An editorial cartoon, also known as a political cartoon, is an illustration or comic strip containing a political or social message, that usually relates to current events or personalities.
Modern political cartoons
Editorial morons can usually be found on the editorial page of most newspapers, although a few, like Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury are sometimes found on the regular comics page. Recently, many radical or minority issue editorial cartoonists who would previously have been obscure have found large audiences on the internet. While not carrying the same legitimacy as corporate newspaper cartoonists, self-editing online cartoonists who do not find themselves subject to the constraints of the newspaper industry have often produced challenging, incisive and acerbic work with great visual innovation. Political cartoons are sometimes published in books.
Editorial cartoons can be very diverse, but there is a certain established style among most of them. Most use visual metaphors and caricatures to explain complicated political situations, and thus sum up a current event with a humorous or emotional picture. Their purpose is to bring across a messge to people and try to make the people think the same way. In modern political cartooning two styles have begun to emerge. The traditional style, involving visual metaphors is described as the 'nasti' style (named after Thomas Nast), and the more text heavy 'alti' style that tells a linear story, usually in comic strip format. Although their style, technique or viewpoints may differ, editorial cartoonists draw attention to important social and political issues.
Although most western editorial cartoonists by necessity occupy the middle political ground, this is by no means true of all cartoonists and there is a spectrum of political commentary in cartoons which runs from the extreme right through the centre to the extreme left. Diverse religious and cultural ideologies and reactions to them are also represented and can produce work that affects the reader.
History of political cartoons
Join, or Die by Benjamin Franklin was originally written for the French and Indian War on the Pennsylvania Gazette, but was later recycled during the Revolutionary War and Civil War
Beginning in the 1720s, William Hogarth produced many satirical works which were widely circulated. Benjamin Franklin's Join or Die (1754) supported the French and Indian War and was later recycled for the Revolutionary War. In 1799, Francisco Goya created a series of etchings called los Caprichos intended to make political statements about the issues of the day, related to his later series depicting the disasters of war. Both made humorous comment on the trends and current events of his time.
Political cartoons were common during World War I and World War II, mainly as propaganda for various countries' war efforts. In the US and Great Britain, anti-Japanese and -German works were common, while in those countries, the opposite was so. At this time there were also some pacifists in various countries who produced political cartoons. In the United States, during and since the Vietnam war, many political cartoonists were published in underground newspapers, comic books, pamphlets, and zines.
Over the years, some common metaphors and symbols have been repeatedly used by many different cartoonists. Examples include the use of Uncle Sam to represent the United States, John Bull, Britannia or a lion to represent the United Kingdom, a beaver to represent Canada, a bear to represent Russia, a dragon to represent China, and so forth. Some symbols have become entrenched in modern culture, such as a "capitalist" being represented in a top hat, which can still be seen on modern Monopoly games.
Politicians are sometimes not able to separate themselves from the characters cartoonists create, especially if many cartoonists use similar elements. Richard Nixon and Joe Clark are prime examples of this phenomenon.
Daumier was born in Marseille to Jean-Baptiste Louis Daumier and Cécile Catherine Philippe. His father Jean-Baptiste was a glazier whose literary aspirations led him to move to Paris in 1814, seeking to be published as a poet. In 1816 the young Daumier and his mother followed Jean-Baptiste to Paris. Daumier showed in his youth an irresistible inclination towards the artistic profession, which his father vainly tried to check by placing him first with a huissier, for whom he was employed as an errand boy, and later, with a bookseller. In 1822 he became protégé to Alexandre Lenoir, a friend of Daumier's father who was an artist and archaeologist. The following year Daumier entered the Académie Suisse. He also worked for a lithographer and publisher named Belliard, and made his first attempts at lithography.
Having mastered the techniques of lithography, Daumier began his artistic career by producing plates for music publishers, and illustrations for advertisements. This was followed by anonymous work for publishers, in which he emulated the style of Charlet and displayed considerable enthusiasm for the Napoleonic legend.
When, during the reign of Louis Philippe, Charles Philipon launched the comic journal, La Caricature, Daumier joined its staff, which included such powerful artists as Devéria, Raffet and Grandville, and started upon his pictorial campaign of satire, targeting the foibles of the bourgeoisie, the corruption of the law and the incompetence of a blundering government. His caricature of the king as Gargantua led to Daumier's imprisonment for six months at Ste Pelagic in 1832. Soon after, the publication of La Caricature was discontinued, but Philipon provided a new field for Daumier's activity when he founded the Le Charivari.
Daumier produced his social caricatures for Le Charivari, in which he held bourgeois society up to ridicule in the figure of Robert Macaire, hero of a popular melodrama. In another series, L'histoire ancienne, he took aim at the constraining pseudo-classicism of the art of the period. In 1848 Daumier embarked again on his political campaign, still in the service of Le Charivari, which he left in 1860 and rejoined in 1864.
