Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Cartoon Museum

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Today Linda and I went to the Cartoon Museum, which is in Little Russell Street, WC1A 2HH.

It is housed in a former dairy, and consists of two rooms downstairs, and an upstairs galleried area which houses the collection of comics.

For copyright reasons, we were not allowed to take pictures of the art works themselves, so here is the embellishment of the door into the exhibition space, with a recognisable Steve Bell depiction of George W Bush as Michelangelo's Adam.

We went first to look at the current special exhibition, which is cartoons and caricatures by Marc.  Mark Boxer said of himself 'I don't draw particularly well, but I have an observant eye', but we thought his pen work was pretty impressive, and his observant eye applies both to the notables he drew and to the mores of the period. His trendy couple, the Stringalongs, with their friends Ben and Pilaf Goldblatt, figure in a number of social comments:  'Daddy and I think spelling is elitist'; 'Simon, which of these two dresses would you say was more left of centre?'

Being the age we are, we did not need many of the captions to tell us whose portraits we were admiring.  Some were international, like Kssinger, some cultural, like a black haired Simon Rattle as well as Olivier, Gielgud, Heaney, Graham Greene and even Stockhausen (we did have to look to see who this one was)

The politicians, of all hues, were there too:  Foot and Benn and Healey; Lawson and Thatcher - depicted with a 'no milk today' note for the milkman hanging from one nipple: she never shook off the Milk Snatcher label associated with her ending of free milk for school children.

(Which reminds me, we were sharing the space with a party from Snaresbrook Primary School, and I hope their teachers will not mind us saying how impressed we were with the impeccable behaviour of a lot of young people clearly having a good time)

In fact, Mrs Thatcher cropped up again in a pocket cartoon with a timely relevance as we trudge towards the general election:  two people commenting, as they pass a placard reading 'Falklands war cost £700 million,' 'At least she does not have to put it down as election expenses'.

Although this exhibition is coming to an end (to be replaced by 'Heckling Hitler', which sounds fun) the permanent collection of the Museum does include some Marc cartoons so we shall not be starved of them in the future.  And Linda and I went on to look at the permanent exhibition.  It starts with a timeline of cartoon and caricature, and then is displayed chronologically, from the beginning of the 18th century onwards. The print shops which sold the luxury items also displayed their wares in the windows, for the less wealthy to enjoy, so people could be amused by Hogarth and Gillray, as we were.  1789 and the French Revolution encouraged a flowering af radical and anti-monarchy as well as anti-French cartooning; coincidentally, the British Museum across the road is also showing a collection of the way Bonaparte was depicted by British cartoonists.  After all, the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is coming up in June. Then it was on through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, with a good number of First World War postcards, poster and magazine cartoons.  The coverage goes right up to the present day, the last cartoon being Martin Rawson's take on the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, which you can see here, courtesy of the Guardian's website.

Pausing briefly in the little animation room, where we saw some Peppa Pig storyboards, and laughed at the covering of the benches, we went on upstairs to the gallery, where the collection of comics is available to enjoy. Actually, Linda and I are not excited by all that Judge Dredd, Batman stuff, being of the 'Eagle' and 'Girl' general;  but we did pause by some Desperate Dan and Dennis the Menace original artworks, before (as Banksy would say) heading out through the gift shop, which is a treasure house of silly cards, books and mugs.

Definitely a place to return to, we thought.

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