1910 – 1982
Who was Abner Dean?
Abner Dean, born Abner Epstein, was an American cartoonist who was the nephew of sculptor Jacob Epstein. In allegorical or surrealist situations, Dean often depicted extremes of human behavior amid grim, decaying urban settings or barren landscapes. His artwork prompted Clifton Fadiman to comment, "His pictures are trick mirrors in which we catch sight of those absurd fragments of ourselves that we never see in the smooth glass of habit."
Graduating from Dartmouth in 1931, Dean studied at the National Academy of Design. He worked as a commercial illustrator, contributing to The New Yorker, Esquire and other publications. His work for Life included illustrations of George Orwell's 1984 for a Life article on Orwell.
Seven more Dean collections were published over the next 16 years. As indicated by the title of his Naked People, his more personal work portrayed most often unclothed people in a variety of absurdist situations, reflecting the themes of disillusionment, self-delusion, yearning and the meaninglessness of modern life. Despite this, he usually drew in a very slick, professional and cleanly drawn, even cute style. Dean's vision expressed a darkness atypical of cartoon work of his time. He has begun to accumulate a posthumous cult following of admirers.