The image on the left is the cover that The New Yorker planned to run if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 election. On the right is the cover the magazine actually ran, a somewhat (no — roaringly) ambiguous statement.


The “what if” cover was used in the September 25 issue of The New Yorker to accompany editor David Remnick’s sitdown interview with Hillary upon the release of her book, What Happened.

The image, Michael Cavna tells us, is by French artist Malika Favre and is titled “The First.” It depicts a historic President Hillary Clinton gazing at the moonlight from the would-be viewpoint of the Oval Office. Running with Remnick’s article, the image takes on an entirely different tone — “not of history, but of the poignancy of the hypothetical,” Cavna observes.

“That image brings everything back to me in a flash,” New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly told Cavna at the Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “The night of the election, I was at the office late, hard at work with final retouching on [Favre’s] image. I was focused on the technical details, getting the face just right, and on the layout...

“I was trying not to tune in the results coming in. I had not prepared anything else [for the post-Election issue],” continues Mouly, who last winter launched the Resist! cartoon newspaper in response to President Trump’s victory (see Opus 361). “The sense of dread that crept among the few colleagues still in the office eventually overwhelmed me, and I left.”

Favre’s experience on that historic day was somewhat different: “I remember going to bed with a feeling of relief, pride and excitement and waking up the next day to intense disappointment. It was frustrating on all counts.”

The artist notes that the artwork can be read on multiple levels. “There is that moment of glory of seeing her standing in the Oval Office at night,” the artist says of the Clinton figure, “but also that feeling of anticipation and almost loneliness that I wanted to convey. A little bit like a ‘What now…?’ moment.”

Mouly salutes the lasting power of Favre’s image, even when cast in a different historic light.

“The pent-up hope, the sense of accomplishment, the turn toward the future that we embraced up to that day is still in the image. It’s a testimony to the skill of a great artist that she can bring us back to that time of hope,” says Mouly, who has spoken often about her opposition of Trump. “And with her permanent record of that feeling, we’ll find the strength to build a future we can believe in.”

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