In February, 1925, Rea Irvin, The New Yorker’s first art editor, designed the cover of the magazine’s inaugural issue. That cover’s central character, a dandy peering at a butterfly through a monocle, would come to be known as Eustace Tilley, and he has graced the cover of the magazine nearly every February in the ninety-five years since. This is all a matter of historical record—but Barry Blitt, in this year’s Anniversary Issue, tells a different origin story. We recently talked to Blitt about drawing a familiar face.
You’ve drawn many a Eustace Tilley. Is there something pleasing about revisiting familiar forms?
Well, certain familiar forms are probably traumatic to revisit, but Tilley is a joy to draw repeatedly. All the hard work has been done for you—it’s a beautifully designed image. Hard to make a mess of those shapes and colors, though I give it the old college try.