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.