2017-02-24 04:57:14 UTC
James Stevenson, New Yorker cartoonist, Cos Cob resident, dies
By Robert Marchant
Updated 9:41 am, Tuesday, February 21, 2017
GREENWICH — James Stevenson, a cartoonist who skewered the self-important and deflated the grandiose with a deft touch in almost 2,000 cartoons for the New Yorker magazine, died Friday at his home in Cos Cob from complications of pneumonia. He was 87.
Aside from being one of the most prolific cartoonists in the field, Stevenson worked in a variety of formats, contributing written pieces to the magazine, along with covers and illustrations, in the tradition of James Thurber and Peter Arno.
“A master of all trades,” said a fellow cartoonist, Michael Maslin. “An abundance of wonderful, wonderful work. As a younger person, when I started at the New Yorker, he was one of the gods.”
Stevenson’s work was often topical, playing off recent events, but the images had enduring appeal.
“It would make you laugh, as the best cartoons do, about something that’s kind of absurd, about our language, or politics or culture.... So many of them could be published now. And it was almost effortless — though I know he worked hard. It seemed like it came right out of him,” said Maslin, who produces Inkspill, a website that covers the field of cartooning.
“The look of his work, it’s so inviting. It brings you right in. Then he gives you the payoff,” he said. “And his covers are so distinct, quite beautiful. Wonderful moments, so alive.”
Stevenson was born in New York City on July 11, 1929, to Harvey and Winifred Worcester Stevenson. Harvey Stevenson, an architect, was the principal designer of the F.D.R. Drive in Manhattan. He graduated from The Hackley School in Tarrytown, N.Y., and Yale University.
Stevenson served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1951 to 1953, attaining the rank of second lieutenant. He was a reporter for Life Magazine from 1954 to 1956, and he later joined the New Yorker, where he produced nearly 2,000 images.
In the early 1990s, Stevenson cast a loving eye on the streets and history of New York City. For the New York Times and its editorial page, he created “Lost and Found New York,” animated essays on the city and its surroundings. It was later published as a book of the same name.
“Everything in the city seemed to matter once Stevenson took the trouble to observe it and make you see it, too. He once wrote about and sketched the cast-iron mini-manholes in a sidewalk — each one as humble, as absurdly individualistic as folded napkins,” wrote a New Yorker colleague, Kennedy Fraser, in the foreword.
A longtime resident of Cos Cob, Stevenson raised a large family, and his children provided fodder and inspiration for his endeavors as a children’s book author.
“I was always looking for something to make into a book, and with children around it’s a very congenial activity,” Stevenson once recalled.
Stevenson also worked on a musical. In 1995, with Richard Roberts doing the music, he wrote the book and lyrics to “Rolling in Dough.”
He is survived by his wife, Josie Merck, of Cos Cob, whom he married on Sept. 21, 1993.
“Passionate artist, never stopped,” she recalled Monday.
Stevenson also kept a summer home on Block Island, R.I., and wrote an illustrated work about the island and its marine life, real and imaginary.
In addition, he is survived by nine children: Chuck Stevenson of New York City; Suçie Stevenson of Brewster, Mass.; Jim W. Stevenson of Los Angeles, Calif.; Walker Stevenson of New York City; Harvey Stevenson of Paris, France; Peter Stevenson of Guilford, Conn.; Jane Stevenson of Santa Fe, N.M.; Edwina Stevenson of Branford, Conn.; and Emily Stevenson of Branford. He also has a stepdaughter from his second marriage, Oona Coy of Northampton, Mass.; and a stepson, Morgan Coy of Rhinebeck, N.Y. He also leaves behind six grandchildren and four step-grandchildren
He was previously married to Jane Walker. A brother, Eric Stevenson, predeceased him.
A private service is being planned for the spring.
A showing of Stevenson’s work is running through March 16 at the Century Club, 7 West 43rd St., in Manhattan.