Sunday, 14 August 2011


cartoons i love cartoons

The History of the Cartoon


Cartoon (humorous drawing), pictorial sketch or caricature, by implication humorous or satirical, and usually published in a newspaper, magazine, or periodical. In recent years the word has mostly been used to describe three specific kinds of drawing. These are the political, or editorial, cartoon—the main daily or weekly pictorial comment in a newspaper or magazine, referring to a current political or social issue; the pocket cartoon—a single-column drawing on a topical subject, often on the front page of a newspaper; and the single-joke, or gag, cartoon, which relies for its effect on amusing social commentary or wordplay.

Before the introduction of the term “cartoon” in its modern sense in the 19th century, satirical and humorous drawings of all kinds were referred to as caricatures. Today “caricature” is used mostly to refer to distorted portraiture that emphasizes the characteristic traits of an individual; it may either stand on its own or form part of a cartoon. Beyond these central forms, the term “cartoon” has also been applied to comics, television and film animation, multi-frame jokes published in newspapers, continuity strips, graphic novels, humorous advertising, humorous book and magazine illustrations, and satirical puppetry.


The Origins of Cartoons

What may be seen as possibly the earliest political cartoon is an anonymous woodcut entitled Le Revers du Jeu des Suysses (The Other Side of the Swiss Game), produced in 1499. In this, the pope, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the kings of France and England can be seen playing cards while, under the table, a Swiss soldier stacks the decks in a satirical commentary on French ambitions in Italy (the support of elite Swiss soldiers was essential to France). At about the same time, Pope Alexander VI was depicted as a devil and in another drawing a Jesuit priest is given a wolf’s head. Perhaps the most memorable caricature of this period—and one exactly datable and attributable to a known artist—was an anti-Protestant woodcut by Erhard Schoen of 1521, showing the Devil playing a pair of bagpipes, the bellows of which are depicted as the head of Martin Luther.

A number of other artists of this period also produced heavily allegorical and often fantastical drawings which have resonances in the modern cartoon. However, it was in Italy at the hands of the Carracci family and others such as Pier Leone Ghezzi—the first artist to earn a living solely by this kind of work—that the modern cartoon can be said to have been moulded. It was also in Italy that these early caricaturas flourished, and almost uniquely so until collections of such drawings (especially those of Ghezzi) found their way across Europe, and Hogarth began his sequence of “modern moral subjects” in England in the 1730s.


The 18th Century

Lord Byron is reputed to have said: “Ridicule is the only weapon the English climate cannot rust.” In the field of cartoons and caricature it could be argued with some justification that the English—or more properly the British—have often wielded the sharpest weapons of all.

The first British artist to excel in this area—for many the true founder of the modern cartoon in all its aspects, whether socio-political satire, caricature, or simple graphic humour—was William Hogarth. He was also the first artist to mass-produce his own work, in the form of engravings, for sale to the public. His satires on the follies and vices of his age—beginning with A Harlot’s Progress and The Rake’s Progress—were a great success and set the tone for all future work. However, Hogarth’s successors differed from him in two respects—they had their work reproduced by etching rather than engraving and they were more concerned with political propaganda and pictorial jokes than moral themes.

The London-based printer and publisher Arthur Pond produced a collection of European caricatures (including many by Ghezzi) in 1744 but, according to Horace Walpole, the first Briton to make satirical drawings of specific political figures was the amateur artist George, Marquis Townshend. However, Hogarth’s two most important successors in the 18th century were Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray.


The Early 19th Century

Rowlandson was primarily a social satirist and made numerous prints that commented on the manners and fashions of the day, or that depicted bawdy scenes. However, he is probably best known for his creation of what is perhaps the first cartoon character, Dr Syntax, in The Three Tours of Dr Syntax (1809, 1820, and 1821).

Though Rowlandson did in fact produce many fine political drawings (especially of Napoleon), it was James Gillray, with the support of the leading West End print-seller Mrs Hannah Humphrey (above whose shop he lived), who dominated the political field in this period. His attacks on Pitt, George III and George IV, the French Revolution, and Napoleon bore a savagery and passion that have only recently begun to reappear in the political cartoon.

