Property of a Private New York Collection
"Drawing is a way of reasoning with paper" -Saul Steinberg
Having been compared to an extraordinary list of influential artists and writers, a list that includes Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Juan Miro, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce, Saul Steinberg has been described by one of America's most distinguished art critics Harold Rosenberg, as "a virtuoso of exchanges of identity."(H.Rosenberg, quoted in "Saul Steinberg, Epic Doodler, Dies at 84," The New York Times, 13 May, 1999, p.A1) An artist who cannot be confined to one particular style, Steinberg is a frontiersman of genres. Exploring both verbal and visual, his compositions "cross the border between art and caricature, illustration, children's art, art brut, satire, while conveying reminiscences of styles from Greek and Oriental to Cubist and Constructivist."(H. Rosenberg, Saul Steinberg, The Whitney Museum of Art, New York, 1978, p.10).
Naturally inclined towards comedy, Steinberg continued throughout his career to break the barrier between high art and mass media, and distinguished himself through his unique works on paper. Among the American artists, such as; Arshille Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann and Adolf Gottlieb (who like Steinberg were immigrants), Steinberg emerged as one of the first artists in the post-war years to introduce the individual identity as a subject make self-creation a central theme in his oeuvre. Considering art to be autobiography, the majority of Steinberg's peers, like himself were all immigrants. Playing on the theme of emigration and bureaucratic guises of identity, passports, fingerprints, signatures his drawings also poke fun at the art of drawing itself. Yet behind his playfulness, there is also a serious and grim side to this universal self-transformation. Steinberg's drawings are "full of figures on the edges of precipices, statues falling from their pedestals, solitary individuals staring into voids."(Ibid., p.11)
Influenced by Seurat, Klee, Egyptian paintings, drawings found in public toilets, primitive art, insane art and embroidery, Steinberg has a number of ways of referring to himself in his drawings: as a man in profile, a cat, a dog, a fish and a rabbit peering warily out of a man's geometrical head. His alter ego was always detached, curious, passive and fearful."(Ibid., p.1) His drawings are to be viewed not as illustrations of a doctrine of a world view but rather as experiences. For Saul Steinberg, the drawing means to each spectator what he can find in it.