The unmistakable graphic sign of Saul Steinberg is on display at the Triennale Milano


The unmistakable graphic sign of Saul Steinberg is on display at the Triennale Milano 

Triennale Milano is devoting a long-awaited exhibition to Saul Steinberg (1914-1999).
Curated by Italo Lupi and Marco Belpoliti in collaboration with Francesca Pellicciari, ‘Saul Steinberg. Milano New York’  is a tribute that Milan owes to this great artist, who dedicated so many of his sharply intelligent works to the city in which he resided during his formative years.
The exhibition is filled with drawings in pencil, pen, crayon; works made using rubber stamps and watercolors, paper masks, objects/sculptures, fabrics, and collages, documenting Steinberg’s intense and versatile artistic output. These works are complemented with documents and photographs which provide a closer understanding of the artist’s life. In addition, the setup shows a selection of original magazines and books including some of Steinberg’s most significant contributions, for instance, the famous covers for ‘’The New Yorker’’.

cover image:
Saul Steinberg, Riverhead, Long Island, 1985. Acrylic, crayon, marker, watercolor, colored pencils, and color film on folder folded in half. The Saul Steinberg Foundation, New York.
© The Saul Steinberg Foundation/Artists. Rights Society (ARS) New York.

Steinberg never forgot the years spent in Milan (from 1933 to 1941), where he gained a degree at the faculty of Architecture in the Royal Polytechnic, besides making important friendships with several leading figures in the lively cultural world of the city. Milan is also the place where his artistic career starts, thanks to his first contributions to satirical magazines such as Il Bertoldo and Settebello, in the 1930s, through which he gained his precocious fame as a cartoonist.


Saul Steinberg, Gallery of Milan,1951. Ink, grease pencil, and watercolor on paper.
Private collection. © The Saul Steinberg Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York

Due to racism, Steinberg was expelled from Italy in 1941 and through great difficulty, he reached the United States in 1942. From there, having joined the allied armed forces, he left in order to provide an eye-witness account of the events in that global conflict, reaching theatres of war in China, India, North Africa, and Italy. From his war experiences would come important works, two of which – previously exhibited in the MoMA during the exhibition Fourteen Americans in 1946, will be in the Triennale.

The nucleus of the exhibition is a work that Steinberg made specifically for Milan: four preparatory drawings, each composed of a strip of paper, folded like a concertina, 10 meters long; after being enlarged photographically, these were engraved, using the technique of “sgraffito”, onto the curved walls of the ‘Labirinto dei ragazzi’ (The Children’s Labyrinth) intended by BBPR (a studio for architecture), for the 10th Triennale di Milano in 1954. These four Leporelli (strips of paper folded into a concertina shape), part of the gift made to the Biblioteca Braidense, contain many of the artistic motifs and signs that Steinberg was aiming to develop throughout his long career.
First and foremost is the motif of the line, the simplicity of which in Steinberg’s hands and mind, takes on inexhaustible forms in a continuous experimental narrative.

Saul-Steinberg-labirinto-dei ragazzi-Milano-1954-TRN_X_15_0933

Parco Sempione – Labirinto dei ragazzi – (The Children’s Labyrinth), design BBPR, drawing by Saul Steinberg. 10th Triennale di Milano, Milan,1954. Image courtesy of Archivi Triennale (

In the 1970s, Steinberg dedicates to Milan other supremely intelligent drawings, depicting the city as prompted by his memories. We can see the forbidding twentieth-century architecture of
the Regime, still deep in grotesque scenarios of daily life under the Fascists, the places near the Polytechnic where he was living in Milan, and other postcards from his past: “At that time, the
air in Milan was perfect, and the light was absolutely beautiful, and I witnessed something that I had seen before: the calm and silent awakening of a city: people walking, people on bicycles,
trams, workers”.
Alongside this, there is room for the longest synopsis possible of everything forming Steinberg’s varied and surprising universe: a glimpse of a world that accepts, interprets, and reworks motifs
and subjects of every kind, in a style and with a vision immediately recognizable.

Saul-Steinberg-Via Ampere-1970-triennale-milano-2021

Saul Steinberg, Via Ampere 1936, 1970, pencil and colored pencils on paper
Originally published in The New Yorker, October 7, 1974
Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, Milano © The Saul Steinberg Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York.

Saul-Steinberg-Senza titolo-1949-54-triennale-milano-2021

Saul Steinberg, Untitled, 1949-54, ink and pencil on paper on paper.
The Saul Steinberg Foundation, New York, © The Saul Steinberg Foundation/Artists
Rights Society (ARS) New York


Saul Steinberg, Woman Seated 1950-51, ink and crayon on laid paper.
The Saul Steinberg Foundation, New York © The Saul Steinberg Foundation/Artists
Rights Society (ARS) New York.

Saul-Steinberg-Senza titolo-1965-triennale-milano-2021

Saul Steinberg, Untitled, 1965, ink and pencil on paper.The Saul Steinberg Foundation, New York. © The Saul Steinberg Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York


Saul Steinberg, Cover of The New Yorker, Mar.29, 1976. © The Saul Steinberg Foundation /Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Cover reprinted with permission of The New Yorker magazine. All rights reserved.

Saul Steinberg. Milano New York
Triennale Milano
15 October 2021 / 13 March 2022


Evelyn Hofer, Saul Steinberg with his hand, New York 1978, © Estate of Evelyn Hofer.

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