The last of the really important British graphic satirists of the Georgian period (before France began to dominate the scene) was George Cruikshank. Working at first with his brother Robert in the Scourge, his illustrations to William Hone’s pamphlets attacking George IV forced the king to try to bribe him to tone down his work. He also produced a series called Monstrosities (1816-1829), mocking fashions, and was so popular that Sketches by Boz, which he illustrated, sold at first largely on the artist’s name rather than that of the then little-known writer Charles Dickens. However, in about 1847 he joined the Total Abstinence movement and his work lost its edge completely.

Other notable British artists of this period include William Heath (Paul Pry), who edited and illustrated the Northern Looking-Glass (1825-1826), the first caricature magazine in Europe; John Doyle (HB), the grandfather of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; and the gifted Robert Seymour, who was the main illustrator of Figaro in London (a precursor of Punch) and who produced seven plates for Dickens’s Pickwick Papers before his untimely death by suicide.

The technique of lithography, invented in 1798, gave artists the opportunity of drawing directly on to the printing surface and allowed a much wider range of textures and colours than was possible with etching or engraving (see Prints and Printmaking). Caricaturists were not slow to exploit the new medium. Foremost among them was the Frenchman Honoré Daumier, whose work dominated this period and who exerted enormous influence worldwide.

The early 19th century was also the era of the mass development of the press. Hitherto, humorous or satirical drawings had only appeared as individual works of art or as limited-edition prints—often hand-coloured—available only in specialist shops in large cities such as London. In the 19th century, however, with the advent of lithography and woodblock engraving, cartoons and caricatures began to appear in newspapers and magazines, which were widely disseminated and sometimes also used colour printing techniques.

In France the cartoonist Charles Philipon, generally acknowledged as the father of the modern humorous magazine, founded La Caricature in 1830. In its pages, he and Daumier, among others, mercilessly lampooned Louis-Philippe. On one occasion, Daumier drew him as Gargantua (the giant whose legendary exploits were popularized by Rabelais) sitting on a commode and Philipon himself once depicted him as a pear—the subsequent furore led to both artists being imprisoned. Then in 1832 Philipon began the less political but even more successful magazine LeCharivari, with contributions by Daumier, Paul Gavarni (under the pseudonym Guillaume-Sulpice Chevalier), Jean-Ignace-Isodire Grandville (under the pseudonym Gérard), and others. When in 1835 French censorship laws prevented direct attacks on individuals, the satirists took to using type-figures, Daumier’s characters Ratapoil and Robert Macaire being particularly noteworthy.

 Meanwhile, in Britain, the Northern Looking-Glass (which had been republished as a monthly sheet of caricatures by Thomas Maclean in 1830) paved the way for Gilbert à Beckett’s Figaro in London (1831), with its maxim that “Satire should, like polish’d razor keen / Wound with a touch that’s scarcely felt or seen”, and ultimately led to Henry Mayhew’s hugely successful magazine Punch: or the London Charivari (1841), modelled at first on Philipon’s journal (as reflected in its subtitle).

It was in a feature in this latter weekly magazine, two years after its foundation, that the word “cartoon”, in its modern sense of a humorous or satirical drawing, was first used. A competition had been announced for designs for frescos to decorate the walls of the new Houses of Parliament in Westminster (the old building had burnt down). When all the entries—which took the form of traditional cartoons, or templates of the kind used for fresco painting, tapestries, mosaics, and so forth—had arrived, an exhibition was held in 1843. Punch lampooned the show and at the same time drew attention to the plight of the city’s underprivileged masses in a series of six poignant drawings by its main artist, John Leech. The first of these, appropriately superscribed “Cartoon No. 1”, depicted a crowd of dishevelled people looking at the exhibition, with the caption “Shadow and Substance”. After the series ended, the word “cartoon” continued to be used for the magazine’s main weekly full-page topical drawing. Later, however, it became more widely used to describe humorous or satirical drawings in general and that sense has remained to this day.


