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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
Gluyas Williams 
21st-Aug-2006 07:44 pm
Back when I did my awesome posts about Vassar cartoonists Anne Cleveland and Jean Anderson, I mentioned my fondness for 1930s-1950s magazine cartooning in general, and cited cartoonist Gluyas Williams as one of my special favorites. Now I want to show you how extremely great he is. Williams (1888-1982) drew for Life, Collier's, and The New Yorker, the Holy Trinity of magazine cartooning back in the day, but I first encountered his work through his illustrations for humorist Robert Benchley's essays. I was a big Robert Benchley fan in high school (pretty much any single one of my high-school interests could explain, all by itself, why I had no friends), and Williams' illustrations are inextricable from Benchley's work. They're like Lewis Carroll and John Tenniel, Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, peanut butter and chocolate.

Holy crap, did I ever want to be Robert Benchley. He wrote witty little essays, starred in witty little short films, had one of the greatest cartoonists of the age draw witty little pictures of him, toured the Walt Disney Studio in The Reluctant Dragon, dressed nattily, and hung out in the Algonquin Round Table. I might have wanted to be Robert Benchley even more than I wanted to be Dorothy Parker. There'd be a lot less wrist-slitting, for one thing.

Anyway, eventually I checked out some of Williams' other work, and it was really something. These scans are from The Gluyas Williams Gallery, a sampling of his illustrations, with the accompanyting text, published in 1957.

Before you click through the cut, however, I have a warning. If you are a cartoonist, prepare to be schooled. You think you have a clean line? You think you have an organic sense of form? Your line is hell of wobbly and your form is organic like a Twizzler, and also your spot blacks need work. Gluyas Williams is about to show you how a real pimp rolls.

These are from The Inner Man, a series of cartoons first published in the New Yorker in 1941.

These are from The Visiting Public, published in the New Yorker in 1947 and 1948.

These are from America's Playgrounds, published in the New Yorker in 1958.

And the piece de resistance: feast your eyes on Williams' rendition of Coney Island, circa nineteen-fifty-awesome:


I'm naming my firstborn Gluyas.

22nd-Aug-2006 03:33 am (UTC)

22nd-Aug-2006 03:39 am (UTC)
Ooooooh. Gluyas is the master of the Elaborately Detailed Panorama.

See also http://www.gluyaswilliams.com/ for some multi-panel goodness.
22nd-Aug-2006 03:46 am (UTC)
Also: "Gluyas Morbius the Living Farago-Garrity" is going to have hella problems filling out his/her 1040EZ.

22nd-Aug-2006 03:43 am (UTC)
SIGH. he's in the bushmiller camp of spot blacks, i see! *jealous*
22nd-Aug-2006 04:00 am (UTC)
Good lord, that last one made my brain melt.
22nd-Aug-2006 04:56 am (UTC)
Beautiful work. Thank you so much for sharing!
22nd-Aug-2006 05:06 am (UTC)
Williams fans should also check out Nicolas Bentley.
22nd-Aug-2006 06:22 am (UTC) - so fun
I share the same passion. These are great.

have you seen much of Helen E. Hokinson's stuff? Did comics for the New Yorker in the 30s and 40s (had about 1,700 comics published there).

oh and oh, this may seem a silly question, but you've seen Ronald Searle's St. Trinian's comics, right?
22nd-Aug-2006 06:29 am (UTC)
That last one... Oh my my my.

I think I'm most impressed by the fact that all of his comics, if redrawn just a little to incorporate up-to-date places and fashions, would completely work if printed today.

I am not sure why that first illustration makes me smile so much.
22nd-Aug-2006 07:02 am (UTC)
22nd-Aug-2006 11:44 am (UTC)

22nd-Aug-2006 12:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, my.

It's like you can almost see them moving.
22nd-Aug-2006 04:11 pm (UTC)
Now I want to play shuffleboard.

Yes, I know nobody plays shuffleboard any more. That's why it's a frustrating urge. But that would so be my speed, this morning, shuffleboard....
22nd-Aug-2006 08:54 pm (UTC)
I totally agree! Awesome post.
12th-Mar-2009 09:11 pm (UTC)
well done, keep up the good posting

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