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The Masses was founded in New York in 1911 by Piet Vlag. Another important financial backer was Amos Pinchot, a wealthy lawyer who supported a wide variety of progressive causes. He was the father of Mary Pinchot Meyer.

Organised like a co-operative, artists and writers who contributed to the journal shared in its management. Articles and poems were written by people such as John Reed, Sherwood Anderson, Max Eastman, Crystal Eastman, Hubert Harrison, Inez Milholland, Mary Heaton Vorse, Louis Untermeyer, Randolf Bourne, Dorothy Day, Helen Keller, William Walling, Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, Amy Lowell, Mabel Dodge, Floyd Dell and Louise Bryant.

The Masses also published the work of important artists including John Sloan, Robert Henri, Alice Beach Winter, Mary Ellen Sigsbee, Cornelia Barns, Reginald Marsh, Rockwell Kent, Art Young, Boardman Robinson, Robert Minor, K. R. Chamberlain, Stuart Davis, Cornelia Barns, George Bellows and Maurice Becker.

This team of artists produced a series of masterpieces. This includes probably my favourite cartoon of all time. Produced by Robert Minor, it appeared in July, 1916. This cartoon was partly responsible for the magazine being closed down. It had claimed that cartoons and articles in the Masses had violated the Espionage Act. Under this act it was an offence to publish material that undermined the war effort. The legal action that followed forced The Masses to cease publication.

The caption of the cartoon reads: Army Medical Examiner: "At last a perfect soldier!"



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After the USA declared war on the Central Powers in 1917, The Masses, a socialist magazine published in New York City, came under government pressure to change its anti-war policy. When it refused to do this, the journal lost its mailing privileges. In July, 1917, it was claimed by the authorities that articles by Floyd Dell and Max Eastman and cartoons by Art Young, Boardman Robinson and H. J. Glintenkamp had violated the Espionage Act. Under this act it was an offence to publish material that undermined the war effort.

Floyd Dell argued in court: "There are some laws that the individual feels he cannot obey, and he will suffer any punishment, even that of death, rather than recognize them as having authority over him. This fundamental stubbornness of the free soul, against which all the powers of the state are helpless, constitutes a conscious objection, whatever its sources may be in political or social opinion." The legal action that followed forced The Masses to cease publication. In April, 1918, after three days of deliberation, the jury failed to agree on the guilt of Dell and his fellow defendants.

The cartoon by Boardman Robinson was one of the cartoons that the US government believed undermined the war effort.



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Another favourite of mine is Art Young. He was a highly successful cartoonist working for all the leading newspapers and magazines. In March 1902 Young was commissioned to draw an anti-immigration picture for Life. After it was published he sent back the $100 cheque and vowed that in future he would only draw pictures that reflected his own political beliefs.


A Christian Socialist, here is the front cover of the Masses on the outbreak of the First World War.

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Wyndham Robinson is an under-rated political cartoonist from the 1930s. In 1932 Robinson was appointed as the political cartoonist for The Morning Post. During the Great Depression he became a strong critic of the government of Ramsay MacDonald. In one cartoon published on 31st July 1933, Robinson's compared MacDonald's inactivity with that of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. He also portrayed Stanley Baldwin as disinterested in the subject. The same cartoon could be used today with David Cameron in the hut.


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Thomas Nast, in political terms, was probably the most influential cartoonist in history. During the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said: "Thomas Nast has been our best recruiting sergeant. His emblematic cartoons have never failed to arouse enthusiasm and patriotism."

Nast helped five different Republican candidates to win presidential elections. Rutherhood Hayes, who won in 1876 commented that Nast was "the most powerful single-handed aid we had."

In 1884 Nast changed sides and supported the Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland for president. In doing so, he helped Cleveland become the first Democrat president since 1856. After this, Nast was known as the "presidential maker".


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Kimon Evan Marengo was a cartoonist who had trouble getting his work published in the British press. Every year he sent out a Christmas Card.

The one for 1936 featured Benito Mussolini as the mother wolf from Rome's Capitoline Hill. In place of Romulus and Remus are infant fascists, Adolf Hitler, Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, AIoannis Metaxas, Francisco Franco and Oswald Mosley.

In 1945 Kem produced a Christmas Card that commented on the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It shows President Harry S. Truman in the guise of the Statue of Liberty, showing him holding both physical and monetary power. In the picture Joseph Stalin, Clement Attlee, Charles De Gaulle and Chaing Kai-shek all hold out hands of friendship, but they are really reaching out for the atom bomb in Truman's hand.


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Oliver Harrington is an extremely important political cartoonist who unfortunately largely forgotten today. He was born in Valhalla on 14th February, 1912. After being educated at Yale School of Fine Arts and the National Academy of Design, he contributed cartoons to newspapers in Harlem. One of his main concerns was "to establish a more realistic and less stereotypical depiction of African-American life but also to vent his anger about the continuing racial discrimination in the U.S."

In the 1932 Presidential Election he used his art to support the campaign of Franklin D. Roosevelt. During the next few years he was a passionate supporter of Roosevelt's New Deal program. In 1935 Harrington was recruited by the Amsterdam News. It was while working for this paper that he created Bootsie, a heavy-set, bald man from Harlem. It was the first black comic strip to receive national recognition. Harrington later wrote about the birth of Bootsie: "I simply recorded the almost unbelievable but hilarious chaos around me and came up with a character. I was more surprised than anyone when Brother Bootsie became a Harlem celebrity." Harrington became the first African American to establish an international reputation in cartooning.

During the Second World War the Pittsburgh Courier sent Harrington as a war correspondent to Europe. His main concern was to document the experience of African-American soldiers. A common theme of these cartoons was the irony of fighting for rights in Europe that they did not have in their own country.

After the war Harrington worked for the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). Harrington's cartoons often dealt with the subject of racism. He was particularly concerned about what he believed was government apathy about legislation against lynching. He later argued that had no alternative but to be a political artist: “I personally feel that my art must be involved, and the most profound involvement must be with the Black liberation struggle.”

In 1950 Harrington's political opinions brought him to the attention of the FBI and Joseph McCarthy. He decided to leave the country and went to live in Paris, where he associated with other black exiles such as James Baldwin, Richard Wright and Chester Himes. Harrington was one of those who believed Wright was murdered by the CIA in 1960.

Harrington moved to East Berlin in 1961 but continued to send cartoons to papers in the United States. As one critic commented: "sulphurous political cartoons attacking institutionalized racism, mindless imperialism, self-serving politicians, poverty, homelessness and bloated capitalists, all drawn in a gritty, ragged-line coarse-hatched style perfectly suited to the raw and painful bitterness of his ironic assault."Oliver Harrington died in East Berlin on 2nd November, 1995.


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