The Late 19th Century

The second half of the 19th century saw a flowering of first-class talent in cartoons and caricatures. In France—appearing in Le Rire (1894), Le Journal Amusant, and other publications—were Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Gaspard-Félix Tournachoy (under the pseudonym Nadar), André Gill (under the pseudonym Louis Gosset de Guines), Gustave Doré, and the Russian-born master of the caption-less drawing, Caran D’Ache (Emmanuel Poiré). Owing something in style to the German painter and poet Wilhelm Busch and others, the work of Caran D’Ache had considerable impact on the more open, less cross-hatched style of drawing that would come to characterize 20th-century cartoons, comic strips, and animation. A typical example of his histoires sans paroles (stories without words) is “The Cow and the Train”. This comprises seven almost identical full-face images of a cow standing in a field, seen, as it were, from the viewpoint of an invisible passenger in a train. Over the seven frames the cow’s eyes move from left to right as the train passes by and in the eighth frame it lowers its head and resumes grazing.

Elsewhere on the Continent, Virginio headed Il Fischietto in Italy and in Germany—working for such new magazines as Fliegende Blätter (1845), Kladderadatsch (1848), and Simplicissimus (1896)—were such accomplished artists as Eduard Thöny, Thomas Theodor Heine, Olaf Gulbransson, George Grosz, Karl Arnold, and Busch.

Britain, meanwhile, could boast, among others, John Leech, cover-designer of Punch, Richard Doyle, Linley Sambourne, and John Tenniel. Tenniel is perhaps best known for his illustrations to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, but he also drew over 2,000 cartoons for Punch, including the famous and much-parodied caption-less cartoon “Dropping the Pilot” that satirizes the sacking by Kaiser Wilhelm of his greatly respected chancellor Bismarck, who is depicted as a harbour pilot leaving the ship of state captained by Wilhelm. Another memorable cartoon of this period (and one that has given a phrase to the English language) is “The Curate’s Egg” by George Du Maurier. Here a curate dines with his bishop, who comments: “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad Egg, Mr Jones.” The curate meekly replies: “Oh no, my Lord, I assure you! Parts of it are excellent!”.

Many new magazines also appeared in Britain at this time, among them Strand Magazine, Fun, Judy, Pick-Me-Up (edited by the cartoonist Leonard Raven-Hill), Tomahawk, and Lika Joko. This latter was founded by Harry Furniss, who created the famous Pear’s Soap cartoon advertisement in which a bedraggled tramp seated at a desk is writing a testimonial for the product: “I used your soap two years ago; since then I have used no other”. Vanity Fair (1868) quickly became renowned for its full-page, full-colour chromolithographic caricatures of celebrities by Ape (Carlo Pellegrini), Spy (Leslie Ward), Max Beerbohm, and others. In 1888 Francis Carruthers Gould joined the staff of the Pall Mall Gazette as the world’s first daily newspaper cartoonist.

In the United States as well there were now important artists and magazines. The forerunner of them all, and perhaps the first truly American political cartoon, was “Join or Die” (Pennsylvania Gazette, 1754) by Benjamin Franklin. In this a snake is shown cut into eight sections, each one marked with the initials of one of the eight American colonies that Franklin felt should unite in their struggle against attacks by French settlers and Native Americans and later against British rule itself (see American War of Independence). The year 1812 saw the publication in the Boston Weekly Messenger of “The Gerry-Mander” by Elkanah Tisdale—a cartoon salamander made by combining map outlines of rigged voting districts in Massachusetts and attacking the Republican governor Gerry Elbridge.

A number of political cartoons later appeared in earnest during the administrations (1828-1836) of President Andrew Jackson. However, it was with Harper’s Weekly (1857) and later with the American Vanity Fair (1859) that political cartooning really began to take root in the United States. The foremost exponent at this time—who was also the inventor of the symbol of the Democrats (a donkey) and of the Republicans (an elephant)—was the German-born Thomas Nast. Nast is perhaps best known for bringing to book the corrupt New York politician William Tweed, a leader of the Tammany Society, by featuring him and his cronies in biting caricature-filled cartoons such as “A Group of Vultures Waiting for the Storm to ‘Blow Over’—’Let Us Prey’” and “The Tammany Tiger Let Loose—What Are You Going to Do About It?”. The Austrian-born Joseph Keppler, another major figure in this period, founded the leading humour magazine Puck (1876). However, the United States’ first native-born cartoonist was James Albert Wales, who founded Judge in 1881.


