REIMAGINING A LITERARY ICON
PRESENTED BY LINCOLN MOTOR COMPANY
In February 1925, with the Jazz Age in full swing, a new weekly magazine called The New Yorker made its debut. For the first cover, the founding editor, Harold Ross, and the artist Rea Irvin chose an image that would encapsulate what the magazine was not: neither stuffy nor starchy, and holding nothing too precious or sacred. The slyest readers picked up on this intent from Irvin’s illustration, which took the ironic form of a top-hatted, high-collared dandy, squinting at the world through a monocle. His name? Eustace Tilley.
Through the years, Tilley reappeared on the cover of the Anniversary issue, sometimes in his original form, but eventually reimagined by prominent graphic artist. The great underground comic artist R. Crumb depicted Tilley as a scowling punk. The photographer William Wegman reimagined Tilley as one of his trademark Weimaraner dogs.
Six years ago, The New Yorker gave readers an opportunity to get in on the act of reimagining Eustace Tilley by issuing a call for submissions to the Eustace Tilley Contest. That year, and every year since, readers responded with hundreds of designs, taking Tilley’s familiar features and giving them a fresh spin, often reflecting current trends in pop culture. Reader’s submissions for the 2013 contest included Tilleys inspired by Hurricane Sandy, the 2012 presidential election, emojis, and even planking. The most popular redesign in the first-ever Reader’s Choice Awards, sponsored by the Lincoln Motor Company, reimagined Eustace in the snapshot style of Instagram.
For The New Yorker’s art editor, Francoise Mouly, the annual contest is a reminder that there’s always a way to take a familiar icon and make it fresh and relevant for a new age – a concept we know all too well. “It gives us such a warm feeling to see the investment and the commitment and the playfulness of all the entries,” she says. “It’s nice to do this as a contest, because we aren’t looking for just one answer. We’re looking for as many answers as possible.”
Discover more at now.lincoln.com.