Sunday, November 25, 2012

British Political Cartoons - Martin Rowson


It's odd at times, the happenstance that inspires a touch of creativity, that creativity being a stranger to me of late it must be said. No matter, we take it where we find it.

And what a strange place to find it, in the contradictory words, no surprise you might say, of politician Kenneth Baker, Lord Baker of Dorking to us plebeians. I say contradictory, because Baker, somewhat like myself is quite a fan of political satirist Martin Rowson. Bio

Odd then, that Baker had this to say of Rowson in this recent BBC article:
Nick Clegg have proved more difficult to capture because "they have similar types of looks".

"They haven't got very lived in faces yet. You need to have someone with distinctive features," he says.
Odd, and totally at odds with my own view of Rowson's caricature of red-faced posh boy, master of misjudgement, the ever floundering David Cameron. In fact it was only quite recently that I had this to say on Twitter: For the best lampooning of David Cameron, follow @MartinRowson.

Above: My first introduction to Rowson's Cameron in all his Little Lord Fauntleroy glory.

Who by some strange coincidence, later made an appearance on this blog. Luncheon with the Prime Minister anyone?

Before moving on, let me make clear my goal here, it's not to turn this article into a Rowson wankfest, but there are certain people in this world a fellow relates to, and of course not forgetting the aforementioned creativity.

Then of course, unmentioned as of yet, this post becomes a vehicle for the artwork of not just Rowson, but that produced by myself, where it falls into the political parameters that is the tone for this piece.

But must be said, unlike Rowson, about the only thing I can draw is breath and as such have to employ such modern day wonders as computer software, Paint Shop Pro 8 in order hopefully, to achieve the desired result; satire.

The article in question.

Political cartoons: Britain's revolutionaries
By Kayte Rath

They appear daily in our newspapers and have lampooned prime ministers for generations, but have political cartoons helped Britain avoid some of the political tumult of its European neighbours?

For nearly 400 years, Britain has avoided violent struggles and political revolution.

In 1789, while France was busy overthrowing its royal rulers and unceremoniously chopping off the heads of its aristocrats, Britain shunned their revolutionary zeal, preferring a more sedate pace of change.

And where France led, others followed. In the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries virtually every other state in Europe has experienced at least one forcible overthrow of government.

Historians may have their theories as to why, but so does former Conservative cabinet minister Lord Baker, and it's a rather novel one: Political cartoons.

The peer, who served under Margaret Thatcher as home secretary and chaired the party in her final days as prime minister, has long had an interest in collecting and writing about cartoons and is vice-chairman of the Cartoon Museum in London.

For him, this unique British contribution to the world of art - which Lord Baker credits Britain with "inventing" - has helped stem the frustrations of the British people since it first started nearly 300 years ago.

"I believe that if you can laugh at your rulers, you don't cut off their heads," he says. "Laughter is an escape for those kinds of pent up feelings. It helps make society calmer."
'Defecating, urinating, fornicating'

And because of Britain's lack of censorship laws in the 18th century - the "golden age" of political caricatures according to Lord Baker - this "graphic satire" was able to flourish.

"In Europe, all the other countries had censorship.

"If you criticised the king or queen of France you were sent to the Bastille - in fact if you criticised Louis XIV you got torn about by four horses, which did rather discourage people.

"But there wasn't any censorship here: we laughed at our kings and queens and we laughed at our prime ministers."

Not only has the culture of cartooning helped Britain remain a stable country, it was also the beginning of public engagement in politics, making a connection between prime ministers and the people for the first time.

"Before cameras, radio and TV, it was the only way in which people got to see their politicians," Lord Baker says.

"They would get stuck up in shop windows for everyone to see. It was the first time people actually saw royalty, judges, MPs, aristocracy and the celebrities of the day.

"The cartoons were bought by the middle class as they were the only ones who could afford them, but it was the beginning of real public interest from people in their politicians."

With different attitudes to physical appearances and bodily functions, the early cartoons could be extremely rude.

