow, Perry Barlow," Herndon added. "There were dinner parties at the house. My brother and I were kids dragged along to these things."
Geraghty was known for being an "idea man," prompted by his wife. "She brought home a writer magazine in 1939 which said cartoonists buy ideas," Sarah shared. "He typed out many ideas and sent them off to area artists, selling many, for $18 an idea. The cartoonists clipped the ideas to their cartoons and submitted them to The New Yorker. The editors there started to take notice of Dad's name and offered him a job. He began working in August that year, one day a week, then three, then full time."
Sarah's brother, Jim Geraghty, who also attended the reception, added, "The New Yorker early on was more art focused and cartoons were elaborately drawn. These days, the cartoons are more quickly drawn and not as detailed; it's all about the idea."
Also among those attending was Mandy Teare, a niece of New Yorker cover artist John Norment. "John moved to Westport's Compo Hill Avenue in 1964 and became self-employed as an artist/cartoonist/editor. In addition to New Yorker covers in 1978 and 1980, he edited joke books for Dell Publications -- 25-cent books that sold by the millions. It wasn't lucrative, but kept him busy," Teare said. "When he died, I went through his wallet and found check stubs for the two covers he did. He was paid $2,000 for each cover. It was a big deal in our family. He also had about 20 cartoons published in The New Yorker over time."
The related exhibit opening Sunday, "Can't Tell a Book By Its Cover," focuses on a specific issue of The New Yorker dated Aug. 31, 1946. The cover features an illustration of people enjoying a park in summertime, but the entire edition is devoted to a detailed and sobering account by journalist John Hersey, a Westport resident, on the aftermath of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, effectively ending World War II.
The two exhibits are on display at the Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place, through April 26. For information, visit www.westporthistory.org or call 203-222-1424.