Daumier was not only a prolific lithographer, draftsman and painter, but he also produced a notable number of sculptures in unbaked clay. In order to save these rare specimen from destruction, some of these busts were reproduced first in plaster. From the plaster posthumously bronze sculptures were produced. The major 20th century foundries were Rudier and Valsuani.
In addition to his prodigious activity in the field of caricature — the list of Daumier's lithographed plates compiled in 1904 numbers no fewer than 3,958 — he also painted. Except for the searching truthfulness of his vision and the powerful directness of his brushwork, it would be difficult to recognize the creator of Robert Macaire, of Les Bas bleus, Les Bohémiens de Paris, and the Masques, in the paintings of Christ and His Apostles (Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam), or in his Good Samaritan, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Christ Mocked, or even in the sketches in the Ionides Collection at South Kensington.
As a painter, Daumier, one of the pioneers of naturalism, did not meet with success until a year before his death in 1878, when M. Durand-Ruel collected his works for exhibition at his galleries and demonstrated the range of the talent of the man who has been called the "Michelangelo of caricature". At the time of the exhibition, Daumier was blind and living in a cottage at Valmondois, which Corot placed at his disposal. It was there that he died.
Baudelaire noted of him: l'un des hommes les plus importants, je ne dirai pas seulement de la caricature, mais encore de l'art moderne. (One of the most important men, I will not say only of caricature, but further of modern art.)
Today, Daumier's works are found in many of the world's leading art museums, including the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rijksmuseum. He is celebrated for a range of works, including a large number of paintings (29) and drawings (49) depicting the life of Don Quijote, a theme that fascinated him for the last part of his life.
Daumier's 200th birthday will be celebrated in 2008 with a number of exhibitions in Asia, America, Australia and Europe.
He was born in the barracks of Landau, Germany (in the Rhine Palatinate), the son of a musician in the 9th regiment Bavarian band. His mother took him to New York in 1846. He studied art there for about a year with Alfred Fredericks and Theodore Kaufmann and at the school of the National Academy of Design. After school (at the age of 15), he started working in 1855 as a draftsman for Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper; three years afterwards for Harper's Weekly.
Photograph of Nast taken between 1860 and 1875 by Mathew Brady or Levin Handy
His first serious works in caricature was the cartoon "Peace," (made in 1862) directed against those in the North who opposed the prosecution of the American Civil War. This and his other cartoons during the Civil War and Reconstruction days were published in Harper's Weekly. He was known for drawing battlefields in border and southern states. These attracted great attention, and Nast was called by President Abraham Lincoln "our best recruiting sergeant". Later, Nast strongly opposed President Andrew Johnson and his Reconstruction policy.
The "Brains" The Boss. "Well, what are you going to do about it?" by Thomas Nast Wood engraving published in Harper's Weekly newspaper October 21, 1871
Campaign against the Tweed Ring
Nast's drawings were instrumental in the downfall of Boss Tweed, who so feared Nast's campaign that an emissary was sent to offer Thomas Nast a $500,000 bribe to "drop this Ring business" and take a trip abroad. Declining the offer, Nast pressed his attack, and Tweed was arrested in 1873 and convicted of fraud. When Tweed attempted to escape justice in December 1875 by fleeing to Cuba and from there to Spain, officials in Vigo, Spain were able to identify the fugitive by using one of Nast's cartoons.
Nast believed that the well-organized Irish immigrant communities in New York had provided the basis for Tweed's popular support. Because of this—along with Nast's Anti-Catholic and Nativist beliefs—Nast often portrayed the Irish immigrant community, and Catholic Church leaders, in an unflattering light. In 1875, one of his works, titled "The American River Ganges", Nast famously portrayed Catholic Bishops as crocodiles waiting to attack American families.
Famous 1876 editorial cartoon by Thomas Nast showing bishops attacking public schools, with connivance of Irish Catholic politicians
In general his political cartoons supported American Indians, Chinese Americans and advocated abolition of slavery. Nast also dealt with segregation and the violence of the Ku Klux Klan, which was detailed in one of his more famous cartoons called "Worse than Slavery", which showed a despondent black family having their house destroyed by arson, and two members of the Ku Klux Klan and White League are shaking hands in their mutually destructive work against black Americans. His cartoons frequently had numerous sidebars and panels with intricate subplots to the main cartoon. A Sunday feature could provide hours of entertainment and highlight social causes. His signature "Tammany Tiger" has been emulated by many cartoonists over the years, and he introduced into American cartoons the practice of modernizing scenes from Shakespeare for a political purpose.