The Early 20th Century

The invention of photography at the end of the 19th century and, from it, the development of process printing gave still more flexibility to the humorous artist. Also noticeable was a loosening up of style. Long explanatory captions became progressively shorter and the drawings themselves—especially those of Phil May and others—became more dynamic and far less laboured.

At the beginning of the 20th century Punch was still the rather genteel, middle-class magazine that it had become in the previous few decades. Outside Britain, however, cartoonists were less timid, as the work of the Frenchman Charles Léandre, in the newly formed L’Assiette au Beurre (1902), bore witness. During World War I satire became even sharper as artists such as the Dutchman Louis Raemaekers, the Briton Edmund Sullivan, and the Australian Will Dyson drew gruesome pictures of the Kaiser and his victims. Nevertheless, there were still many cartoonists who looked on the bright side. Bruce Bairnsfather created the pipe-smoking, walrus-moustached Cockney character Old Bill; the archetypal aged “Tommy”, or private soldier; and the “Fragments from France” series of trench-warfare cartoons in the Bystander in 1915. His best-known drawing shows two British soldiers marooned in a shell-hole under heavy bombardment, with the caption “If you knows of a better ‘ole, go to it”. In Weekly Dispatch (1914) Bert Thomas famously depicted a Tommy saying “Arf a Mo’, Kaiser” as he lights his pipe before engaging the enemy. W. Heath Robinson produced fantastical drawings of war machines, and the Australian-born H. M. Bateman (whose “The Man Who …” series began in the Tatler in 1912) dreamt up bizarre situations in delightfully funny cartoons. One of the most familiar images of this time—if only because of its widespread use as a recruiting poster—was Alfred Leete’s cover illustration for London Opinion (1914), showing a pointing Lord Kitchener with the slogan “Your Country Needs You” (a design later adapted by James Montgomery Flagg in the United States, featuring Uncle Sam).

New satirical magazines continued to appear in the early decades of the century. The French cartoonist Paul Gassier founded Le Canard Enchainé in 1915, Bertoldo was launched in Italy, and Krokodil began publication in Russia in 1925. Others, however, were less successful and often short-lived. In America Puck eventually folded in 1918, despite the fact that Louis Raemaekers had been a major contributor in its final year, but as one era drew to a close another was about to begin.


The New Yorker and the Development of the Cartoon in the United States

Charles Dana Gibson had made his reputation drawing the “Gibson Girls” in Life magazine (founded in 1883) and in 1902 Clifford Berryman, commenting on a bear hunt by President Theodore Roosevelt, had created the “Teddy Bear” in the Washington Post. In 1915 Al Hirschfeld also published his first stylish caricatures for the New York Times.

With the launch of the New Yorker in 1925, however, the American cartoon began to take a new direction. This developed into a distinctive style of irreverent humour combined with a slick and sophisticated drawing technique that was to have considerable influence worldwide in the years to follow. The magazine’s approach was in direct contrast to that of the staid, rather genteel humorous magazines that Punch and its like had by this time become. With its stable of witty writers like Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley, the New Yorker also introduced a whole new breed of cartoon artists. Pre-eminent among these was Peter Arno (Curtis Arnoux Peters), who consciously departed from the long explanatory captions of Victorian times and the “He-and-she” two-liners of the 1900s and popularized a much simpler form of cartoon joke: the illustrated single remark. As Robert Benchley admitted: “Peter Arno may not have been the first to make use of the overheard remark as a basis for a drawing, but he has made himself the High Priest of the school.” Among other artists enlisted by the New Yorker were Ralph Barton, whose drawing style, combined with the use of solid blacks seen in the work of Aubrey Beardsley, directly influenced the Briton Nicolas Bentley (who even dropped the “h” from his Christian name so that his signature could be symmetrically laid out in two lines of capitals like Barton’s); the half-blind James Thurber, whose quirky sense of humour more than made up for his lack of skill as a draughtsman; and Charles Addams, master of black and macabre wit and best known for his “Addams Family” of cartoon ghouls. Mary Petty, Alfred Frueh, Gluyas Williams, and Rea Irvin also helped shape the magazine. During the 1930s and the war years, many cartoonists who had emigrated from strife-torn Europe, such as the Romanian Saul Steinberg, became regular contributors.


