Saturday, February 25, 2017

What the Puck is going on Part II

Four hostile newspapers 
are more to be feared
than a thousand bayonets. 
Napoleon Bonaparte

There’s an old expression that says the pen is mightier than the sword. It’s a quote from a play written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839. I’ve always considered this to mean the written word is mightier than the sword, but I’ve come to learn that perhaps the political cartoon plays an even mightier role. 

Back in the mid-1800s, the dark masses, as they were called, could not read. But they could get political information from cartoons--not something those in power liked. So when illustrated chronicles blasted upon the scene, they caused an immediate stir. Now, in journal form, people could see for themselves the unscrupulous side of government and business alike.

Most of theses journals pushed the envelope, causing many to be jailed, fined or censored. In fact, they continued to do so all the way up to and including Charlie Hebdo. Eventually their office would be attacked by two gunmen who killed 12 people and seriously wounding three. I’m not here to discuss the moral or ethical question of how far political cartooning can go, but it does bring up the point that images can speak louder than words.

The political cartoon truly hit its stride in the 1830s with the advent of the illustrated magazine.  One of the first publications was the Parisian La Caricature, along with the daily Le Charivari (1830-1937) Two other famous magazines sprung to life later, Punch, London England (1841 to 2002) and in the States, Puck (1871 to 1918). 

La Caricature and the daily Le Charivari
Just after the revolution of July 1830 in France, caricaturist Charles Philipon and his brother-in-law Gabriel Aubert started La Caricature which came out monthly and later, Le Charivari, which was published daily.

The French have a long history of satire and cartooning. Even before their first revolution, there were drawings passed around degrading the monarchy and clergy—some of the graphics were at times almost leaning toward pornography. Then with the help of the printing press and lithography, copies could be made to create illustrated newspapers, which became vehicles to spread their agenda. 

Philipon’s journals were not particularly lengthy but from the start were generally political. By 1831, Philipon found himself in court for libel because of, among other things, drawing the Citizen King Louis-Phillip's head in the form of a pear. Poire (pear) means not only the fruit in French but also slang for being dim-witted. By drawing the king’s head in the form of a pear, he was doing more than placing big ears, as political cartoonists have done with Obama.

In his court case, though, Philipon demonstrated that any face can be turned into any shape, including a pear. He demonstrated this belief with the following drawing:

Philipon said in his defense,Is it my fault, gentlemen of the jury, if his Majesty's face looks like a pear?” Unfortunately, it just didn’t fly. He was jailed and fined 2,000 francs—lots in those days—and closed down in 1835, after being seized 12 times.

One of the most famous illustrations is the Past, Present and Future by Honoré Daumier, published in 1834. The three faces represent:

Things that were promised in the past: the aristocracy would get less while the bourgeoisie (middle class) and lower class (poor) would get more.

Things that were happening in the present: None of the above

Things the king would have to face: A foreshadowing of the Revolution of 1848, when he was disposed, followed by Napoleon creating the second republic (which lasted until 1870).

As Philipon stated to a friend regarding the citizen king’s administration, "The golden age [of consensus] did not last long. You'll see, after a dozen of issues La Caricature's drawing political cartoons, soft first and but slightly aggressive, came back more often, more often again, and more intense, until it occupied all of the newspaper and becomes ruthless." Things continued to go from bad to worse.

About two years after the publishing of La Caricature, which had several pages and printed on expensive paper, Philipon opened Le Charivari, ("noisy group" in French) in order to avoid censorship and fines. It was originally printed in four pages and continued until 1937. Much softer on the political cartoons, especially after 1835, this publication was dedicated more to the satire of everyday life.

Of course, in the years that followed, the journal could not ignore world events, brewing in their own backyard. Le Charivari included both light satire to expressive cartooning as times warranted.

Preoccupied man

Across the channel another journal was being created, modeled after Le Charivari, this one entitled, Punch. Obviously the French journal was making such an impact on the Continent, that the English even stated that their journal was the London Charivari.

