The Art of William Steig


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Claudia J. Nahson; With contributions by Robert Cottingham, Edward Sorel, Jeanne Steig, and Maggie Steig; Preface by Maurice Sendak

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The definitive work on the career of the beloved New Yorker cartoonist and children’s book illustrator

Known for his brilliant cartoons and award-winning children’s books, William Steig (1907–2003) leaves a legacy that spans much of the twentieth century. This lavishly illustrated book features over 280 of Steig’s drawings, many of them previously unpublished, and examines every aspect of his work, from the “Small Fry” cartoons—his earliest submissions to the New Yorker— and haunting symbolic drawings of the late 1930s and 1940s, to his later, bitingly funny cartoons and celebrated books for children. In the seventy-three years that Steig worked for the New Yorker, the magazine published over 120 of his covers and more than 1,600 of his drawings in a wide range of styles, including classic cartoons, psychologically fraught pen-and-ink renderings, and Picasso-esque representations. He brought a new voice to the magazine by creating cartoons that drew on his experience as a son of immigrant Eastern European Jews. In his sixties, Steig embarked on a second career as a writer and illustrator of children’s books, including Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and Shrek! These remarkable projects bring together numerous key elements of Steig’s work: his evocative use of reverie, his interest in cranks and complainers, and his belief in the redeeming power of love, nature, and art. The story of Steig’s work is told by Claudia J. Nahson and the cartoonist’s fellow artists and writers, and his family members. Together they create a portrait of a penetrating social observer with a restless imagination and a love for his craft.

Published in association with The Jewish Museum

Exhibition Schedule:

The Jewish Museum, New York (November 4, 2007 – March 16, 2008)

Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco (June 8 – September 7, 2008)

Claudia J. Nahson is associate curator at The Jewish Museum, New York. Robert Cottingham is a photo-realist painter whose work is in major museum collections in the United States and abroad. Maurice Sendak is an acclaimed author and illustrator of children’s books. Edward Sorel is an artist and author whose work has appeared frequently in the Atlantic, the New Yorker, and many other publications. Jeanne Steig, wife of William Steig from 1973 until his death, is an artist and the author of many books for children, most of them illustrated by William Steig. Maggie Steig is the daughter of William Steig.


The Jewish Museum, New York (November 4, 2007 – March 16, 2008)

Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco (June 8 – September 7, 2008)

"With more than 280 of [Steig's] haphazard, wonderfully emotive illustrations, readers will find a reason to smile (if not laugh out loud) on every page. Alongside reminiscences from colleagues, friends and family, this companion to The Jewish Museum exhibit is a delight for devotees of The New Yorker, children's book illustration and cartooning."—Publishers Weekly

"Steig's energetic style—vibrant lines that make their characters dance and tremble across the page—and youthful humour was revolutionary. . . . A gorgeous book—worthy of the treasure it carries."—Drawn

"The perfect antidote to the holiday blahs is currently available at local bookstores and at the Jewish Museum: it is The Art of William Steig. . . . Both the book and the exhibition are gems. . . . A splendid celebration of an immensely gifted artist—a book that is guaranteed never to collect dust on a bookshelf."—Peter Stamelman, Riverdale Press

"This is a rare book—one that both youngsters and scholars will value. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"A splendid and loving series of essays by people who knew the man and his various works well. There are fellow artists and admirers . . . and family members. . . . There is also a generous sampling of Steig's drawings here, representing all the phases of his career, all wonderfully reproduced, their colors and many layers intact. . . . What more could you ask for? Here you get it all: Lots and lots of Steig drawings, and commentary that helps you better enjoy lots and lots of Steig drawings."—Robert Leiter, Jewish Exponent

Selected as a Favorite Book of 2007 by Books & Culture (Mr. Wilson's Bookshelf)
ISBN: 9780300124781
Publication Date: November 1, 2007
Publishing Partner: Published in association with The Jewish Museum
208 pages, 9 x 11
153 b/w + 128 color illus.

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