Laugh Lines: Cartoons and Caricatures from the Museum’s Collection

Boy paintingDecember
11, 2009  Chadds Ford, PA-Thomas Nast, Charles Addams, Charles Schulz,
and Rube Goldberg are among the artists featured in Laugh Lines: Cartoons and Caricatures from the Collection,
on view at the Brandywine River Museum from January 23 to March 14,
2010.   The exhibition includes over 50 humorous works by some of the
most important illustrators from the 19th and 20th centuries, whose
works comment on politics, society and ordinary life.   
 
Cartoons
and caricatures have been an important source of amusement and
expression of opinions throughout American history.  The best cartoons
rivet the public's attention to ideas and attitudes.  Their visual
humor can garner awareness of issues and sometimes can be a catalyst
for social change and justice.  They are also important mirrors of
American society and politics to the present day.  
 
One of
the earliest works in the exhibition is by Thomas Nast, who was famous
for images that skewered the corrupt Tammany Hall politician, William
"Boss" Tweed, who bilked millions of dollars from New York City
taxpayers.  A natural story-teller, Arthur Burdett Frost, was famous
for his folksy, vaudevillian humor.  His sequential drawings, such as Hunter, Kangaroo, and Snake (ca. 1900), on view in the exhibition, helped pave the way for the strip cartoon, long since an established format for comics.
 
During
the 1920s, John Held, Jr. was famous for his stylized Jazz Age
flappers, rambunctious college students, and bootleggers.  His
contemporary, Rube Goldberg, an engineer-turned illustrator, created
cartoons filled with complicated, convoluted contraptions designed to
perform simple tasks.  Goldberg's Perpetual Motion Machine-An Invention,
on view in the exhibition, is a prime example of the comic
illustrations that earned Goldberg the title of "greatest engineering
cartoonist."
 
In the late 20th century, some artists excelled in
dark humor, notably Charles Addams, popular for his macabre cartoons
and "Addams family" characters. Trends in modern art influenced some
artists to adopt fluid, light pen styles as exemplified in the work of
Al Hirschfeld, David Levine and Edward Gorey. 
 
All of these
artists are included in the exhibition, along with Edward Kemble, Rose
O'Neill, John Groth, Barbara Shermund, Peter Arno, George Price, Daniel
Carter Beard, and many others.  Their work underscores illustrators'
wit, knowledge and skill.  Many of the works are gifts of donors whose
generosity has helped build the museum's collection of distinctive
American humor.
 
The Brandywine River Museum is located on
U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The museum is open daily,
except Christmas Day, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $10 for
adults; $6 for seniors ages 65 and over, students, and children ages
6-12; free for children under six and Brandywine Conservancy members.
For more information, please call 610-388-2700 or visit the museum's
website at www.brandywinemuseum.org.
# # #
Image caption: Tony Sarg (1880-1942), Laughing Lion,
1930, ink, crayon, pencil and gouache on mounted illustration board,
collection of the Brandywine River Museum, gift of Jane Collette Wilcox.

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On view at the Brandywine River Museum beginning Jan. 23" />
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