British cartoon & comic art from the 18th century to the present day

Heroes and Villains

An exhibition of art depicting real life, the cartoon and comic world that highlights those we love and those we love to hate. Featuring political cartoons, cartoon and comic strips, and caricatures, including some selected by celebrities and members of the public.  


Never Again! World War I in Cartoon and Comic Art




11 Jun - 19 Oct 2014

Late opening: 17 Oct 2014, until 20.00.

Some of the most powerful and memorable images from the First World War are by cartoonists. From the earliest days of the war, British cartoonists such as Alfred Leete, Bruce Bairnsfather, William Heath Robinson and Donald McGill were at the forefront of propaganda battles aimed at bolstering the war effort, ridiculing the enemy and sustaining the nation through the four long years of conflict.


Alfred Leete’s famous recruiting cover for London Opinion featuring Lord Kitchener was never an official poster but remains one of the abiding images of the Great War and inspired numerous other designs. For many Bruce Bairnsfather’s grumbling but steadfast soldier ‘Old Bill’ became the face of the long-suffering Tommy in the trenches. Criticised in parliament as ‘vulgar caricatures of our heroes’, Bairnsfather’s down-to-earth drawings were loved by the men at the front. They were reproduced on plates and cards and inspired stage shows and films. The exhibition includes Bairnsfather’s ‘Well, if you knows of a better ’ole, go to it’, widely regarded as the most famous cartoon of the war. Postcards of Bert Thomas’s ‘’Arf a ‘Mo’ Kaiser’, showing a cheeky Tommy pausing to light his cigarette, raised £200,000 for the soldiers’ tobacco fund. The cartoons by the Dutch artist Louis Raemaekers were exhibited three times in London, reproduced around the world and widely credited with helping persuade the Americans to enter the war.


Never Again! World War I in Cartoon and Comic Art brings together over 300 images, ranging from political and joke cartoons from newspapers and magazines to colourful comic postcards by the likes of Donald McGill and Douglas Tempest on a huge range of subjects, including life in the trenches, popular songs, food shortages and air raids. There are also children’s comics such as Picture Fun and Comic Life, cigarette cards and maps. Also on display are rare German and French postcards, and trench publications produced by serving soldiers, many of which featured cartoons, which have been extensively researched by Professor Jane Chapman from the University of Lincoln, who has contributed to the exhibition.


Many cartoons feature national symbols such as John Bull, the Russian Bear and the French Cockerel. Leaders such as Kitchener and the Kaiser who often appeared with his son in Haselden’s ‘Big and Little Willie’ ? were also popular subjects. There are ‘hate cartoons’ by Edmund J. Sullivan which demonise the Germans, but others by Heath Robinson and Haselden that acknowledge the humanity shared by both sides. The impact of modern warfare, air raids and women’s war work all appear as subjects, as do conscription and conscientious objectors.


The exhibition also features some more recent material such as Ralph Steadman’s reworking of Leete’s famous Kitchener design; Charley’s War, the classic 1980s comic strip by Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun, which depicts the horrors of trench warfare; and drawings from the ‘Horrible Histories’ book The Frightful First World War by Terry Deary and Martin Brown.


Artists in the exhibition include H. M. Bateman, Bruce Bairnsfather, Martin Brown, Oscar Cesare, Will Dyson, George Halkett, W.K. Haselden, William Heath Robinson, David Low, Donald McGill, Bernard Partridge, E.T. Reed, Edmund J. Sullivan, Ralph Steadman, Douglas Tempest, F. H. Townsend, Bert Thomas and Tom Webster.


The exhibition is supported by the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) and the University of Lincoln.

Steadman @77

steadman banner

To celebrate Ralph Steadman’s multifarious career (and his 77th birthday) the Cartoon Museum mounted a major retrospective of his work over the last 50 years. It featured over 100 original artworks. The exhibition explored the full range of the artist’s work, including his earliest published cartoon from 1956, material from Private Eye, Punch, the Observer, the New Statesman and Rolling Stone, as well as his illustrated books, Sigmund Freud, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, I, Leonardo, The Big I Am and Animal Farm. There were atmospheric wine drawings produced for Oddbins catalogues, humanitarian pictures, savage political cartoons and some of his charming and funny illustrations for children’s books. The show also included examples of the extinct birds and imaginary ‘boids’ which he created for his most recent book Extinct Boids (2012). The exhibition was accompanied by a 160-page catalogue in full colour with contributions by Johnny Depp, Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson and Will Self. (available from the museum Shop)

The Dandy: 75 Years of Biffs, Bangs and Banana Skins


This exhibition marked the end of the print Dandy, moving to only a digital platform.  The exhibition featured lots of our favourite characters including Desperate Dan, Korky the Cat, Corporal Clot, Winker Watson, Brassneck and Bananaman.