In the U.S., editorial cartoonists come in all stripes of the multi-hued American political spectrum. So, it’s not surprising that the points of view expressed in their visual commentary are as varied as their cartooning styles. A recently-opened Library of Congress exhibition, Pointing Their Pens: Herblock and Fellow Cartoonists Confront the Issues, as described in its Overview “offers viewers an extensive opportunity to compare the work of Herbert L. Block (1909-2001)–commonly known as Herblock–alongside the work of his contemporaries over the period of four decades” of the twentieth century. The exhibition is viewed through the lens of five key historical events: the question of U.S. intervention prior to entering World War II, the Red Scare, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and events in the Middle East. Editorial cartoonists’ responses to these issues were as pointed as the nibs of the drawing pens used to express themselves.
Two Cartoons from the “Red Scare” Section
Pointing Their Pens is on display now through mid-March 2016 in the Graphic Arts Galleries in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building. In parallel, the online exhibition is open henceforth and will persist into the imperceptible digital future. The exhibition draws from the comprehensive collections of cartoon art acquired by the Library of Congress since the early 1900s, which include generous donations by cartoonists and their heirs. Selections from the Herbert L. Block Collection of more than 14,000 drawings, donated to the Library by the Herb Block Foundation in 2002, serve as the mainstay of Pointing Their Pens.
Two Cartoons from the “Nixon” Section
- Take a visual stab at Pointing Their Pens: Herblock and Fellow Cartoonists Confront the Issues.
- The bulk of the 14,000 original ink and graphite drawings in the Cartoon Drawings: Herblock Collection date from 1946 through 2001, when Herblock worked for the Washington Post, with some 1300 drawings comprising his work prior to joining the Post.
- Herblock’s extensive papers are held in the Manuscript Division with the Herbert Block Papers Finding Aid providing a guide to their contents and organization.
- The Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature, spanning three centuries, is distinctive and unparalleled because of the depth of holdings in political cartoons and comic strips and the specific landmark pieces in all major genres. Viewing any portion of this approximately 36,000 item collection requires advanced arrangements and is served by appointment due to its unprocessed status.