Playboy: A Portfolio of Art and Satire
Date of Publication:
Sept. 1919 – July 1924
Place of Publication:
New York, NY
Frequency of Publication:
Irregular (intended quarterly). Publication was suspended from July 1921 to February 1923.
~255 subscribers from 1919-1921, mainly from New York City, California, and New York state. There were also subscription requests from Havana, Osaka, Paris, and Shanghai.
Egmont Arens, New York. 17 West 8th St.
30 cm. Some issues contain original hand-pulled woodcuts and linocuts.
Libraries with Original Issues:
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Smithsonian
Launched in New York City in January, 1919, Playboy: A portfolio of art and satire features a wide range of artistic and literary contributions from a diverse group of men, women, and children. Published and edited by Egmont Arens (1889-1966), owner of the Washington Square Bookshop, this little magazine was created to strengthen the intellectual community within Greenwich Village. An out-growth of the Bohemian Artistic community of Greenwich Village, the magazine enhanced the sense of community among artists and writers who lived there and further afield. In its five-year run, only nine issues of Playboy were published (most during its first two years), with the journal taking a hiatus from July 1921 to February 1923.
Each issue contained many different forms, styles, and genres of modernist art and literature, featuring a variety of original drawings, photographs, linocuts, and woodcuts. Notable contributors included Ezra Pound, Max Weber, Mina Loy, and Egmont Arens himself.
Towards the end of its run in 1924, the publication became more local in its focus, largely due to Arens’ decision to feature art borrowed from local galleries (Martin 40). At the same time, he became increasingly more committed to his work as the editor of Vanity Fair. This eclectic periodical offered a platform for known and unknown artists and writers to construct their own community’s narrative and contribute to an ever-emerging modernist movement.
Although Playboy never explicitly released a manifesto, the inside cover of the First Quarter 1923 issue provides a statement of intent*:
PLAYBOY hitherto published at odd intervals with this issue appears as a quartlerly. It seems important to publish, and to publish regularly A PORTFOLIO informal, spontaneous, uncensored and frankly experimental, which shall open its pages to those who are trying to blaze new paths of artistic expression; coming with laughter and jocundity, charging with colorful weapons OF ART AND SATIRE against the dullness, ugliness and backward-lookingness of our own day. Being in its very nature non-commercial, this enterprise needs the financial support of those who are in sympathy with its aims and such are invited to read the details of a plan, on the inside back cover, whereby they may help to make this THE MAGAZINE OF TODAY!!
*(typography style preserved from the original)
Egmont Arens (December 15, 1887 – October 2, 1966) Editor: 1919-1924
Upon completing his studies at the University of New Mexico and the University of Chicago in 1916, Arens began his career in publishing by working as the sports editor at the Albuquerque Citizen-Tribune. He then moved to New York City, where he purchased the Washington Square Bookshop in Greenwich Village and operated it from 1917-1923. Inspired by the creative energy in the bookstore, Arens began to edit, publish, and sell many works such as the Flying Stag Plays, The Little Book of Greenwich Village, and the little magazine, Playboy: A Portfolio of Art and Satire (Syracuse University Special Collections Research Center). Throughout his publication processes, Arens cultivated an adoration for visual art and became the art editor at Vanity Fair from 1922-1923 and the editor of the Creative Arts Magazine from 1927-1927. His career trajectory shifted in the 1930’s when Arens became more interested in industrial design and food packaging. After serving as the director of advertising at Calkins & Holden from 1929-1936, Arens designed the a model “K” mixer, which KitchenAid still manufactures today (Cooper Hewitt). Arens spent the later years of his life establishing the Society of Industrial Designers and the Package Designers Council. In 1965, Arens was inducted into the Academy of Fellows. He passed away on October 2, 1966, in New York City.
“Preceptors of Childhood”
“Seclusion, A Painting”
e. e. Cummings
“Cleopatra, A Poem”
“Mark and Lil, A Poem”
“The Ruined Cell, A Prize Poem”
“The Day of the Rabblement, A Reprint”
“Southwind, A Drawing”
H. Varnam Poor
Beasley, Rebecca. “Literature and the Visual Arts.” The Oxford Critical and Cultural History of Modernist Magazines. Edited by Peter Brooker and Andrew Thacker, 1st ed. ed., Oxford University Press, 2009.
“Biographical History.” Syracuse University Libraries, Special Collections Research Center.
“Egmont C. Arens.” Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, collection.cooperhewitt.org/people/18536871/bio.
“Egmont Arens: The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door.” Harry Ransom Center RSS, norman.hrc.utexas.edu/bookshopdoor/signature.cfm?item=131#1.
Hoffman, Frederick J. The Little Magazine: A History and a Bibliography. [2d ed.]. ed., Princeton University Press, 1947.
Martin, Monika. “Playboy: A Portfolio of Art and Satire, 1919-1924 Article.” Lehigh Review, vol. 23, 2015, pp. 37-43.
Morgan, Susan. “Playboy: A Portfolio of Art and Satire.” Archives of American Art Journal, vol. 52, no. 3/4, 2013, pp. 22–31. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43155514.
Playboy: a portfolio of art and satire, 1919-1924. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Playboy: a portfolio of art and satire, no. 1, 1919 January. Playboy: a portfolio of art and satire, 1919-1924. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Compiled by Severine Stier and Claire Biggerstaff (Class of ’19, Davidson College)