World War II

World War II gave rise to an enormous expansion of cartoon talent. On the one hand, both sides in the conflict realized the power of the pictorial image to convey a powerful message both to the barely literate and to those who spoke a different language—and thus used cartoons and caricature as part of a wider propaganda campaign that also included cinema newsreels, posters, aerial leafleting, and so forth. On the other hand, people needed relief from the deprivations of war, and cartoons, as much as music halls, concert parties, humorous films, radio comedies, and other light-hearted entertainments, were much in demand.

One of the most influential artists on the side of the Allies—and arguably the most potent force in political cartoon and caricature worldwide this century—was the New Zealander David Low, who worked in Britain for the London Evening Standard during the conflict. Among his poignant drawings were “Rendezvous”, attacking the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939: Hitler bows to Stalin over a dead soldier while remarking to his former enemy “The scum of the earth, I believe”, in reply to which Stalin doffs his cap with the words “The bloody assassin of the workers, I presume”. At the time of the evacuation of Dunkirk, he summed up Britain’s dogged fighting spirit in the face of impending disaster with the famous drawing “Very Well, Alone”, showing a young Tommy standing resolutely on the cliffs of Dover shaking a clenched fist at the stormy sea and the oncoming waves of German aircraft. While the epithet “Heath Robinson” has become a term for any absurdly and impracticably ingenious contrivance, Low was responsible for introducing the word “blimp” into the English language: deriving from his popular creation Colonel Blimp, an overweight, bald-headed, reactionary old diehard with a drooping moustache, famed for the bizarre logic of his comments on world affairs usually delivered from the steam-room of a Turkish bath while wrapped in a bath-towel.

Other important political cartoonists working in Britain at this time were Philip Zec (whose “The Price of Petrol Has Been Increased by One Penny—Official” nearly led to the Daily Mirror being closed down by the government), Vicky (the German-born Hungarian, Victor Weisz), George Whitelaw, and Leslie Illingworth. Carl Giles (later the creator of a long-running series of cartoons for the Daily Express peopled by an extended family, dominated by “Grandma”), Sidney Strube, and Joe Lee concentrated more on social issues, and Osbert Lancaster, taking his lead from France, developed the single-column pocket cartoon into a form hitherto virtually unknown in Britain. Other innovators were Pont (Graham Laidler) and Paul Crum (Roger Pettiward), who in their separate ways began a tradition of crazy humour which led ultimately to The Goon Show and Monty Python’s Flying Circus (see The Goons; Monty Python).

Many cartoonists came out of the forces themselves. Pre-eminent among these in Britain were JON (W. J. P. Jones), creator of the Desert Rat “Two Types”; Raff (Bill Hooper), who invented Pilot Officer Percy Prune; and the widely published David Langdon, who is credited with inventing the open-mouth technique for indicating talking cartoon characters and also created the poster campaign “Billy Brown of London Town”. Yet perhaps the best-known poster cartoonist of the war period was Fougasse (Kenneth Bird)—subsequently the only cartoonist to become editor of Punch—with “Careless Talk Costs Lives”, his series of posters warning that idle gossip among civilians might be overheard by German spies and aid the German war effort.

In Europe, too, the cartoon tradition flourished, even among the Axis powers. In Germany, Simplicissimus and Kladderadatsch continued until 1944 and the new Nazi papers such as Der Stürmer, Schwarzer Korps, and Der Angriff spawned their own artists, frequently anti-Semitic, such as Bogner, Fips, and Mjölnir (Hans Schweitzer). Equally gruesome in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were the anti-Nazi drawings of Soviet artists such as Boris Efimov, Deni (Victor Denisov), and the trio known as Kukryniksi (Mikhail Kupryanov, Porfiry Krylov, and Nikolay Sokolov). French cartoonists, working either under the Vichy régime, for the Resistance, or in exile in Britain included Jean Effel, Ralph Soupault, Paul Gassier, Jean Sennep, and Albert Dubout. In Australasia there was powerful political commentary by Gordon Minhinnick, H. B. Armstrong, and others.

