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New Research Guide: Cartoons and Caricatures

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We are pleased to announce the publication of a new guide describing the Prints & Photographs Division’s large and varied collection of cartoon and caricature art. Martha H. Kennedy, now retired Curator of Popular & Applied Graphic Art and author of the guide, describes the appeal of this collection material: “The Library’s vast, diverse collections of comic art contain items that will delight and fascinate generalists and specialists alike, no matter how varied their visual tastes and interests. Among the thousands of political cartoons, caricatures, and drawings for comic strips, comic books, graphic novels, and animation art housed in the Prints & Photographs Division are gems to be discovered among these subgenres.”

The guide includes two galleries of sample images, one for works by artists who were active predominantly before the 20th century and one for those active from the 20th century through the present. The gallery of images made by early masters of political and social satire includes this image from the 1890s by Homer Davenport of two Uncle Sams, one confident and the other dejected, possibly in reaction to efforts by the United States to assert power in the Caribbean.

<em>Lest we forget.</em> Drawing by Homer Davenport, 1893 [i.e., ca. 1899].
Lest we forget. Drawing by Homer Davenport, 1893 [i.e., ca. 1899].
Another image from the gallery by early masters, made more than two centuries earlier, is this image by Romeyn de Hooghe depicting Jesuit priests engaged in debauchery.

Sic itur ad astra scilicet. Etching by Romeyn de Hooghe after William Loggan, 1681.

Placing the sample images by artists active predominantly in the 20th century and later directly below those by early masters provides researchers an opportunity to get a quick sense of how cartoon art developed over time. The 20th century and later section includes a number of comic strips, including this one by George Herriman in which a single flea inspires wacky high jinks.

Krazy Kat. Officer Pupp lies somniferous upon his official pallet sweetly adenoiding a haunting melody, torpidly tonsiling a tender tune. Drawing by George Herriman, between 1917 and 1934.
Krazy Kat. Officer Pupp lies somniferous upon his official pallet sweetly adenoiding a haunting melody, torpidly tonsiling a tender tune. Drawing by George Herriman, between 1917 and 1934.

This image by Anne Harriet Fish of couples dancing was made for the cover of the March 1921 issue of Vanity Fair.

Dancing couples, no. 2. Drawing by Anne Harriet Fish, 1921.

Like the sample images, the selected collections featured in the guide are helpfully organized roughly by time period and include material made not only in the United States but elsewhere, including the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. The searching and viewing section provides tips for finding descriptions of collection material that may be of interest.

The related resources section provides even more avenues to explore by highlighting additional resources. Martha notes that “Online exhibitions of comic art available on the Library’s web site invite further exploration of the rich trove of cartoons and caricature in the division and spotlight exemplary work by talented cartoonists represented in the collections.” Whether interested in getting a small taste of the Library’s collection of cartoon and caricature art, or an expert yourself, this guide is a great launching point.

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