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Op-Cats

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In more than a few ways, the New York Times op-ed page prefigured the blog, letting outsiders spout off alongside the media elite. Visually, the page also strayed from the paper’s staid traditions when it launched in 1970, as detailed by 30-year Times veteran Jerelle Kraus in her book All the Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn’t), out in paperback this month. She and op-ed’s other art directors commissioned illustrations stylish enough to earn an exhibition at the Louvre. (Commissions spiked by skittish editors could more than fill a different show.) Then there were the illustrations of cats. Not quite a staple of op-ed art, they were more a faint meme. And here, too, the page foreshadowed the Internet era. “Whenever there was a cat drawing, someone wanted to buy the original,” J. C. Suares, another op-ed art director, says in the book. Even then, even among Times readers, it was true: Funny cats killed.

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