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

Gillray's Ghost: James Gillray and his influence on political cartoons

04 November 2015 - 17 January 2016

An exhibition of caricatures of James Gillray and cartoonists inspired by him to mark the 200th anniversary of his death.

On 1 June 1815, the caricaturist James Gillray died above a print shop in St James’s Street. Despite having created nearly a thousand prints about the foremost events and figures of his times, his death passed almost without notice.

Two hundred years after his death, James Gillray is once more revered as the father of political cartooning. Gillray’s Ghost shows almost seventy works, including a selection of some of Gillray’s most influential prints alongside Gillray-inspired works by, amongst others, Leslie Illingworth, ‘Vicky’ (Victor Weisz), Nicholas Garland, Peter Brookes, Steve Bell, Peter Schrank, Dave Brown, Martin Rowson, Chris Duggan, and Morten Morland.

This exhibition displayed the brilliance of Gillray's imagination and the incisiveness of his wit, qualities that have made him the ‘Old Master’ of today’s leading satirical artists.

Alice in Cartoonland

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15 July - 01 November 2015

Alice, the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Cheshire Cat were introduced to the world by Lewis Carroll in 1865 in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. A sequel, Through the Looking-glass and What Alice Found introduced more memorable characters including the Jabberwock, Humpty Dumpty, the Walrus and the Carpenter and the Kings, Queens and Knights of the chessboard.
For 150 years the curious creatures from Carroll’s topsy-turvy world have been part of popular culture the world over, not just in books, plays and films, toys, games and millions of products from food to clothing but also in – cartoons!
This is hardly surprising since when Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) was seeking an illustrator for Alice he chose John Tenniel, the leading cartoonist of his day, whose caricatures of Victorian politicians and celebrities appeared every week in the pages the humorous magazine, Punch.
The Alice books are a true collaboration between Dodgson’s extraordinary imagination and Tenniel’s graphic wit: for example, the Hatter’s iconic top hat with it’s pre-decimal price label (‘In this Style, 10/6’) was just one of Tenniel’s many embellishments to Dodgson’s text.
The stories were an instant success as were the illustrations and within a very short time people were using the characters and their quotable lines to make satirical comment on current affairs. Even John Tenniel created a topical cartoon for Punch based on his own illustration of Alice’s encounter with the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle.
Alice in Cartoonland celebrates Alice’s many misadventures at the hands of cartoonists, caricaturists and satirists, animators and graphic artists through 150 years of parodies and pastiches, jibes, jokes and gags aimed at making political points, social comment or just intended to make us laugh.
Artists represented range from Low, Vicky, Shepard and Illingworth to via Searle and ffolkes to Scarfe, Steadman and Rowson. There are Alice posters by Gilroy advertising Guinness, cartoon strips featuring Flook and Snoopy, pages from comics and graphic novels and original animation art from film and TV versions of Alice. 

Heckling Hitler: World War Two in Cartoons & Comics

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25 March - 12 July 2015
It is difficult for those of us living in the 21st century to realise the impact of cartoon art 70 years ago. To a news-hungry public, anxious about world affairs facing possible invasion, the radio was a lifeline, but it was the topical cartoon with its immediacy and universal accessibility ? even to the barely literate ? that could speak the message mere words could never convey. The propagandists and media manipulators were swift to recognize this power.
Heckling Hitler shows how World War II unfolded through the eyes of British cartoonists. Throughout the war, cartoonists and comic artists played their part in helping to raise morale. On the home front, their cartoons showed Britain ‘how to make the best of things’ (Heath Robinson) and encouraged people to keep ‘smiling through’ (Joe Lee). Posters produced for the Ministry of Information reminded the public that ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ (Fougasse) and that ‘Doctor Carrot’ was the ‘children’s friend’. Comic heroes like Desperate Dan and Lord Snooty and his Pals kept the children entertained with stories showing how British pluck and guile would put one over on the dictators.
This exhibition of over 120 original drawings and printed ephemera concentrates mainly on newspaper and magazine cartoons from WWII for the simple reason that these would have been the most widely available to the general public. Included are works by H. M. Bateman, Will Dyson, ‘Fougasse’, Carl Giles, Leslie Grimes, Leslie Illingworth, ‘Jon’, ‘Kem’, Joe Lee, David Low, Donald McGill, ‘Neb’, Eric Roberts, ‘Pont’, William Heath Robinson, Ronald Searle, E. H. Shepard, Sidney Strube, Bert Thomas, ‘Vicky’ and Dudley D. Watkins.
Sample material from books, aerial leaflets, artwork from The Dandy and The Beano, postcards and other publications produced as overseas propaganda have also been included, as well as some unpublished cartoons drawn in prisoner-of-war camps and by civilians on the home front on scrap paper from the Ministry of Food. There is even a rare pin cushion featuring Hitler and Mussolini. Together they evoke a Britain battered but unbowed that, with the help of its cartoonists, could smile in the face of adversity and win through in the end.
The exhibition is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the University of Lincoln.

