The Skirball Cultural Center presents
September 14–December 31, 2006

Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90049 (Exit Skirball Center Drive off the 405)
(310) 440-4500, fax (310) 440-4595
Contact: Stacy Lieberman (310) 440-4578, or Mia Carino (310) 440-4544
Web site,

Left: Book cover cartoon by Barry Blitt, published on May 23, 2005. Right: Cartoon by Leo Cullum, published on September 7, 1998.
As featured in the exhibition and the companion book On the Couch: A Book of Psychoanalysis Cartoons. Courtesy of The Cartoon Bank.

Los Angeles—On the Couch: Cartoons from The New Yorker, an exhibition of more than 75 cartoons published in the award-winning magazine, will be on view at the Skirball Cultural Center from September 14 through December 31, 2006. Presented in honor of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), the exhibition illustrates nearly 80 years of our culture’s preoccupation with psychoanalysis. The assemblage will include the clever works of such beloved artists as William Steig, Roz Chast, J.C. Duffy and B.E. Kaplan. On the opening night of the exhibition, the magazine’s cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff will give a talk on The New Yorker cartoon process in a rare Los Angeles appearance; this slide-illustrated lecture will take place on Thursday, September 14, at 8:00 p.m.

The New Yorker’s first cartoon foray into the realm of psychoanalysis appeared in the April 30, 1927 issue, two years after the magazine’s founding. It was a drawing by Peter Arno that portrays King Henry VIII confiding his misdeeds to his therapist, who reacts by climbing up on a chair—in terror!

Since this first cartoon poking fun at Freud and his methods, cartoonists for The New Yorker have revisited the subject through the lenses of their times. From just two psychoanalysis-related cartoons in 1927, the number published annually in The New Yorker more than doubled within a decade. These early works tended to focus on the core components of Freud’s newly introduced theories, particularly dream analysis, the Oedipus complex and repressed sex drives.

Over time, cartoons about psychoanalysis began to appear with greater frequency as Freudian therapy—its techniques and catchphrases—gained visibility in the public imagination and popular culture. During the heyday of Freudianism, which spanned the 1940s through the 1970s, The New Yorker ran between eight and 15 cartoons on therapy every year. To date, some 400 cartoons on the subject have been featured in the magazine. Through these drawings, The New Yorker has developed the codes and iconography of the therapy setting—or, as Mankoff put it, “the shrink and the shrunk, the practitioner and the practiced on. And, of course, the couch.”

Freud himself may have been among the first to analyze the irresistible appeal of humor. In his book The Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious (1905), Freud described the power of jokes “to arouse a feeling of pleasure.” He explained that caricatures of the human experience were “attractive” because they represented “a rebellion against authority, a liberation from the oppression it imposes.”

On the Couch: Cartoons from The New Yorker will be on view in the Skirball’s Ruby and Hurd Galleries. The exhibition is free to the public.

Related publication: In conjunction with the exhibition, Audrey’s Museum Store at the Skirball will have available for purchase the companion book, On the Couch: A Book of Psychoanalysis Cartoons, published by The Cartoon Bank, a division of The New Yorker magazine, and the Austrian Cultural Forum (105 pages, 94 illustrations, paperback, $19.95). The cartoons featured in the exhibition are included in this catalogue.

Related programs: During the run of On the Couch: Cartoons from The New Yorker, the Skirball will present several exhibition-related programs.
Thursday, September 14, 8:00 p.m.
A slide-illustrated talk about The New Yorker cartoon process by Bob Mankoff, acclaimed cartoonist and cartoon editor of The New Yorker.
Wednesday, October 25, 7:30 p.m.
A lecture by exhibition curator Michael Freund examining why jokes on Freudianism are funny and outlining current research on the cultural relativity of humor.
Sunday, November 19, 2:00–3:30 p.m.
A drawing workshop, led by artist Emily Cohen, for children ages 5 and up and their families.

Visiting the Skirball: The Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA (exit Skirball Center Drive off the 405). Museum Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 12–5 p.m., Thursday until 9 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; closed Monday. Gallery admission prices: $8 General, $6 Seniors. Free for Skirball Members, Students and Children under 12. Ruby Gallery exhibitions are free to the public. Admission to all exhibitions is free to the public on Thursday. Parking is free, except on Thursday evenings during the Sunset Concerts series from July 20 through August 24, 2006. For general information, the public may call (310) 440-4500 or visit
The Skirball is also home to Zeidler’s Café, which serves innovative California cuisine in an elegant setting, and Audrey’s Museum Store, which sells books, contemporary art, music and more.

About the Skirball: The Skirball Cultural Center is dedicated to exploring the connections between 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals. It welcomes and seeks to inspire people of every ethnic and cultural identity. Guided by our respective memories and experiences, together we aspire to build a society in which all of us can feel at home. The Skirball Cultural Center achieves its mission through educational programs that explore literary, visual, and performing arts from around the world; through the display and interpretation of its permanent collections and changing exhibitions; through scholarship in American Jewish history and related publications; and through outreach to the community.

Return to Gallery Pages