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Viewing Room | Saul Steinberg: Imagined Interiors

March 23, 2020 - April 6, 2020

Saul Steinberg (1914-1999) redefined the possibilities of drawing, casting it as a philosophical investigation, “a way of reasoning on paper.”

Centered on domestic scenes, these works by Steinberg critique as much as they transform the quotidian.

His ingenious experiments with drawing and other media, including photography, collage, and sculpture, earned him critical acclaim as a modernist artist in the post-war period, while his numerous drawings and covers for The New Yorker made him dear to a broad American public—the people whose daily lives and customs became the subject of his art. ​

Saul Steinberg, Untitled (Victorian Interior), 1949-1954, ink over pencil on paper, 14-1/4″ × 23″ (36.2 cm × 58.4 cm) © 2020 Saul Steinberg Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In the 1970s, Steinberg began reflecting on his early life in Romania and Italy, creating overtly autobiographical drawings—a rarity in his oeuvre. But rather than indulging in nostalgia, this image of the artist playing the violin as a boy finds humor in his humble beginnings. Keeping tempo by tapping his foot, young Steinberg seems to awaken the tiger adorning the rug—a visual play underlining the fact that both beast and child exist on the same two-dimensional plane, even though the latter is read as somehow “less flat” than the former. This drollery momentarily distracts from the modesty of the family abode, sparsely decorated with rustic furniture and folksy patterns. “I was embarrassed to be part of a primitive civilization,” Steinberg expressed of his Romanian background. Nevertheless, the centrality of music and presence of an attentive listener in this scene suggest that an appreciation for the arts did exist in his childhood home.

Click image below hear Charles Louise Ambroise Thomas’s “Gavotte,” from “Mignon,” the composition pictured in Steinberg’s drawing.

Pace’s online viewing rooms offer rich contextual lenses through which to engage with our artists’ work and exhibitions. To inquire about any of the works featured in this exhibition, please email inquiries@pacegallery.com

We invite you to explore our other Viewing Rooms including A Swiftly Tilting Planet, James Turrell, Julian Schnabel: The Patch of Blue the Prisoner Calls the Sky, Paul Graham: The Seasons, Arlene Schechet: Skirts, and Noland: Flares.


March 23, 2020
April 6, 2020
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Pace Gallery 25th Street
540 West 25th Street
New York, NY 10001 United States
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(212) 421-3292
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Saul Steinberg
Michaela Mohrmann