Press contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Website: Visit the exhibition online.

September 12, 2006

Library of Congress Exhibition "Cartoon America" Opens Nov. 2

Exhibition Features America’s Best Cartoons from the Art Wood Collection

"Cartoon America: Highlights from the Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature" will open at the Library of Congress on Thursday, Nov. 2, in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. On view through Feb. 24, 2007, the exhibition is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Saturday.

The exhibition will feature 100 masterworks of such celebrated artists as political cartoonists Thomas Nast, Rube Goldberg, Bill Mauldin and Patrick Oliphant; comic strip creators Winsor McCay, George Herriman, Chic Young, Milt Caniff, Charles Schulz and Lynn Johnston; humorous gag cartoonists Peter Arno and William Steig; caricaturists Al Hirschfeld and David Levine; animation drawings and cels from Walt Disney Productions and Hanna-Barbera; and illustrations by Edwin A. Abbey, John Held and Michael Hague.

Drawings selected for the exhibition reflect the primary collecting interests of J. Arthur Wood Jr., a connoisseur of popular graphic art. Wood’s collection of more than 36,000 original cartoon drawings "the Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature" is now housed in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division. The collection came to the Library in 2003 through a gift-purchase agreement made possible in part by a generous contribution from H. Fred Krimendahl II, a member of the Library’s Madison Council, and the generosity of Wood himself.

The collection, spanning three centuries, is distinctive and unparalleled because of the depth of holdings in political cartoons and comic strips and the specific landmark pieces in all major genres. It stands out as a jewel among the Library’s special collections, illuminating the history of American cartoon art forms and greatly enhancing the Library’s extensive holdings of cartoon art.

According to exhibition co-curators Sara W. Duke and Martha H. Kennedy, the exhibition presents stellar examples from Wood’s collection that reflect the vitality of an innovative, indigenous art form. The exhibition features the major genres of cartoon art: political cartoons, illustration, comic strips, gag and single-panel cartoons, illustration, and animation drawings and cels. An overview of highlights includes:

  • Political cartoons by leading practitioners of the "ungentlemanly art," who comment pointedly on corruption, war and public figures from the 19th century’s Gilded Age to recent times. Their visual editorials reflect diverse viewpoints conveyed in a wide variety of artistic approaches, including the classic cross-hatching techniques of Harper’s Weekly cartoonist Thomas Nast and Washington Star cartoonist Clifford Berryman, the broad crayon strokes of Rube Goldberg and Bill Mauldin, and the painterly styles of contemporary cartoonists Paul Conrad and Patrick Oliphant.
  • Rare early comics in large, multi-panel formats include portrayals of the Yellow Kid and Buster Brown, two early famous comic strip characters created by Richard Outcault. Family strips such as "Bringing Up Father" by George McManus, "Gasoline Alley" by Frank King and "For Better or for Worse" by Lynn Johnston chronicle the humorous ups and downs of family life. Selections include adventure strips "Secret Agent X-9" by Alex Raymond and "Terry and the Pirates" by Milt Caniff; artfully innovative strips "Krazy Kat" by George Herriman and "Dream of the Rarebit Fiend" by Winsor McCay; and timeless classics "Popeye" by Elzie Segar and "Peanuts" by Charles Schulz. All transport viewers to other, self-contained, captivating worlds.
  • Gag cartoons by Peter Arno, Barbara Shermund, George Price and others lampoon behavioral quirks and foibles that madden and amuse readers of The New Yorker and other popular magazines.
  • Caricatures of Stokely Carmichael, by David Levine, and of performers Jimmy Durante and Paul Whiteman, in a 1935 staging of "Jumbo" by Al Hirschfeld, offer incisive insights and display witty and magical use of the pen.
  • Treasures of animation art include a Walt Disney Productions cel of Mickey Mouse from "Fantasia"; a delightful drawing of Dumbo the elephant bathing himself; a storyboard drawing for "Bambi" by Tyrus Wong; a presentation drawing of all of the Seven Dwarfs; and a beautiful animation cel of Snow White for Disney’s groundbreaking first full-length animated feature "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937).
  • America’s Golden Age of Illustration (1880s to 1920s) is represented by drawings created by Edwin Austin Abbey, James Montgomery Flagg, Dean Cornwell and their pioneering women counterparts, Nell Brinkley, Rose O’Neill and Katherine Pyle.

Wood, an award-winning cartoonist himself, began collecting original drawings at the age of 12. During a period of 60 years, he contacted and befriended numerous older masters of cartoon art forms, as well as leading contemporary creators in the field, and obtained selections of their work, primarily by gift and some by purchase. During his professional life, Wood worked diligently to establish a museum or gallery to preserve and showcase his collection. He achieved his goal in 1995 with the opening of the National Gallery of Caricature and Cartoon Art in downtown Washington, D.C., but the gallery closed in 1997, due to a lack of sustained funding. Undeterred, Wood turned to the Library of Congress, where he had worked early in his career, to preserve and present his collection.

A companion book titled "Cartoon America: Comic Art in the Library of Congress" will be published by Harry N. Abrams, in association with the Library of Congress. The book is edited by Harry Katz, former head curator of the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division. Images of many cartoon drawings in the exhibition will be included among the 275 full-color illustrations in the book, which also surveys the Library’s other holdings of related art.

The exhibition and an accompanying brochure are funded through the generous support of the Caroline and Erwin Swann Memorial Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon. The Swann Foundation showcases the collections of the Library of Congress in rotating exhibitions and promotes the continuing Swann Foundation program in the study of cartoon, caricature and illustration, while also offering a provocative and informative selection of works by masters from the past and present.

For more information about the exhibition and related programming, contact exhibition co-curators Sara W. Duke, at (202) 707-3630, or Martha H. Kennedy, at (202) 707-9115, or email swann@loc.gov, or visit the Swann home page at http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/swann/swannhome.html.

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PR 06-165
09/12/06
ISSN 0731-3527

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