Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Caricature Art: Not Always Politic

As our Nation celebrates its 238th birthday this month, I'm reminded of one of the attributes that makes us great -- freedom of commentary throughout the political process.

More specifically, with regard to the subject of this space, the contributions -- artistically, politically, psychologically and socially -- made by political cartoonists.

Welcome to the July edition of Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

According to various online sites, "Thomas Nast (September 27, 1840 – December 7, 1902) was a German-born American caricaturist and editorial cartoonist who was the 'Father of the American Cartoon.'  Among his notable works were the creation of the modern version of Santa Claus and the political symbol of the elephant for the Republican Party. Nast was associated with the magazine Harper's Weekly from 1859 to 1860 and from 1862 until 1886.

"As a political cartoonist, Thomas Nast wielded more influence than any other artist of the 19th century. He not only enthralled a vast audience with boldness and wit, but swayed it time and again to his personal position on the strength of his visual imagination. 

"Both Lincoln and Grant acknowledged his effectiveness in their behalf, and as a crusading civil reformer he helped destroy the corrupt 'Boss Tweed' Ring that swindled New York City of millions of dollars. Indeed, his impact on American public life was formidable enough to profoundly affect the outcome of every presidential election during the period 1864 to 1884.  

"Tweed ran the Democratic Party in New York. In September 1871, Nast famously depicted Tweed, New York mayor Oakey Hall and several others as a group of vultures surrounding a corpse labeled "New York." The cartoon supposedly upset Tweed so much that he offered Nast a bribe of $500,000 (100 times Nast's annual salary at the time) to leave town. Nast refused and continued to draw attention to Tweed's misdeeds. Eventually, it was Tweed who fled the country, to avoid prosecution."

I'm often asked why don't I enter the political cartooning ring?

Probably because I tend to the more apolitical side of the ledger. And, it's pretty daunting work to come up with something clever, timely and, of course, thought or action-provoking on a daily basis. 

No wonder some of these guys have won the Pulitzer Prize!

Here are a couple of my own flicks of the wrist, though I wouldn't presume to call them political cartoons.

Just caricatures of a couple of famous POTUSes (is that a word?)

See you again the first Tuesday of next month for another toss of the hat in the caricature ring, with Not Your Usual Caricature Artist.

Joel Kweskin