I don’t know as much about cartooning history as I should. Partly because my memory is rubbish and nothing seems to stick for long, but also partly because I find so much of it boring. Cartoons that are centuries old are often dull to me, or at least lacking in any context that I am aware of.
So when I heard that the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) on St Kilda Road was showing some old satirical cartoons, I thought “I really should go,” though I wasn’t really super keen (unlike when the ACMI did a Muppet 101 floor talk and film clip showing). But I was fascinated. The exhibition wasn’t that large (even if content is interesting, too much of it can stupefy) and I was won over by the first print, “The Roman Church” by Robert Willemsz de Baudous, a Dutch cartoon from 1605. And it definitely was a cartoon, with very humorous content. I did a thumbnail sketch of a detail of it:
There were also some famous cartoons by Hogarth and Gilray (biting wit – okay, a lot of their stuff was probably so-so, but what survives is better than most of what is published today) and my favourite print would have to be Cruikshank’s ‘Very Unpleasant Weather, or the Old Saying verified “Raining Cats, Dogs and Pitchforks” !!!’ (his 3 exclamation marks, not mine!). And I’m ashamed to say I don’t remember coming across Daumier before and his linework is stunning!
The Satirical Eye is on at the NGV until 26th July 2009