Blackpaint 152

Rude Britannia

This is in no particular order, as I wrote it down as I remembered it when I got home.

The first thing that impressed was the drawings of Philip Dawe of the huge, ridiculous wigs worn by Regency women.  Also the “Macaroni”, an earlier version of the Beau or dandy. 

The Hogarths, Gin Lane, Beer Alley, the Roast Beef of old England, demonstrate a difference between him and the other well-known cartoonists of the era ,such as Rowlandson – Hogarth exaggerates only slightly; it is the situations that are outrageous (the woman allowing her baby to slide from her lap) rather than the actual representation of them, which is relatively realistic.  Rowlandson, with his huge backsides, drooling lips, gobbling diners, drooling distillers, bum suckers, shit eaters and so on, is the caricaturist, forerunner of Scarfe and Steadman.

Gillray’s stuff struck me as a little tame by comparison (although Laura Cumming points out that there is more savage stuff that was not included).  There is a series of cartoons depicting the conflict between the fleshy, unkempt, bloodthirsty yob Fox and the tall, gaunt patrician Pitt.  Its pretty clear where the cartoonist’s sympathies lie.

Cruikshank’s cartoons seem to rely on lengthy captions (too much reading required in these exhibitions – can’t be avoided, if you want to understand them though).  There is also his huge allegorical painting the Worship of Bacchus; Steve Bell seems to admire it; he (Cruikshank)  strikes me as an early killjoy supporter of the BMA unit mongers.  Some interesting caricatures by Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Moving on to WW2, there are Low’s cartoons and those of Leslie Illingworth, of lesser renown, but as good for my money.  Churchill donning armour while dogs marked Royal Navy and RAF attempt to hold back the dragon of Nazism; Stalingrad as a hedgehog of spears, bloodying Hitler.  Recognisably in direct line from Victorian cartoons in Punch and London Gazette.

Modern times – Fluck and Law of course, Steadman and Scarfe (always confuse them), David Shrigley’s banner holding stuffed cat, “I’m Dead”.  Steve Bell and Major’s underpants, kinnardphillips and Alison Jackson’s lookalike Blair and Bush.  Best joke was Angus Fairhurst’s cartoon of the two men clashing heads; also his ill-fitting gorilla suit video.  Most excruciating was the Bateman cartoon of the man biting his tongue off.

The bawdy bit – Donald McGill of course, and a really good Viz cartoon, parodying McGill’s style and exploding it.  Some really impressive erect penises in the work of Aubrey Beardsley and Grayson Perry.

The whole thing was stitched together with a commentary done in the Viz style, by Viz characters, but I couldn’t be bothered to read all that – apparently, it was the funniest part of the exhibition.

As always with these exhibitions, especially in the early stages, you require great patience.  There are those who stand close up to the cartoons so that no-one else can see anything until they have read every word; then they move to the next one and do the same thing.  They tend to have grey hair and goatee beards (the men), Hawaiian short-sleeved shirts and those glasses hanging from cords.  They are mostly teachers (prob. retired), as they delight in pointing out loudly to their spouses the incorrect spelling of “skillful” in the captions.  I know the type; I am one.

Listening to Mean Black Spider by Robert Junior Lockwood.

“You’re a mean black spider and your web’s all over town (*2)

I’m gonna get me a mean red spider, to tear your cobweb down”



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