Magazine article The New Yorker

Leading Ladies

Magazine article The New Yorker

Leading Ladies

Article excerpt

Helen Elna Hokinson, born in rural Illinois in 1893, moved east to New York in 1920 to pursue a career as an illustrator. Five years later, she caught on at the brand-new New Yorker, which began sending her to illustrate cultural events: music recitals, dance classes, museum openings. From the first, Hokinson's perspective was gently satirical: in an early illustration, two elderly women regard a modernist sculpture (Brancusi's "Bird in Space") with apprehension. A few months after Hokinson joined the magazine, the editors began adding captions to her drawings, transforming them into cartoons.

Hokinson is best known for her society ladies. Her talent--like that of many artists of her generation, including George Price and Peter Arno--was purely for the drawings themselves; the caption writing was left to others. Hokinson's collaborator was James Reid Parker; beginning in 1931, the two of them held weekly meetings to hash out ideas. …

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