Friday, August 29, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ Syd Hoff

I took the long way around when deciding which artist to feature today. Should it be Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (born 29 August 1780) French portrait painter and sketcher of the great and good - and bad - and wealthy tourists in 19th century Rome? Or Paul Kane (3 September 1810), Irish-born Canadian artist and intrepid traveller of the frozen wastes of Canada, sketching and recording indigenous peoples of the area, then, back at home producing paintings from his sketches, containing information which might otherwise have been lost for ever? Or should it be another street photographer, similar to last weeks' Henri Cartier-Bresson: Helen Levitt (31 August 1913) American photographer - she photographed the streets of New York?

Much as I have to admire all of these, I wasn't really feeling 'em, for one reason or another. Then I found Syd Hoff, born September 4, 1912 in New York City, a Jewish-American children’s book author and cartoonist. He died in 2004.

The name didn't ring a bell for me, but husband recognised it immediately and handed me a volume of cartoons from The New Yorker (1950-55), pointing to a couple of examples of Hoff's work.

While in high school, Milt Gross, a popular 1930s cartoonist, told Syd Hoff that "Kid, someday you'll be a great cartoonist!" At 16 he enrolled at New York's National Academy of Design. At 18 The New Yorker first bought one of his cartoons. He would eventually, from 1931 to 1975, sell a total of 571 of them to the New Yorker.

Americans are likely to be familiar, also, with his 150 plus children's books (such titles as Sammy the Seal and Danny and the Dinosaur), now also translated into many different languages. His comic strips and cartoons were featured in all the top magazines of the 20th century; his comic strip Tuffy, about a little girl who did funny stuff, was declared essential for national morale during WWII by William Randolph Hearst.

Hoff worked in other genres too. He was associated with Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen as a contributor of short fiction writing; was awarded national advertising commissions for large companies ( Chevrolet, Maxwell House Coffee and others). He even had his own TV show, Tales of Hoff on CBS. He traveled the world as entertainment on cruise ships and entertained children and teachers in schools and libraries .

Syd Hoff's official website HERE covers all facets of his work.

What particularly endeared Hoff to me? His work under a pseudonym A. Redfield. While contributing to The New Yorker magazine and other mainstream publications as Syd Hoff, he was also contributing to the Daily Worker and New Masses as A. Redfield, the pseudonym adopted for his radical work during the 1930s. The Ruling Clawss (1935) is a compilation of over 150 cartoons originally published in the Communist Daily.
In “Social Satire,” an essay by Hoff (as Redfield) included as an afterword, the artist argues that most contemporary satirists are not sharp enough: “Today we have a new group of satirists who, at the same time that they bite the bourgeoisie, use only their lips, but not their teeth” ...He praises only Art Young, “the greatest satirist of his day.” Everyone else falls short. They “are talented and funny, but . . . their comedy is all too often a whitewash for people and conditions that, in reality, are not funny” (See Nine Kinds of Pie blog HERE)

More at the Redfield website HERE.

Some of his Redfield cartoons are as apposite today as they were when he drew them:

Hoff's niece, Carol Edmonston has remarked that:

"Syd often said that ‘Society is divided into two classes: the oppressed and the class of the oppressors — [the] bourgeoisie,’"

His main astro signature, I think, in relation to his work, would be:
Venus (planet for the arts) conjunct Mars (somewhat energetically challenging) in helpful sextile to Jupiter in its own sign Sagittarius (humour, publication, philosophical). All aided and abetted by Sun in Virgo and Moon somewhere in Gemini - both ruled by communications planet Mercury.

NOTE ~ Apologies for errors and/or omissions - this post was completed away from home, using lap top and iffy connection.


mike said...

His Mars-Saturn-Uranus grand trine in air signs probably contributed to his appreciation and expression of satire.

"The New Yorker" has always been an upscale, intellectualized, literary venue that appeals to a very specialized membership: left-leaning high-brows. I always thought it ironic that the cartoons were so often critically amusing of the staunch conservative elite...easy to envision a rich liberal laughing at the "joke".

I see more and more that a deceased's estate continues to earn money, if there is a continuing interest and royalties are paid to the heirs. I see that his niece is probably performing her duties as trustee.

I hope you and anyjazz aren't in exile much longer. Let anyjazz inspect the bedrooms when you return:

Twilight said...

mike ~ Home again, home again, jiggety jig! We got home around 11 am.

Brand new AC system beautifully installed by AJ, son of aj. How lucky we are that he decided to be a heat and air specialist instead of a butcher, baker or candlestick maker eh?

Strange few days we had in Lawton and environs, but not unpleasant. Just got away in time, apparently it's military graduation time for Fort Sill, so town about to overflow, I guess - it's always pretty busy anyway.

Thanks for the additional astro input.

Yes, Syd Hof's niece is carrying on the good work, it seems.

Ewww! Wasps' nest in a bedroom. that'd be even worse than no AC!
Many years ago in Leeds, UK in our apartment on 2nd floor (3rd as you 'Muricans count floors) our bedroom window frame must have had a long, wide cavity around the top, unseen from inside or below. One summer wasps must have built their nest in it. They ever so gradually made their way into our bedroom. We didn't realise what had happened until they began coming in in droves, and we had to get an expert in to deal with it. Scary!! All clear here, far as I can see. We often get those mud-dobber huge waspy things building single homes on our porch wall. We usually leave 'em be until winter. They have a right to a wee home too. :-)

mike (again) said...

I searched and found a previous post of yours about Dorothea Lange. I am hoping you'll see this prior to the airing, so I'll put this on today's comment. It should be available for online viewing after tonight, should you not see my comment in time.

"American Masters — Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning premiering nationwide Friday, August 29 at 9-11 pm on PBS..."

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Oh! Thanks for the information. If it was aired in our region (we don't always coincide with your Texas schedules I think) we'd have missed it anyway because husband's son and his wife were visiting at that time, while son finished off a minor detail of the new AC installation.

I'll watch for a repeat though - I'd be very interested to see that.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ According to schedule online it'll be on at 1.53 AM Saturday (about 2 hours from now)What a silly time to air it!! - I won't make it until then though, and we have to recording device. DVD out in October, so if no further repeats, will have to rely on that. :-)

Twilight said...

That should read "we have no recording device". :-/

mike (again) said...

It took a while for PBS to put the full video online:

I thoroughly enjoyed viewing the program. It was interesting to know her astrological placements, because I looked at your Lange-post prior to viewing.

I don't like viewing longish programs on my computer, but maybe you can absorb this in segments.

Twilight said...

mike (again)~ Many thanks for the link. I shall watch the video in sections tomorrow - look forward to seeing it. :-)