“Only lines on paper”

An unusual portrait of R. Crumb in a pensive mood. Photo: Thibault Montamat for the New York Times.

M.H. Miller of the New York Times travels to France to interview R. Crumb in this weekend’s issue of the Times‘ style magazine.

One of the more interesting dimensions of Crumb’s work over the past decade or so is a new emphasis on domesticity — how the outside world impinges on Crumb and his growing family (he’s a grandfather now), and their often comic and anxious responses to that outside world, regardless of the distance they try to maintain from it. It seems more contemplative, though still comically incisive and just as acid-tinged.

A few highlights from the interview:

“The average people out there, what they know of my work … either they love it because they are degenerates themselves or they hate it because they stand with the forces of political correctness.” …

“The whole identity politics and L.G.B.T.Q. stuff, I agree with it. These people need an equal share. I can’t argue with that. But then people get kind of intolerant about anything that could be seen as triggering.” …

The critic Robert Hughes has compared him to Bruegel, with his images of hedonism and suffering, but Crumb also evokes a painting tradition in Weimar-era Germany called lustmord, literally “sex murder,” in which artists like Otto Dix and George Grosz painted scenes of rape and mutilated female bodies that captured the nihilism in Europe between the world wars. Yet Crumb is perhaps most directly indebted to the 19th-century political cartoonist Thomas Nast, who helped bring down Tammany Hall and New York’s Boss Tweed political machine. A framed Nast hangs in the Crumbs’ hallway: an 1871 drawing of a tiger (a representation of Tammany politics) mauling a woman, who stands for justice, before an enormous audience in a coliseum. “What are you going to do about it?” reads the caption.

Crumb’s most recent work, Sauve qui peut! (Run for Your Life!), a collaboration with Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Sophie Crumb, is available from David Zwirner Books here. He also contributes regularly to Mineshaft magazine, America’s favorite reading material.