Saul Steinberg was born in Ramnicul-Sarat, Romania. At eighteen he left for Milan, Italy, where he studied architecture at the Polytechnic Institute and drew cartoons for magazines. In 1942 he settled in the United States, which he toured by bus, train, and car. Many of his drawings reflect his discovery of America's favorite pastimes and traditions. Later he traveled to South America, Africa, and Europe.
Steinberg's humorous and imaginative portrayals of the human condition have won him great popularity. He is best known for the cartoons that he regularly contributed to The New Yorker and other magazines. Steinberg also makes paintings, prints, collages, and murals. A master of line, his calligraphy is often set off against straight edges or curving geometric forms, inviting the viewer to meander through the composition.
Using images of familiar items such as furniture, animals, letters, numbers, and geometric shapes, Steinberg describes modern life with its pitfalls, dilemmas, and moments of triumph. Identity is a major theme in his work, explored in a visual vocabulary that includes fingerprints, passport photos, and masks.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion program to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art. Produced by the Department of Education Resources, this teaching resource is one of the Gallery's free-loan educational programs.]