Have Gags, Will Travel: The Life and Times of a New York Cartoonist


Have Gags, Will Travel: The Life and Times of a New York Cartoonist

March 10, 2012 - July 1, 2012

Exhibition sponsored by
Mary Lou and Andrew Abruzzese
The Pineville Tavern

From The New Yorker to Boys’ Life, from lurid detective magazines to church quarterlies, the ‘gag’ has become such a staple of American life that we rarely notice the skills that go into making them. Sylvia Getsler (1926-2009) was a rarity in the cartooning world—a highly successful female gag artist whose work was published in the Saturday Evening Post, Playboy, True Detective, McCall’s, and Ladies Home Journal. Born in Poland, she emigrated to New York in 1933, and by her early twenties had begun what became a regular Wednesday ritual: traveling around New York City with portfolio in hand, visiting the cartoon editors of various ‘syndicates’ that controlled what got printed in numerous magazines. As a freelancer, she had to sell her gags to survive, and what often sold was a world in which every man was a skirt-chaser and an alcoholic, and every woman’s mission in life was to shop and get married. Getsler made hundreds of these gags that were published around the world, but her heart was in the wit and innocence of children. This exhibit focuses on her beautifully drawn gags of kids—kids who want to understand grown-ups but maybe never be one, kids who are wise beyond their years but constantly befuddled by the strange rituals of adulthood. While the gender-based gags now seem remarkably dated, Getsler’s insights into the world of children remain as timeless and relevant today as the day they were drawn.