The Compleat Edward Sorel

The Compleat Edward Sorel

A must-see exhibit at New York’s School of Visual Arts looks back on the inimitable satirist’s sixty years of work.


Nation readers who have admired the drawings, covers and cartoons of Edward Sorel, appearing in the magazine over more than thirty years, should not miss the comprehensive exhibition of Sorel’s work now on view at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, as part of their Masters Series. Writing in the show’s catalogue, artist James McMullan calls Sorel “the greatest satirical artist of our time,” to which he prudently adds, “but knowing Ed, I’m sure he will insist on a rebuttal.”

This congenital contrarian’s finest work of sixty years is displayed, from his cover drawing, for the January 1943 Quill, of PS 90 in the Bronx to the full-page caricature of a soulful, doleful Oscar Wilde in a recent New Yorker, where he frequently appears along with Vanity Fair and The Nation. Sorel has sliced and diced just about every overstuffed political turkey of the past fifty years. He’s also taken on the touchier subject of religion (e.g., his Vietnam-era poster of New York’s war-loving Cardinal Spellman leading a bayonet charge, titled “Pass the Lord and Praise the Ammunition”; the Nation cartoon captioned “In religion alone liest the hope for lasting life,” showing religious fanatics bashing each other with swords, guns and crucifixes). He also does acid-etched portraits of movie stars and celebrities (Hugh Heffner as an aging Pan; the Esquire cover of Frank Sinatra surrounded by hands thrusting to light his cigarette). He’s not afraid to be his own target: he imagines himself posing in the nude for a class of his gleeful politician-victims. His definitive presidential portrait gallery runs from Carter through Nixon, Ford, Clinton, Bush II on up to Obama—with attendant aides, flunkies, co-conspirators, etc. Here is a grinning Reagan as a reverse Robin Hood shaking down pennies from the poor to enrich the rich; there Obama as Gulliver tied down by GOP Lilliputians. A film by Ed’s son, Leo Sorel, running in a continuous loop at the SVA gallery, shows him at the drawing board telling how he does it; he is abetted by cameo appearances by Jules Feiffer, and other of his peers. The artistic quality of Sorel’s drawings is superb; they are also psychologically penetrating and, above all, outrageously funny. The show closes November 5.

School of Visual Arts, 601 West 26th Street, New York, NY, 15th floor.  Admission free.

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read. It’s just one of many examples of incisive, deeply-reported journalism we publish—journalism that shifts the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media. For nearly 160 years, The Nation has spoken truth to power and shone a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug.

In a critical election year as well as a time of media austerity, independent journalism needs your continued support. The best way to do this is with a recurring donation. This month, we are asking readers like you who value truth and democracy to step up and support The Nation with a monthly contribution. We call these monthly donors Sustainers, a small but mighty group of supporters who ensure our team of writers, editors, and fact-checkers have the resources they need to report on breaking news, investigative feature stories that often take weeks or months to report, and much more.

There’s a lot to talk about in the coming months, from the presidential election and Supreme Court battles to the fight for bodily autonomy. We’ll cover all these issues and more, but this is only made possible with support from sustaining donors. Donate today—any amount you can spare each month is appreciated, even just the price of a cup of coffee.

The Nation does not bow to the interests of a corporate owner or advertisers—we answer only to readers like you who make our work possible. Set up a recurring donation today and ensure we can continue to hold the powerful accountable.

Thank you for your generosity.

Ad Policy