Anatol Kovarsky (1919-2016) is best known as a cartoonist and illustrator. In his prolific career, Kovarsky contributed dozens of covers and nearly 300 cartoons to The New Yorker. Kovarsky was also remarkable as a painter, with a body of work spanning from the 1940s through mid-90s.
The son of businessman-lawyer-musician Miron Kovarsky and singer Zinaida Kovarsky, Anatol Kovarsky was born in Moscow. The family resettled in Warsaw in the wake of the Russian Revolution. By 1937, Anatol was studying in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts under Charles Guérin while also taking classes with the Cubist painter André Lhote. In 1941, he was able to board the last passenger ship accepting to transport Jewish refugees from Casablanca to the United States. It was while the boat was docked in Cuba that he and his fellow passengers learned of Pearl Harbor and that the U.S. was now at war. Kovarsky soon enlisted and returned to Europe with the U.S. Army. He was trained as an aerial topographer and assigned as a cartoonist for the publications Yank, Stars and Stripes, and Army Talks. Reunited with his parents and sister after the war, he remained in France through 1946. His humorous depictions of the experiences of American GI’s in Paris illustrate his army buddy Herbert E. French’s book, My Yankee Paris, published in 1945.
Kovarsky continued his studies as a painter once he had returned to the U.S., taking classes at Columbia University and the Art Students League under the G.I. Bill. At the same time, his humorous drawings, signed AKov, were appearing regularly in the pages of Reader’s Scope. He began contributing cartoons and spots to The New Yorker in 1947. Kovarsky’s work also appeared in numerous other magazines and newspapers, including Colliers, Life, Look, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, and The Herald Tribune.
A book of drawings, Kovarsky’s World, was published by Knopf in 1956. Kovarsky’s work is included in The Complete New Yorker, as well as in many albums of New Yorker cartoon and cover art. He provided illustrations for several books, including Darrell Huff’s Cycles in Your Life (Norton, 1964) and There Was a Young Lady Named Alice and Other Limericks (by John Armstrong; Dell, 1963); designed and drew the slide projections for the 1964 Broadway play, The Owl and the Pussycat; and in the mid-1950s created a series of prints for silk scarves.
Kovarsky had several one-man shows of his paintings and monotypes in New York City galleries (1956 Galerie Hervé, 1962 Price Gallery, 1978 Jack Gallery, 1980 Zoma Gallery). Examples of his original cartoon and original cover art are held in the Caroline and Erwin Swann collection of caricature & cartoon (Library of Congress), the Morgan Library and Museum, and the Cartoon and Caricature Museum in Basel. His daughter has been working to document and preserve his collection.