Thursday, January 19, 2012

Susan Perl... for Grown-Ups

As much as Susan Perl will always be remembered for her prolific contribution to the world of children's books, as much as she is loved for her keen and sensitive observations of 'the secret world of children'...


...there was another more mischievous side to Susan Perl's art...


You could call it "Susan Perl for Grown-ups".


Perl's sense of humour and her skill at observing and interpreting didn't stop with children.


Her hilarious (and accurate) delineations of the many real characters (of all ages) who walk among us made her a valued contributor to many publications aimed at an older audience.


Her work regularly appeared in The New York Times, she did illustrations for Life and Ladies Home Journal (above). Perl even wrote a humorous book for adults, The Sex Life of the American Female.

That 1964 book was, perhaps, inspired in part by an adventure in reportage commissioned by legendary Mad magazine creator, Harvey Kurtzman. For the April 1961 issue of the humour magazine, Help!, editor Kurtzman sent "our agents, Susan Perl (famous artist) and X9 Steinem (assistant editor)" on a mission "to invade the Fifth Avenue headquarters of a famous international beauty ring... and record its secret rites."


The resulting article contained some of the most hilarious - and rarest - Perl illustrations I have ever seen.





Susan Perl was an observer. From her apartment on the 24th floor, overlooking the Hudson River, she worked at her drawing table next to her living room window. She kept a pair of binoculars nearby. When she needed a break, she would focus her binoculars on the activity down below. Perl said, "I truly love to see the ships pass by; they come from all over the world."


Susan Perl died in 1983 of kidney failure. She was just 60 years old.

* Most of the information for this series of posts came from an article in the January 1968 issue of American Artist magazine.

* Many thanks to Bill Peckmann, Daniel Zalkus, Isle of Lucy and Blue Coat, all of whom provided image scans that appeared in these posts.

* Next month I'll be at The Nook presenting a lecture on Female Illustrators of the Mid-20th Century.

* Information and ticket reservations available here.

1 comment:

  1. Totally brilliant - can't believe this one never surfaced in all my gender studies pursuits... oh wait, is it because Gloria Steinem admitted that feeling beautiful was important? Even though the thing taken as a whole is quite satirical? Hmmmm.