Edward Sorel

Edward Sorel Edward Sorel

On this date in 1929, illustrator, artist and satirist Edward Sorel was born in Bronx, N.Y., to Morris and Rebecca (Kleinberg) Schwartz. He packs a lot of punch with few, and very often, no words. Look at Sorel's "Pass the Lord and Praise the Ammunition" from 1967, for example. The color halftone poster, on display at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery, depicts New York Cardinal Francis Spellman in clerical garb and Army boots on the advance, wielding a rifle with fixed bayonet. The conservative Catholic cardinal has been military vicar general of the U.S. armed forces since 1939 and was an outspoken hawk on the Vietnam War. By 1967, he was out of step with many Americans. Just as Sorel was finishing the poster, Spellman died, so Sorel waited till 1972 to use the image for the cover art of his book Making the World Safe for Hypocrisy. Sorel, who is a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Honorary Board, is a regular contributor to The Atlantic and The New Yorker and many other publications. Besides his 41 covers for the latter, his art has appeared on the covers of The Atlantic, Harpers, Fortune, Forbes, The Nation, Esquire, American Heritage The New York Times Magazine. He has illustrated many children's books, three of which he also wrote. Unauthorized Portraits (Knopf 1997) is the most recent of several collections of his work. In 1998, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., devoted several rooms to an exhibition of his caricatures. Other one-man shows include the Graham Gallery and the Davis and Langdale Gallery in New York City, the Susan Conway Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Art Institute of Boston and Galerie Bartsch and Chariau in Munich, Germany. He is a recipient of the Augustus St. Gaudens Medal for Professional Achievement from The Cooper Union, the Hamilton King Award from The Society of Illustrators, the Page One Award from the Newspaper Guild, the Best in Illustration Award from the National Cartoonists Society, the George Polk Award for Satiric Drawing, and the "Karikaturpreis der deutschen Anwaltschaft" from the Wilhelm Busch Museum in Hanover, Germany. In 2001, the Art Directors Club of New York elected him to their Hall of Fame.

Sorel graduated from the Cooper Union in 1951 and co-founded Push Pin Studios with Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast in 1953 before embarking on a very successful freelance career. In a 1997 interview in The Atlantic, Sorel was asked what issues he felt especially strong about and inspired to address. He answered: "Well, I'm one of those who regard organized religion as a dangerous force. I try whenever possible to do anti-clerical cartoons. The only place that will print them is The Nation, which has a very small circulation and pays almost nothing." Sorel, sitting for a joint interview with fellow artists Jules Feiffer and David Levine that was published in the spring 2003 Lincoln Center Theater Review as "Memories of Three Left-Wing Cartoonists," was asked about earlier saying he hated the Bush administration and Saddam Hussein“. "All I said was that we have our religious fanatics fighting their religious fanatics, which leaves me without a side to root for," Sorel said. The introduction to his National Portrait Gallery Unauthorized Portraits exhibit says Sorel's "potent spoofs of public figures . . . skewered pomposity wherever it appeared or simply mused on the exquisite oddness of the human comedy." Unauthorized Portraits has three sections: history, entertainment and the arts, and politics. "From Moses leading his kvetching people ('Some miracle! If I don't get pneumonia, that'll be a miracle') through the parted Red Sea waters, to George Gershwin teaching Fred Astaire a dance step, to Madonna seen as a 'horseperson of the apocalypse.' "

Edward Sorel's "The Last Flossing" (1992)


Compiled by Bill Dunn

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