There was a real sense of occasion at the Chris Beetles Gallery on May 5th as flying over the pond to attend the opening of ‘The Americans are Coming’ exhibition were some very illustrious guests indeed…
Pat Oliphant – America’s greatest post-war political cartoonist, and recognised as the Godfather of political cartooning in the United States;
Arnold Roth – New York’s greatest graphic humourist and Punch magazine’s monthly ‘Report from America’ from 1965-1988;
Edward Koren – currently The New Yorker magazine’s most loved cartoonist.
They were in attendance to help us celebrate the opening of the show, which featured some of the greatest artists in the history of American Cartoon Art, spanning a 100 year period.
On display were 300 original works from 30 artists including some star spangled classics. Recognisable at a glance were the likes of:
Snoopy (Charles Schulz – 1922- 2000), Popeye (Bud Sagendorf – 1915- 1994), Captain and the Kids (Rudolph Dirks – 1877-1968), Smokey Stover (Bill Holman – 1903-1987), and Disney characters ; Captain Hook (Wolfgang Reitherman – 1909- 1985) and The Wicked Witch from Snow White (Norm Ferguson – 1902-1957) and my personal favourites, some Addams Family cartoons by the master of macabre wit, Charles Addams.
These works conveyed a shared visual culture that probably only the American industry could have achieved. How many movies, books and products have been spawned by the works of these cartoonists?
And to add further gravitas to the event, the filmmaker and Monty Python cartoonist, Terry Gilliam officially opened proceedings. Having started as a cartoonist, Mr. Gilliam’s career had expanded into creative territories we need no reminding of here, but he had never forgotten his roots, or indeed the cartoonists that inspired him. And it was fitting to see someone of his calibre paying homage to the men and women whose mighty pens had rendered some of the most iconic cartoons in American history.
God bless ’em!
The exhibition is open until 30th May.
Anthony Smith, May, 2015.