In 1843 in the early years of Punch, the word 'cartoon' was introduced into the English Language in the modern sense of a humorous drawing. The usage arose from a competition to supply the new Houses of Parliament with frescoes illustrating scenes from English history. The large rough designs, or 'cartoons' ( in the original sense used in fresco painting) were exhibited. The editor of Punch Mark Lemon seized the opportunity to publish his own 'cartoons', the first of which was a biting satire by John leech which bore Lemon's legend 'The poor ask for bread , and the philanthropy of the state accords an exhibition.' The new meaning stuck, and Leech is remembered as the first cartoonist in the modern sense.
Caricatura and Caricature
In 1710, Sarah Duchess of Marlborough, ousted from Royal favour by a rival, wrote to the wit Bubb Doddington: 'Young man, you come from Italy. They tell me of a new invention there called caricatura drawing. Can you find me somebody that will make me a caricature of Lady Masham, describing her covered with many sores and ulcers, that I may send to the Queen to give her a slight idea of her favourite.' This quotation provides one of the first descriptions of the art form in England where it was to become so popular. It is however worth recording a 17th Century definition on the subject 'Is it not the caricaturist's task exactly the same as the artist's? Both see the lasting truth beneath the surface of mere outward appearance. Both try to help nature accomplish its plan. The one may strive to visualise the perfect form and to realise it in his work, the other to grasp the perfect deformity, and thus reveal the very essence of personality. A good caricature, like every work of art, is more true to life than reality itself.
By Lionel Lambourne, from 'The Art of Laughter' , Copyright The Cartoon Museum
How can I help? [back to top]
You can support the Trust by joining our Friends group, which numbers over 750 supporters and cartoonists. Here are just some of their comments:
"As a nation we have found the cartoon art form to be a vital dimension and an integral part of our culture and history. For the cartoon to be without a home is to deny the debt that we owe to generations of men and women who have enriched our lives with the wit and perception of their own experiences."
"A centre containing representative works from the time of Hogarth to the present day, holding a library of books of and about caricature and cartooning and a database on CD-ROM would be of inestimable value to scholars in Britain and abroad."
The late Les Lilley, President of FECO.
"The fact that literally every branch of visual art except the art of the cartoon has its own physical centre of excellence is hard to explain to the layman. He is inclined to think that the efforts of cartoonists not to be worthy of such attention. Whereas, in fact, cartoonists must be acknowledged for some of the finest draughtsman ever to have toiled for the pleasure and enjoyment of those privileged to have access to their work."
Please join these and our many other supporters and help us create the British Cartoon Centre for the next century.
"If we all know now, at last, where we are really going to, and where science and statesmanship are leading us; and if it is quite obviously to an enormous lunatic asylum, let us at least, by the grace of God, go there in company with a man who has a sense of humour." G K Chesterton
Art Trust Cartoon and Comic Exhibitions, 1991-2005
1991 Financial cartoons at The Bank of England
‘The Art of Laughter’ in collaboration with the Ashmolean Museum,
1992 All the World’s a Stage – Theatrical
cartoons from the collection of Allan
Cuthbertson, donated to The Cartoon Museum collection in 1997
50 Years at the Express’
Coping with Relations: Anglo – German Cartoons from the ‘50s
to the ‘90s
1994 Mirth of a Nation: An A to Z of The Cartoon Art
1995 ‘The Prime Ministers’ Cartoon
history of the premiership
Judge Dredd Mega Exhibition
1996 A Collection of Calmans
All in the Stepfamily
1998 The Cartoonist’s Progress:
In the footsteps of Hogarth
1999 ‘The Great Challenge’:
International cartoons on freedom of speech
and the press
1999 Lottery Laughter
1999 Gemma Bovary by Posy Simmonds
2000 ‘Happy Birthday
Snoopy’ Peanuts caroons by Charles Schulz
Dan Dare at 50
The 100 British Cartoonists of the Century
‘Dennis the Menace: 50 Years of Mischief’
2002 Kings and Queens
2003 Thelwell Country
The Art of Leaving Out: A Phil May Centenary Exhibition
A Mixture of Gin and Buttercups : Michael ffolkes
Minnie, Plum and The Bash Street Kids UR 50!
2004 The Humour
of Embarrassment:H.M. Bateman’s ‘The Man Who
Censored at the Seaside: The Censored Postcards of Donald McGill
Grin and Blair It!: Ten Years of Tony Blair in Cartoons
Bear, Punch and Much More: The Art of Alfred Bestall