The Caricatures and Cartoons of Mark Boxer

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21 January - 22 March 2015

When Mark Boxer died in 1988 at the early age of 57, the world of publishing felt bereft. As an art director, editor, writer and cartoonist, his intelligence, irreverence and sparkle had charmed colleagues and readers alike. An unashamed ‘professional hedonist’ who aspired to be a ‘red eminence(grey being rather too drab), he recorded the world of the upper-middle and upper classes and the fashionable metropolitan elite. This exhibition includes over 100 of his caricatures, pocket and strip cartoons from The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The New Statesman, The London Review of Books and The Observer.
Boxer was born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire in 1931. At King’s College, Cambridge he gained his first experience as a cartoonist and editor working on Granta. His reputation as a non- conformist was established in the spring of 1953 when he was sent down for publishing a blasphemous poem. His supporters organised a mock funeral for him and his departure from Cambridge in a hearse followed by a thousand ‘mourners’ was reported in The Times.
After leaving Cambridge he wrote and drew for the Sunday Express, Lilliput, Punch, and Ambassador before being hired as art editor for the Queen magazine in 1957. As editor of the newly established Sunday Times Magazine (1962?5), he helped shake up the rather formal world of post-war British magazine publishing, using innovative layouts and hiring talented photographers and artists such as Eve Arnold, Snowdon, Don McCullin, David Hockney and Peter Blake. As the Sunday Times editor Sir Denis Hamilton recognised, Boxer had ‘the necessary iconoclastic attitude’ to create something new.
In 1967 he was invited to create a cartoon strip for The Listener with writer Peter Preston. ‘Life and Times in NW1’ introduced Simon and Joanna String-Along, a trendy media couple ‘who have recently set up home north of the Park’. The String-Alongs also appeared in the pocket cartoons he drew for The Times from 1969. An admirer of Osbert Lancaster’s cartoons, he was greatly amused when someone tried to put him down by commenting on the continuing brilliance of Lancaster’s cartoons, citing, as an example, one of Boxer’s own cartoons. Many of his pockets were collaborations, with George Melly often providing the captions and Boxer finding ‘the perfect situation, or ideal person to say it’. Their partnership continued after he moved to The Guardian (1983?6) and finally the Daily Telegraph (1986?8).
But Marc is best remembered for his caricatures. From 1970?8 his spare but incisive portraits illustrated profiles in the New Statesman. They would also appear in the London Review of Books, the Spectator and the Observer. The exhibition includes over 80 caricatures of the royal family and figures from the arts, literature, show business and politics, including Prince Charles and the Queen, Harold Pinter, Antonia Fraser, Seamus Heaney, Tony Benn, Clive James, Philip Roth, Barry Humphries and David Frost. The self-taught Boxer never claimed to be a great draughtsman: ‘I don’t draw particularly well, but I have an observant eye.’ Unlike many caricaturists, he nearly always worked from life, insisting that he had to ‘see people in their natural habitat and off their guard’. To this end, he would pursue his quarry to their offices, sketch them in restaurants, or take their measure at parties. As editor of Tatler (1983?7) he would insist that people’s names and titles were exactly right, while crafting a wounding caricature of the same individual.
A lifelong Labour voter who mixed in high society and ‘a professional posing as a dilettante’, Boxer remained an ‘elegantly packaged mass of irreconcilable contradictions and uncomfortable antagonisms’ (Jonathan Meades). He believed social cartoonists such as Pont, Bateman and Heath Robinson are more enduring than political cartoonists as their work more effectively captures the atmosphere of a period. ‘Our pleasure in cartoons,’ he wrote, ‘is recognising the truth they uncover’, something his caricatures and cartoons still do today.
The Telegraph
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