However, Punch was a bit different. Begun by Ebenezer Landells and Henry Mayhew as a humorous and satirical magazine in 1841, the paper developed a reputation for its wit and impertinence lasting until 2002. According to the Punch Magazine website, the word “cartoon” originated with them. As with Le Carivari, George du Maurier (1834 – 1896) was one of the publication’s  favorite artists. Fortunately, we have a lot more examples of how Punch influenced and/or informed the public than the French counterpart from its early days all the way up to our recent past.
From its inception its purpose was to expose the evil doers and champion the down trodden. The publication was well named as it never held-back a punch and unlike Le Charivari, it was never closed down by the government.
Cheap Clothing, (Leech, Punch 1845)

I would like to show you more of Punch’s illustrations, but they have copyrighted most of them, so if you want to see more you'll have to go to their website

In 1871 another illustrated magazine gave birth but now across the pond in the United States, called Puck. Austrian-born, Joseph Keppler began his paper in St. Louis in both English and German. Six years later both editions were published in NYC, with the one in English continuing until 1917. Briefly there was also a London version. Eventually, a typical issue was 32 pages using color and paid advertisements, becoming one of the most successful magazines of its kind.

However, while reading about this publication on a U.S. Senate site regarding its history, I found this little tidbit:

Puck attracted an appreciative audience. Its pro-Cleveland cartoons in 1884 may well have contributed to the Democratic candidate’s narrow victory in the presidential election. The Republicans responded by buying Puck’s weak rival, Judge, and luring away some of Puck’s talented staff. Within a few years, Judge supplanted Puck as the leading humor magazine.

Hmmm. Very interesting. 

Whatever the case, I truly like scrolling through our history in cartoon form. Besides their artwork is far superior, in my opinion, to the others previously mentioned.

It’s not hard to find artwork from Puck (Judge and Harper’s Weekly) on the Internet and best of all, you learn so much more about American history than if you were to read thousands of pages. There you go, as I said, the political cartoon can speak volumes. 

Although Teddy Roosevelt was much beloved, he was much detested, as evidenced in Puck. I’ve included several of his cartoons along with others that show our late 18th century and 19th century story. I hope you enjoy them.
The Political Janus 1910
It all depends on the way you look at him.

1902 Finds the helm in safe hands.

No Limit 1909
Japan I see your cruisers and raise you a dreadnought!

The protectors of our industries 1883
School Begins (1899)
Now, children, you've got to learn these lessons whether you want to or not! 
But just take a look at the class ahead of you, and
remember that, in a little while,
you will feel as glad to be here as they are!

Next month, I'll be covering editorial cartoons from the mid-1950's to present. It should be interesting.


Finally, I've put together the Glastonbury Studios workshop catalog for 2017. As you may remember the workshops are being taught in my studio in Tigard, are only $85 for the day, include lunch and most supplies. 

Take a few minutes and review the offerings. When you find something that you like, email me for the registration pack. Hope you in you like what you see. 

Go to catalog here.

What's coming up!

Glastonbury Studios Weekly Classes
Winter Term II begins week of February, 28th
Register by email:
Please note: Limited space per class. Payment reserves your seat.
See for more details.

Pencil to Brush
Creating a drawing and finishing it with acrylic paints.
Every Tuesday morning
10 am to 12:30 pm
$75 per five-week term
Beginning to Intermediate
Open (seats available)

Pencil to Brush
Creating a drawing and finishing it with acrylic paints
Every Thursday evening
6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
$75 per five-week term
Open (seats available)


Glastonbury Studios Workshop
Saturday, March 4   10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Perspective the Easy Way

Learning perspective isn’t as difficult as it seems. It’s rather logical and when you get it, the whole process becomes easier. You’ll learn one- and two-point perspective, building roads, villages,  room interiors,  arches and more.  Bring a Strathmore Visual Journal/Mixed Media with you to class and I’ll supply the rest, including lunch. To register, please email at

Now accepting reservations!
Sketching a Bit of England
Marlborough, England
September 3-10, 2017
River Kennet | High Street
See details at: Sketching England

Sketch'n on the Go ™Tours
There is a $50 deposit to reserve your place.

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