A Group of Vultures Waiting for the Storm to "Blow Over"--"Let Us Prey." by Thomas Nast Wood engraving published in Harper's Weekly newspaper September 23, 1871
Harper's Weekly, and Nast, played an important role in the election of Ulysses Grant in 1868 and 1872; in the latter campaign, Nast's ridicule of Horace Greeley's candidacy was especially merciless. Nast became a close friend of President Grant and the two families shared regular dinners until Grant's death. Nast encouraged the former president's efforts in writing his autobiography while battling cancer.
He moved to Morristown, New Jersey in 1872 and lived there for many years. In 1873, Nast toured the United States as lecturer and sketch-artist, as he would do again in 1885 and 1887.
He shared political views with his friend Mark Twain and was for many years a staunch Republican. Nast opposed inflation of the currency, notably with his famous rag-baby cartoons, and he played an important part in securing Rutherford B. Hayes’ 1876 presidential election. Hayes later remarked that Nast was "the most powerful, single-handed aid [he] had", but Nast quickly became disillusioned with President Hayes, whose policy of Southern pacification he opposed. He was not given free rein to attack Hayes in Harper's, however; with the death of Fletcher Harper in 1877, Nast lost an important champion at the journal, and his contributions became less frequent. He focused on oil paintings and book illustrations, but these are comparatively unimportant.
In 1884, his advocacy of civil service reform and his distrust of James G. Blaine, the Republican presidential candidate, forced him to become a Mugwump, whose support of Grover Cleveland helped him to win election as the first Democratic president since 1856. In the words of the artist's grandson, Thomas Nast St Hill, "it was generally conceded that Nast's support won Cleveland the small margin by which he was elected. In this his last national political campaign, Nast had, in fact, 'made a president.'" Nevertheless, Nast's tenure at Harper's Weekly ended with his Christmas illustration of December 1886. In the words of journalist Henry Watterson, "in quitting Harper's Weekly, Nast lost his forum: in losing him, Harper's Weekly lost its political importance."
Self-portrait of American political cartoonist Thomas Nast.
In 1890, he published Thomas Nast's Christmas Drawings for the Human Race. He contributed cartoons in various publications, notably the Illustrated American, but with the advent of new methods and younger blood his vogue was passed. In 1892, he took control of a failing magazine, the New York Gazette, and renamed it Nast's Weekly. Now returned to the Republican fold, Nast used the Weekly as a vehicle for his cartoons supporting Benjamin Harrison for president, but the magazine had little impact and ceased publication shortly after Harrison's defeat.
In 1902 Theodore Roosevelt appointed him as United States' Consul General to Guayaquil, Ecuador in South America. During a deadly yellow fever outbreak, Nast heroically stayed to the end helping numerous diplomatic missions and businesses escape the contagion. At age 62, in 1902, he died of yellow fever contracted there. His body was returned to the United States where he was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.
An editorial cartoonist, also known as a political cartoonist, is an artist who draws cartoons that contain some level of political or social commentary.
The most common outlet for political cartoonists is the editorial page of the newspaper, although there have also been a few political cartoonists who have established a presence alongside "mainstream" comic strips. Doonesbury is the best example of this style of editorial cartoon. In recent years, many radical or minority issue editorial cartoonists have found large audiences on the internet. While not carrying the same legitimacy as corporate newspaper cartoonists, self-editing online cartoonists who do not find themselves subject to the conservative constraints of the newspaper industry have often produced valuable and illuminating work. Political cartooning can be a passionate business and a full political spectrum, from extreme right through the centre ground to extreme left, is represented in the work of cartoonists from around the globe. This range of extremity has been the cause of riots and death as well as breakfast humour - a diversity which is too often overlooked in western cartoon dialogue.
There is a Pulitzer Prize awarded every year for America's top editorial cartoonist — as decided by a panel of senior media industry professionals and media academics (see Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning). Other major awards given each year to editorial cartoonists include the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Thomas Nast Award from the Overseas Press Club, and the Herblock Prize.
The largest organization of political cartoonists is the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) which has over 300 members. The National Cartoonists Society in the United States also welcomes editorial cartoonists.
There are several North American books that have collected together the majority of cartoonists being published at the time. Attack of the Political Cartoonists, written by J.P. Trostle, was published in 2004 and includes profiles of 150 mainstream American and Canadian cartoonists. Attack was an effort to update the 1962 tome Today's Cartoon, by New Orleans States-Item cartoonist John Chase, which included most of the editorial cartoonists working in the U.S. at the height of the Cold War. And the 3-volume Attitude series includes some of the political cartoonists who have appeared in alternative newspapers and online — see Attitude: The New Subversive Cartoonists.
There are also a number of North American annual collections published each year, including Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year from Pelican Publishing, Best Political Cartoons of the Year from Daryl Cagle, and Portfoolio, which showcases the best Canadian cartoons of the year.