"In the 18th century they didn't have the same physical hang-ups that we do now - you had people farting, defecating, urinating, vomiting, fornicating - everything. No one escaped.

"George III was shown manuring his own field."

Robert Walpole, generally regarded as the first man to hold the post of prime minister from the 1720s to 1742, was represented by his exposed rear end.

"The first cartoon of Walpole was of his big bare bottom straddling the Treasury.

"You couldn't see his face, but everyone knew who it was because they knew you had to kiss Walpole's bottom if you were to get anywhere. He ran the state by patronage, handing out positions and everybody knew it."

Other politicians have had their own distinctive caricatures, with cartoonists picking one easily identifiable "tab" to let the audience know who is being made fun of.

These can often capture a politician's character better than official portraits do, Lord Baker says.

"Caricatures can say in a flash what it takes 20 column inches or three minutes of TV to say.

"The cartoon has an immediate impact. They are snapshots of a given moment and can characterise people forever."

William Pitt the Younger was shown as a drunkard, Disraeli had "curly Jewish locks", Churchill was easily identified by his fat cigar and for Margaret Thatcher it was her handbag.

More recently, Lord Baker says, John Major was depicted with "naff Marks and Spencer's underpants", after once allegedly being spotted with his pants tucked over his shirt - after this "the pants became everything".

Tony Blair was all about "the teeth and the ears" and Gordon Brown was shown as "being grossly fat".

In the current crop of leaders, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have proved more difficult to capture because "they have similar types of looks".

"They haven't got very lived in faces yet. You need to have someone with distinctive features," he says.

However, this has not been a problem for the Labour's fresh-faced, younger leader Ed Miliband: "He was Wallace and Gromit straight away."

'Cheshire cat' More
Next up, the shorter of three clips featuring our intrepid satirist. A clip which, for reasons obvious, I can only describe as pennies from heaven, and from which I quote.

"The interesting thing about Gin Lane is that in fact it was a piece of journalism. It was inspired by a story about a woman who'd murdered her own daughter in order to sell her clothes to buy gin. . . ."

TateShots - Martin Rowson on Hogarth

. . . . It's been pastiched and stolen by subsequent artists and cartoonists over and over again, including me."

And others dear boy, and others.

"The interesting thing about Gin Lane is that in fact it was a piece of journalism. It was inspired by a story about a woman who'd murdered her own daughter in order to sell her clothes to buy gin. . . ."

Another Rowson cartoon, that later was to turn up in part elsewhere.

But with a change to a somewhat more sheepish face. Goodness knows, like all Pols, he has enough of them.

Martin Rowson - The Power of the Political Cartoon. 30 minutes

Rowson on the old scroat.

The last clip is one I have featured previously in a post, but in order to keep the whole thing on one page links n'all, I shall import the complete thing.

Little Lord Cameron and A brief History of British Satirical Cartooning

When I captured this fifteen minutes of video, I had no intention of posting the thing as something in its own right, rather it was to be used as a compliment to a previous post, "Photoshop Justice" The Rise of the Citizen Satirist.

But for reasons whatever, I stumbled upon this morning a previous post, Hackgate: Taken Into Custardy. Where can be found, a cartoon that caught my eye, of which I said at the time of posting: Chosen not because I found it particularly amusing, but rather for the brilliant depiction of Cameron. To wit, one cartoon.

And to whom do we owe thanks for this brilliant characterisation of Cameron as Little Lord Fauntleroy? None other than Martin Rowson, Guardian cartoonist, talking head and one of the subjects in this brief history of British satire.

Two of Martin Rowson's more contemporary cartoons, the rest of his work can be found here. Of which, I am presently about to have a wander through myself.

Rowson on Hitchens.

And he don't do too shabby a Murdoch either.

Though there are quite literally hundreds of "shopped" photo's I could offer up, I shall post but a few of the more recent ones that tend towards the political, saving of course my big bus and perhaps one other. For the main, most of my previous stuff is archived here.

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