Girl in Bathtub 1949
Steinberg was born in Râmnicu Sărat, Romania. He studied philosophy for a year at the University of Bucharest, then later enrolled at the Politecnico di Milano, studying architecture and graduating in 1940. During his years in Milan he was actively involved in the satirical magazine Bertoldo.
Steinberg left Italy after the introduction of anti-Semitic laws by the Fascist government. He spent a year in the Dominican Republic awaiting a U.S. visa; in the meantime, he submitted his cartoons to foreign publications. In 1942, The New Yorker magazine sponsored his entry into the United States, and thus began Steinberg’s lifelong relationship with this publication. Through well over half a century working with The New Yorker, Steinberg created nearly 90 covers and more than 1,200 drawings.
During World War II, he worked for military intelligence, stationed in China, North Africa, and Italy. After the war’s end, he returned to work for American periodicals, merging an encyclopedic knowledge of European art with the popular American art form of the cartoon, to pioneer a uniquely urbane style of illustration. Although best remembered for his commercial work, Steinberg did exhibit his work throughout his career at fine art museums and galleries. In 1946, Steinberg, along with artists such as Arshile Gorky, Isamu Noguchi, and Robert Motherwell, was exhibited in the critically acclaimed “Fourteen Americans” show at The Museum of Modern Art. He has also enjoyed a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1978) and another posthumous one at the Institute for Modern Art in Valencia (IVAM), Spain (2002).
After Steinberg’s death in 1999, the Saul Steinberg Foundation was established in accordance with the artist’s will. In addition to functioning as Steinberg’s official estate, the Foundation is also a nonprofit organization with a mission “to facilitate the study and appreciation of Saul Steinberg’s contribution to 20th-century art” and to “serve as a resource for the international curatorial-scholarly community as well as the general public.” The Foundation has been instrumental in organizing the Saul Steinberg: Illuminations travelling exhibition, which will display original Steinberg works at various museum and galleries around the world, including Fondation Cartier-Bresson, Paris (May 6-July 27, 2008), Kunsthaus Zürich (August 22-November 2, 2008), Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, (November 26, 2008-February 15, 2009) and Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, (March 13-June 1, 2009). The U.S. copyright representative for the Saul Steinberg Foundation is the Artists Rights Society.