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J.B. Handelsman, 85; his 950 New Yorker cartoons ran gamut over 45 years

June 27, 2007|From Times Wire Services

J.B. Handelsman, who applied his dry wit to subjects ranging from politics to popular culture while creating nearly 1,000 New Yorker magazine cartoons, has died. He was 85.

Handelsman died of lung cancer June 20 at his home in Southampton, N.Y., the New Yorker said Tuesday.

In addition to his 950 cartoons and five covers for the magazine between 1961 and 2006, Handelsman illustrated several books and wrote three humor pieces that incorporated drawings. His work also appeared regularly in Playboy and in the British humor magazine Punch.

"Bud Handelsman found a way to combine the traditions of the New Yorker cartoon and editorial cartooning and make of it something totally his own," David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, said in an e-mail to the Associated Press.

"At its best, his work had political bite and, at the same time, a real humanity and wit. Everyone at the magazine -- editors, writers, artists and readers -- will miss him and will miss his unique voice," Remnick said.

In a remembrance in the magazine's current issue, Nancy Franklin says Handelsman's legacy "has as much to do with writing as it does with drawing. Handelsman may be better known for his captions than for the cartoons."

In one 1968 drawing, an audience member at a string quartet concert says to his companion, "It's dull now, but at the end they smash their instruments and set fire to the chairs."

In another, from 2003, a businessman in a corporate boardroom says, "We are among those chosen to bear the burden of rebuilding Iraq. A thankless job, with no reward apart from obscene profits."

Handelsman's daughter, Constance H. Bennett, described for Newsday what her father thought of his work from an article he wrote. "My wife likes to think I'm working in an art form. I think cartoons are very important; I think they are essential. I just don't think they're an art form," he wrote.

Handelsman was born in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1922. His given name was Bernard, but in adulthood he adopted John as his first name, and he was known informally as Bud. He studied at the Art Students League and at New York University.

He is survived by his wife, the former Gertrude Peck; three children; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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