“Loading” depicts a classic Tilley, but blurred — and he’s covered by the symbol for a slow-loading document. When you see the image on a mobile device, it’s a trompe l’oeil.
According to the New Yorker, readers’ winning entries have been featured in the magazine before, but this is the first time they have inspired an actual cover. Some of the runners-up feature Tilley in the Chrysler Building, in Occupy Wall Street, and in a car, wearing earbuds. You can see all of the entries, and Culbert’s original design (it was modified for the cover) in a slide show.
Tilley became the iconic symbol of the New Yorker when the character was featured on the magazine’s first cover in 1925. He appears on the magazine’s February anniversary issue nearly every year.
In 2005, Louis Menard analyzed the meaning of Tilley: “The picture is a joke, of course: which is more ephemeral, the dandy or the butterfly? But the picture also seems to be saying something about the magazine itself, and the question is: What? Is the man with the monocle being offered as an image of the New Yorker reader, a cultivated observer of life’s small beauties, or is he being ridiculed as a foppish anachronism?” Now, with his perpetually-loading portrait, Culbert’s Tilley and his butterfly have turned an ephemeral moment into a lasting joke.