At the Races with Saul Steinberg

Saul Steinberg, Untitled, 1956-1959. Ink and watercolor on paper. Gift of the Saul Steinberg Foundation, 2022.49.2

Saul Steinberg (1914-1999) was born and raised in Romania. In 1933, after a year at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Bucharest, he applied to the Faculty of Architecture but was denied entry undoubtedly because he was Jewish. He then moved to Italy, enrolled at the architecture school of the University of Milan, and began creating cartoons for the Italian humor magazines Bertoldo and Settebello. By 1940, Steinberg was seeking to leave Italy and started drawing for American publications. Once in the United States in 1942, The New Yorker offered him a contract. Soon after he was recommended for employment as a consultant at the Office of War Information, then received a commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve in 1943, and was granted citizenship. After the war, he returned to New York to resume his work.

Steinberg resisted convention throughout his career as an artist. He produced drawings, paintings, prints, collages, sculptures, and murals. Best known for the visual wit of his pen-and-ink drawings featured in The New Yorker for close to 60 years, Steinberg also contributed to other magazines, including TIME, LIFE, Vogue, Harper’s Magazine, and Sports Illustrated.

In 1952, Steinberg visited Saratoga Springs, New York, on commission from Harper’s Magazine to provide drawings for an article about the Spa. Though he previously produced a series of drawings of horses and their riders in the 1940s, this visit may have prompted his interest in thoroughbred horse racing. The drawings featured in this exhibition span a period of four years from 1955 to 1959. Three were published in his book The Labyrinth in 1960. One was later published in the 1963 Sports Illustrated article “Steinberg at the Races” that featured scenes at racetracks from Paris to Los Angeles.

The Saul Steinberg Foundation made this exhibition possible with their generous donation of artworks to the Museum’s permanent collection.

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