The New Yorker celebrated its 90th anniversary on Monday with a double issue, and that issue includes nine covers riffing on the magazine’s longtime icon, Eustace Tilley. “That image, of a ‘starchy-looking gent with the beaver hat and the monocle,’ so effectively established the magazine’s tone that it was published, nearly unchanged, every February until 1994,” Francoise Mouly wrote in an introduction to the art.
To celebrate the fact that we’re entering our tenth decade, we turned, as we do every week, to our artists for ideas, and this time we decided to publish more than one. We picked nine covers for our ninety years, selecting images that reflect the talent and diversity of our contributors and the range of artistic media they use: oil painting for Kadir Nelson and Anita Kunz; pen and ink with watercolor for Roz Chast, Barry Blitt, and Istvan Banyai; oil pastel for Lorenzo Mattotti; collage for Peter Mendelsund; and digital art for Christoph Niemann. Some of these artists are regulars—this is Barry Blitt’s eighty-eighth New Yorker cover and Lorenzo Mattotti’s thirtieth. Others are newcomers. Each brings Eustace Tilley squarely into the twenty-first century, and proves that art is as alive on the cover of the magazine today as it was in 1925.
Here are the nine covers:
It’s hard to know what people who picked up the first issue of The New Yorker, eighty years ago this month, made of the drawing on the cover. The picture is a joke, of course: which is more ephemeral, the dandy or the butterfly? But the picture also seems to be saying something about the magazine itself, and the question is: What? Is the man with the monocle being offered as an image of the New Yorker reader, a cultivated observer of life’s small beauties, or is he being ridiculed as a foppish anachronism? Is it a picture of bemused sophistication or of starchy superciliousness? Did readers identify with the cover, or did they laugh at it?