Cartoonist and cartoon editor Lee Lorenz has passed away.
Very sad news tonight from Martha Lorenz, that her father, Lee Lorenz, The New Yorker‘s art editor from 1973 -1993, and cartoon editor from 1993 – 1997, passed away Thursday morning at his home in Connecticut. Lee contributed cartoons and covers to The New Yorker for fifty-seven years, from 1958 through 2015.
Lee began his cartooning career in 1956 and in an acknowledgement of his talent he was signed to a New Yorker contract in the remarkably short time of two years.
The mid 1950s was a time for magazine cartoonists and Lee contributed cartoons to all the magazines including Collier’s, Saturday Evening Post, Look, Argosy, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, 1000 Jokes, and many more. After 1958 The New Yorker had the right of first refusal.
Lee, from the early 70s to the late 90s was cartoon editor for The New Yorker.
My real anxiety was about working with the artists. I didn’t just step into the job; I worked with [Jim] Geraghty for a while. I would sit beside him as he worked, and make suggestions…
… Between shadowing him and talking to the artists, I began to see how I could work with them. They were very responsive. Geraghty was very good, but he didn’t have any artistic training. I could see what was wrong with a drawing right away. Any artist could do that; it’s easy to see what’s wrong with someone else’s drawing. It was a useful skill at The New Yorker, and the artists were very happy to work with me. I could make helpful concrete suggestions, and I could edit captions as well as drawings.
In that position Lee also became The New Yorker’s de facto cartoon historian.
Lee expanded into books and art projects.
A master with the swooshing, vibrant brush line and a grand sense of humor who helped the careers of so many wonderful cartoonists.
Today, I need to write a personal post. Someone important to my life died yesterday. Lee Lorenz was a kind, creative man, and was the Art Editor of The New Yorker from 1973-1997. He is the person who brought me into The New Yorker in 1979 and I will be forever grateful to him for that. The moment he said he wanted to buy my first cartoon put into motion an amazing ride, a trajectory, a life I dreamed of as a kid.
In his own work, tapping his skills as a jazz cornetist, Mr. Lorenz preferred broad brushstrokes rather than the precision of a pen to create a “free-flying spirit of a music that sounds dated while still epitomizing the improvisational whimsy informing so much modern art,” Richard Gehr wrote in “I Only Read It for the Cartoons: The New Yorker’s Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists” (2014).
“He captures characters in motion,” Mr. Gehr added, “momentary slices of time that may make you laugh out loud while pondering their befores and afters.”
Mr. Lorenz’s cartoons found humor in the most mundane slices of life…
Mankoff described Mr. Lorenz as a “jazz cartoonist” — a dual reference to Mr. Lorenz’s longtime musical sideline playing cornet with his Creole Cookin’ Jazz Band, and how he crafted his drawings. Mr. Lorenz did not first make a pencil sketch or other under drawings. He would start with an ink wash or pen and build the images in one go.
“He was improvising, like he was playing jazz,” Mankoff said in an interview. “He was riffing. He knew what to add. But also — and this can be more important — he also knew what to leave out to capture the viewer’s eye and make his point.”
Mankoff said he watched Mr. Lorenz create a cartoon in 1993 that has brought a knowing nod to millions of cat owners. Mr. Lorenz first made passes with his brush. Then he did a few swipes with his pen to capture a frowning cat looking at a bowl of food just plopped down by an equally grumpy man. “The phrase you’re groping for is ‘Thank you,’” says the man.
“He nailed it with just three or four strokes,” said Mankoff. “Perfect. So many cartoonists fuss and fuss. Lee never did that. He just got it right.”