The editors of Esquire Magazine in 1966 had an article that was destined to become one of the most famous pieces of riding in the 1960s era of the new journalism. It was Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” which chronicled Talese’s efforts, unsuccessful, to interview Frank Sinatra and instead focused on the people around him.
So the editors turned instead to an illustrator named Ed Sorrel. They gave him this assignment, but they also told him he had a very short deadline.
What he came up with was a caricature of Sinatra bordered by hands stretched toward him with lit cigarette lighters. That cover became almost as iconic as the article itself, and the original now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC.
Sorel had been working as a journeyman artist and illustrator in New York City during the 1960s, as he relates in his recently published memoir Profusely Illustrated. This assignment, if completed successfully, would be a boon to his career. It would give him “more visibility than I had ever had before.” (A review by The Guardian is here.) The Amazon blurb describes the caricatures and the writing as “spirited and wickedly funny.”
His first attempts head rendering the cover war failures. He got down to the point where he had one night left before the deadline. Spurred on by the need to get it done, Sorel got his adrenaline pumping , And the result was a terrific drawing of Sinatra, perfect for the Esquire cover.
After that, Sorel landed a weekly spot in the Village Voice, New York’s countercultural newspaper of the 1960s. He also got commissions from many of the big magazine in New York, and since that time his work has appeared in the New Yorker, New York magazine, Harper’s, Time, The Atlantic, The Nation, and Rolling Stone – just to name a few.
Ed Sorel is thoroughly New York City. He was born in the Bronx, the son of Jewish immigrants, in 1929. His father was a door to door dry goods salesman whom he grew to dislike thoroughly. His mother he adored.
He went to art school Cool in New York City and then decided to set up a studio called Push Pin Studios in 1953
In 1956 he struck out on his own, and he found some market for his wild and sometimes over the top caricatures. He had no problem in satirizing icons such as the Kennedy family.
Sorel drew some of the early features for national lampoon magazine, and along the way he collected many friends in the New York publishing world. Those friends, of course, were familiar with his work and wanted it and they are magazines .
Sorel has won many awards for his work, and a 1998 the National Portrait Gallery devoted several rooms to an exhibition of his caricatures. He has published a number of books with collections of his work.
Sorel is 92 years old and still active. A documentary about his work, Nice Work if You Can Get It, directed by his son was produced in 2011 And is available for streaming on Vimeo.
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