Paper-Bag Masks from 50 Years Ago

In 1942, The New Yorker sponsored Saul Steinberg’s entry into the United States from an increasingly anti-Semitic Italy (he was Romanian), after publishing his first cartoon only a year earlier. Thus began his lifelong relationship with the publication as cartoonist and illustrator, creating over 90 covers and 1200 illustrations in the six decades thereafter. He also exhibited drawings, paintings, prints, collages, and sculptures in galleries and museums around the world.

And, he made masks. In 1958, when photographer Inge Morath arrived at his apartment to make a portrait, he came to the door wearing a mask he had fashioned from nothing more than a brown paper bag and a marker. Over the next several years, they collaborated on the Masquerade series of portraits (which became a book in 2000), inviting friends and colleagues to pose for Morath wearing Steinberg’s playful, deceptively simple disguises.

These cocktail parties became the stuff of legend for shy, socially awkward literary types; you’d never guess that playwright Arthur Miller is behind the wheel in the fourth photo below.