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Saul Steinberg: Illuminations Hardcover – November 1, 2006

4.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Steinberg (1914–1999) is best known for his New Yorker drawings, but he also created murals, advertising art, collages, fabric designs, masks, greeting cards and stage sets, all of which are represented in this copiously illustrated volume published in conjunction with a traveling retrospective. Born in Romania, Steinberg emigrated in 1942 to the United States, where he quickly rose to fame with drawings that employ the visual language of the cartoon but add an inventiveness that Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Simic lauds in his introduction. In the lucid text, art curator Smith (Steinberg at the New Yorker) calls these calligraphic drawings "illuminations," since, like illuminated manuscripts, they combine word and image, and also because they throw light on subjects "too small to be noticed." Immediately understandable yet infinitely complex, the drawings combine art and joke, and have unexpected depth that Smith explores in his commentaries. Steinberg created these visionary drawings—in such a wide variety of styles that art critics have always found them impossible to categorize—by turning up surprises in unlikely places. Smith compares him to the little dog he added to scenes in old picture postcards—absorbed in his own world, sniffing out details others miss. This splendid catalogue is a worthy tribute to Steinberg's genius. (Nov.)
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From Booklist

Saul Steinberg (1914-99) described himself as a "writer who draws," thus inspiring curator Smith to characterize Steinberg's brilliantly satiric drawings as "illuminations," thus linking his work to illuminated manuscripts and, given Steinberg's love of literature, to a particular favorite, Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations. Smith also explores Steinberg's mission to illuminate the overlooked and the absurd. In the biographical sections of his beautifully crafted critique, Smith affectingly recounts Steinberg's life as a Jew in anti-Semitic Romania and an architecture student in Fascist Milan whose distinctive cartoons served as his ticket out of Nazi Europe and onto the pages of the New Yorker. Both Smith and renowned poet Charles Simic associate Steinberg's fascination with documents with his harrowing refugee experiences, while Simic, a fellow immigrant from the Balkans and a friend of Steinberg's, offers striking insights into the artist's comic sensibility. Both commentators reflect on the great change in Steinberg's work after 1960, as his images turned hallucinatory and nightmarish, his protest against tyranny more intense. As instantly recognizable as Steinberg's kinetic, punning, and slyly skewering art is, there hasn't been a comprehensive Steinberg book in years, making this outstanding volume invaluable in its reclamation of Steinberg's agile, philosophic, and category-defying art. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1 edition (November 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300115865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300115864
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 10.5 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #683,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First, I must confess that I am predisposed to enjoying this book. I love everything about the man and his work. Over the past several years I've acquired fourteen volumes of Steinberg's art as well as other printed pieces. Before the internet this would have been almost impossible and very costly. My earliest recollection of art I had strong feelings about goes back to the late 1940's when I saw a series of drawings by Saul Steinberg in The New Yorker.

That being said, this catalog is one of the finest volumes of his work to date. It is a generously sized book at 10 x 12 inches, hardcover and 288 pages. It is printed on a matte coated paper which means the reproductions are excellent. The book is very well thought out. It begins with two illustrated essays. They are followed by the catalogue of the exhibition. This is followed by notes, chronologies and other information which illuminates Mr. Steinberg's career.

It is a very well designed book. The type choices and page formats make it quite easy to actually read. This is not always the case since the advent of computer composition. The catalogue section gives each work of art a two-page spread. The title, pictorial information and a brief commentary are on the left facing page and a reproduction is on the right facing page. The illustrations are large and accurate to the originals. For some art works there are extra illustrations below the commentary on the left facing page.

If you are intrigued about this artist, Saul Steinberg ILLUMINATIONS, is a must for your library. To round out your collection, consider purchasing STEINBERG AT THE NEW YORKER which was recently published and should still be available. If you are interested in seeing the actual exhibition, you should be able to find information online at the Saul Steinberg Foundation website.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"A writer who draws," that's how Steinberg described himself, and that's what Joel Smith's explores in his great essay on Steinberg's life and art which accompanies the pieces from the ILLUMINATIONS show. If you're looking for Steinberg's New Yorker work, you won't find it here. (Buy the must-have Complete New Yorker on DVD and you'll have everything he ever published there!) But if you're looking for a good place to start on Steinberg, this is the book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The marvelous Saul Steinberg exhibition at the Morgan Library in NYC is almost too much to take in even if one devotes an entire afternoon. Unlike some art exhibitions, Saul Steinberg's work is full of references and verbal ques that make ones brain fire on all cylinders simlutaneously. That can be exhilarating, but also exhausting. Saul Steinberg, the book, allows one to take in the artists's work in smaller bites: indeed, you can dip into the book at any page and be well fed. Don't miss the exhibition. But then, make sure you get the book.
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Format: Hardcover
This book sums up most of the best work of Saul Steinberg, and for those who like his graphics, an absolute "must have"
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I confess - up to now, I had written off Saul Steinberg as "that New York poster guy." Then I got this book at the library, and what an eye-opener! This is an artist with an amazingly strong vision and message, often bitingly satirical, with incredible figures and dazzling compositions, working in a surprising range of materials (pencil, ink, watercolor, crayon, and rubber-stamping - often on the same piece).
I particularly delight in his wide-ranging "cartoon" people - playing style against style, turning expectations inside out, displaying a strong commentary on modern America with his demented cowboys, high-fashion women, and multiple little stamped inspectors offering a silent commentary to the various goings-on.
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