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Lee Lorenz, New Yorker cartoonist who cultivated new talent, dies at 90

Lee Lorenz, a New Yorker cartoonist who oversaw the journal’s artwork path and drawings for almost 25 years, and whose personal work — with distinctive ink-wash brushstrokes and flowing traces — poked enjoyable at home life, skewered smug fats cats and supplied wry commentary from politics to popular culture, died Dec. 8 at his residence in Norwalk, Conn. He was 90.

His daughter, Martha, confirmed the demise. No trigger was given.

Mr. Lorenz joined the New Yorker in 1958 as a part of a steady of artists, together with Bob Weber, James Stevenson and others, who helped give the journal’s cartoons a extra irreverent and culturally attuned identification amid shifting reader tastes and calls for within the Sixties and ’70s.

Mr. Lorenz’s legacy, nonetheless, was bigger than his astounding physique of labor of greater than 1,800 cartoons and dozens of covers within the New Yorker till 2015. As artwork director from 1973 to 1993 after which cartoon editor till 1997, he found and mentored a technology of cartoonists, together with Roz Chast, Liza Donnelly, Jack Ziegler and Bob Mankoff — who succeeded Mr. Lorenz as cartoon editor.

“When folks requested me what I regarded for in a New Yorker cartoonist, I at all times mentioned, ‘I desire a distinctive perspective,’” Mr. Lorenz instructed the Comics Journal in 2011. “Not simply gags, in different phrases. Most artists solely did gags and didn’t fairly perceive what a perspective was. However all the very best artists have a character.”

Mr. Lorenz’s work could possibly be each well timed and timeless. He discovered wealthy fodder in important human flaws and yearnings — greed and energy, the balancing act of marriage, the tyranny of vainness and fads — and gave it a contemporary context with just a few phrases in a caption or a flick of his pen.

In 1992, he drew a person saying his bedside prayers: “And should we proceed to be worthy of consuming a disproportionate share of the planet’s assets.” In a 2010 panel, a person dumps a briefcase of cash on the desk of an older politician, whose workplace has a portrait resembling President Ronald Reagan. “What the hell, Senator,” the caption says, “let’s lower to the chase.”

Local weather change was dealt with with no phrase: Exhibiting only a melting snowman inside a snow globe. The seek for that means was rendered by a grocer promoting “fresh insights” in “The Market of Concepts.” The shopper asks: “Simply how contemporary are these insights?”

Mr. Lorenz took explicit relish in digging into the ups and downs of residence life and relationships. Lots of of his cartoons confirmed {couples} at a crossroads — usually someplace in center age — with the person normally the one behaving badly.

In a single cartoon, a husband, lugging his suitcases and golf golf equipment, turns to his spouse: “Effectively, now that the youngsters have grown up and left, I suppose I’ll be shoving off, too.”

Mankoff described Mr. Lorenz as a “jazz cartoonist” — a twin reference to Mr. Lorenz’s longtime musical sideline enjoying cornet together with his Creole Cookin’ Jazz Band, and the way he crafted his drawings. Mr. Lorenz didn’t first make a pencil sketch or different below drawings. He would begin with an ink wash or pen and construct the pictures in a single go.

“He was improvising, like he was enjoying jazz,” Mankoff mentioned in an interview. “He was riffing. He knew what so as to add. But additionally — and this may be extra vital — he additionally knew what to go away out to seize the viewer’s eye and make his level.”

Mankoff mentioned he watched Mr. Lorenz create a cartoon in 1993 that has introduced a understanding nod to tens of millions of cat house owners. Mr. Lorenz first made passes together with his brush. Then he did just a few swipes together with his pen to seize a frowning cat taking a look at a bowl of meals simply plopped down by an equally grumpy man. “The phrase you’re groping for is ‘Thanks,’” says the person.

“He nailed it with simply three or 4 strokes,” mentioned Mankoff. “Excellent. So many cartoonists fuss and fuss. Lee by no means did that. He simply bought it proper.”

Lee Sharp Lorenz was born Oct. 17, 1932, in Hackensack, N.J., however moved often across the nation due to his father’s job organized U.S.O. exhibits. Mr. Lorenz immersed himself in comedian books, fascinated by totally different drawing strategies and compositions.

His mom’s subscription to the New Yorker launched him to the deliberately pared-down cartooning types of James Thurber and Saul Steinberg.

Mr. Lorenz studied at Carnegie Tech (now a part of Carnegie Mellon College) and Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, whose professors included the primitivist painter Philip Guston. After his positive arts diploma in 1954, Mr. Lorenz tried to make a reputation as an summary painter — additionally seeking to make some more money together with his first jazz group, Eli’s Chosen Six.

“That’s what I pursued once I bought out of artwork college, however I nonetheless wanted to make a dwelling,” he instructed the Comics Journal. “That’s how I bought into cartooning.”

Mr. Lorenz offered his first cartoon to Collier’s in 1956 and branched out to magazines together with Playboy and “all of the Playboy imitators,” he mentioned. He went on contract with the New Yorker two years later. Mr. Lorenz grew to become artwork editor in 1973 after the retirement of James Geraghty, who had been within the put up since 1939.

Mr. Lorenz successfully put to relaxation the fading system of two-person cartoonist groups, a gag author and artist. He sought out new expertise able to doing each, as he and most others did on the time. “To me,” he instructed Ladies’s Put on Every day in 1986, “a cartoonist attracts and writes. It’s a particular artwork type that requires a dovetailing of the inventive and the verbal.”

He introduced greater than 50 new cartoonists into the New Yorker fold. In 1978, he got here throughout delightfully offbeat sketches by Chast, then an aspiring illustrator growing her signature mixture of visible comedy: clunky drawings and sometimes anxiety-riven observations. Mr. Lorenz picked maybe probably the most head-scratching Chast picture for her first New Yorker cartoon: A group of nonsensical “Little Things” with made-up names resembling a “chent” and “hackeb.”

“They have been so radically totally different from the rest we have been getting,” he mentioned. “She type of invented an entire new style.”

Mr. Lorenz’s lengthy tenure on the New Yorker included its sale to Samuel I. Newhouse Jr.’s Advance Publications in 1985 that led to the dismissal of the journal’s editor, William Shawn, who had been one in every of Mr. Lorenz’s primary supporters. However Mr. Lorenz survived the shake-ups below the brand new chief, Robert A. Gottlieb, and its subsequent editor, Tina Brown.

“Lee Lorenz’s inky brushstroke was distinctive, his jokes extraordinarily humorous,” mentioned New Yorker editor David Remnick in a press release. “As an editor, he was each discerning and sort, and he introduced in an astonishing array of recent expertise to The New Yorker — the sorts of artists who created their very own visible worlds that fill our pages at the moment.”

Mr. Lorenz was married and divorced thrice. Apart from his daughter, he’s survived by a son from his first marriage; a daughter from his second marriage; two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Mr. Lorenz’s Creole Cookin’ Jazz Band performed weekly on the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts till the pandemic briefly halted exhibits. His cartoons have been complied into a number of anthologies and he additionally illustrated for kids’s books, together with Richard J. Margolis’s “The Upside-Down King” (1971) and David Updike’s “Seven Occasions Eight,” (1990) and different books resembling Bruce Feirstein’s satirical “Actual Males Don’t Eat Quiche: A Guidebook to All that Is Actually Masculine” in 1982.

In January 2015, Mr. Lorenz’s final New Yorker cartoon appeared. It confirmed “Save the Lemmings” activists utilizing a web to catch the critters as they ran off a cliff.


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