To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of cartoonist Herbert L. Block, the Library of Congress presents “Herblock!” The exhibition is on display from Oct. 13, 2009, through May 1, 2010. The exhibition is free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day), in the second-floor South Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building. The exhibit may also be viewed online at www.loc.gov/exhibits/.
“Cartooning is an irreverent form of expression, and one particularly suited to scoffing at the high and the mighty. If the prime role of a free press is to serve as critic of government, cartooning is often the cutting edge of that criticism.”
Herbert L. Block (1909-2001) was a fearless crusader who condemned corruption and exposed injustice, inequality and immorality. Artfully and effectively wielding his pen, he influenced public opinion and jarred the lives of many elected officials. He was “Herblock,” the master of editorial cartooning.
The Library of Congress celebrates the centennial of Herblock’s birth with an exhibition that looks at his entire 72-year career, which began in 1929 under President Herbert Hoover and concluded in 2001 during the presidency of George W. Bush. During his long career, he covered a range of topics including the Great Depression, the rise of fascism and World War II, communism and the Cold War, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, race relations, President Richard Nixon, the Reagan era and the 2000 election. In true Herblock form, his cartoons critiqued and commented on Democrats and Republicans alike.
The exhibition is organized chronologically. The sections include Herblock’s early years, titled “The Approaching Perils”; the rise of fascism and World War II, “Psychopathic Ward”; the Cold War, “White is Black, Black is White, Night is Day—”; McCarthyism, “Naughty, Naughty”; the 1960s, “Everything’s [Not] Okay”; Richard Nixon, “Here He Comes Now”; the ’70s and terrorism, “It Gets Into Everything”; Ronald Reagan, “Joy to the World”; Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, “Closing Years, Contrasting Styles of Leadership”; and some special pieces, “Classic Cartoons by a Master.”
The 82 original drawings in this exhibition are new to the walls of the Library—they have never been previously displayed. The cartoons have been selected from the Library’s Herb Block Collection, with a few iconic drawings loaned from the Washington Post collection. In 2002, the Herb Block Foundation donated Block’s archive to the Library, and the collection includes nearly 14,000 finished cartoons in addition to preliminary sketches, files and manuscripts. The Library has mounted several displays of Herblock’s work: “Herblock’s History: Political Cartoons from the Crash to the New Millennium,” (2000); “Herblock’s Gift: Selections from the Herb Block Foundation Collection” (2003); and “Enduring Outrage: Editorial Cartoons by Herblock” (2006).
Herbert Block (1909-2001)
Born in Chicago on Oct. 13, 1909, Block began his career as a professional cartoonist in 1929, working for the Chicago Daily News and the Newspaper Enterprise Association Service. In 1946, he joined the Washington Post, where he remained for 55 years, until his death in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 7, 2001. Block won Pulitzer Prizes in 1942, 1954 and 1979. He shared a fourth Pulitzer with Washington Post colleagues for coverage of the Watergate scandal in 1973.
In addition to being a remarkably gifted cartoonist, Block also became an accomplished writer, particularly on political subjects. During his lengthy career, he published 12 collections of his cartoons. Many included extended written commentary, a feature that distinguishes his books from those of most cartoonists.