One of the most important American cartoonists to come out of the war years was Bill Mauldin, of the US forces magazine Stars and Stripes, the antics of whose bedraggled duo, Willie and Joe, had much in common with Bairnsfather’s World War I equivalent. Artists working less close to the front lines included Daniel Fitzpatrick, Arthur Szyk (who drew colour covers for Collier’s magazine, among others), Rollin Kirby, and Carey Orr.


The Post-War Years and the Contemporary Scene

In 1937 the Hungarian Stefan Lorant (later the first editor of Picture Post) came to Britain and set up the pocket magazine Lilliput, which nurtured some of the country’s finest cartoonists. Notable among these were the earliest published drawings by a 15-year-old Gerard Hoffnung (who was later to become famous for his cartoons on musical subjects) and the first cartoon by Ronald Searle featuring the imaginary girls’ school St Trinian’s. Lilliput, along with London Opinion, Men Only, and others, became a great success during the war years and, together with older-established magazines such as Punch, continued after the conflict. However, as well as political/editorial cartoons, a wealth of gag cartoons also appeared in newspapers such as the Daily Sketch and Reveille in post-war Britain.

In the 1950s and 1960s the work of Carl Giles, André François, and Ronald Searle, each in their very different ways, became very influential both in Britain and abroad. Other important artists working in Britain at this time included Norman Thelwell (famed for his drawings of little girls on ponies), Anton (Harold Underwood Thompson and Beryl Antonia Yeoman), Alex Graham, Leslie Starke, Eric Burgin, and Norman Mansbridge. Rowland Emett was best known for his spindly drawings featuring railways and trams. E. H. Shepard memorably created the illustrations for Winnie the Pooh, and the Canadian Russell Brockbank was acknowledged as the undisputed king of the motoring cartoon. On the political side, David Low continued to dominate the scene until his death in 1963; Margaret Belsky became the first woman to draw a daily front-page political cartoon; and in 1957 Vicky created “Supermac”, a cartoon character lampooning the aged Conservative prime minister Harold Macmillan.

With the 1960s also came the satire boom led by such television programmes as That Was The Week That Was, which had its own resident cartoonist, Timothy Birdsall. This was also the decade in which the satirical magazine Private Eye was founded, quickly establishing itself as a powerful vehicle for graphic lampoonery, and the period that saw the return of a more savage tradition with the work of Gerald Scarfe and Ralph Steadman. In 1967 the Australian-born Pat Oliphant, perhaps the most influential cartoonist in post-war America, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. In the decades that followed, many new cartoonists appeared on the scene and some older ones died in their prime. Among the latter were Mark Boxer and Mel Calman, two talented exponents of the pocket cartoon, and Michael ffolkes (Brian Davis), who specialized in stylish and flamboyant drawings.

Today there is a growing tradition in Europe of caption-less drawings, often with a strong political message. Other cartoons, however, such as those of Steve Bell in Britain, whose attacks on the premiership of Margaret Thatcher were described in the House of Lords in 1987 as “an almost obscene series of caricatures”, seem to be reviving the tradition of malicious lampoonery that harks back to Gillray. On the caricature side, whether one looks at the work of David Levine in the United States, Mulatier-Ricord-Morchoisne in France, or that of countless others, it seems that cartoon art is becoming ever more influenced by photography, combined with the sort of extra-fine draughtsmanship that was practised by such artists as Tenniel in the 19th century.

Nevertheless, whatever new path the satirical artists of the future take, and however controversial it is, their vision of society, politics, and daily life will continue to play an important role in contemporary culture. For as Michael Foot, former leader of the British Labour Party, has said: “Nothing to touch the glory of the great cartoonists! They catch the spirit of the age and then leave their own imprint on it; they create political heroes and villains in their own image; they teach the historians their trade.” 

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