Shermund Barbara

New York, United States

Cartoonist, illustrator.

Barbara was born in San Francisco, California, around 1910. Bar­bara Shermund received her art trainingat the California School of Fine Arts, where she studied painting, sculpture, etching and design. In those days, one headed east rather than west to find fame and fortune in the world of art; no exception to the rule, Shermund moved to New York City. She repeatedly told herself that she did not intend to stay, but she nonetheless managed to eat up the money earmarked for her return trip and was forced to look for a job. She first worked for the New Yorker doing spot illustration, department headings and covers. Her entrance into the field of cartooning came, she said, the day “I was told to write lines under my drawings.” In Dale Kramer’s Ross and the New Yorker. Shermund is remembered as a “pretty girl not long in from California (who) had a firm grip on the young ladies of the Jazz Age” – undoubtedly because she was one of them.

Although she was a contributor to all the major period­icals of the 1930s and 1940s, it was in the New Yorker that Shermund’s swift, effortless grace of line and attention to detail came to maturity. Her work was almost breathlessly “feminine,” reflecting the milieu of the young, pampered, usually upper-crust, at times spoiled and almost always boy-crazy flapper (Shermund’s two female contemporaries, Alice Harvey and Helen Hokinson, also injected this quality into their work, each in her own way). In this, her ear proved as apt as her eye. Thus the two slender, long-limbed ingenues riding their bikes along a park lane or country road as one explains her tactics in what a colleague (jarncs Thurber) was pleased to call “the war between men and women”: “Then I wrote him an awfully nasty letter but, you know, cute.”

As of 1972, Shermund was still a regular contributor to King Features Syndicate, though hor art no longer showed the facility and inspiration that characterized her best work for the New Yorker. She died in 1978.

the World Encyclopedia of Cartoons 1981

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