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Cartoon Cornucopia: The J. Arthur Wood, Jr. Collection of Cartoon Art
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With an artist's eye, Art Wood acquired some of the best examples of illustrated art produced during the last two centuries. He collected celebrated European masters of graphic art from James Gillray to Heinrich Kley as well as exceptional works from the Golden Age of American Illustration (1880-1930). A truly seminal collection, it also includes numerous examples of work by such great women illustrators as Katharine Pyle and Nell Brinkley, talented pioneers in the genre and equal in artistic genius to their male counterparts. Wood collected works of art by women long before their place in the canon was acknowledged by art historians and museums.

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George Cruikshank,
[Alcohol, Death and the Devil],
between 1830 and 1840.
Gouache over graphite underdrawing.

George Cruikshank (1792-1878), one of the most prolific illustrators and satirists working in England, began his career as a child during the Golden Age of English Satire (1770-1820), creating biting satires that were sold as individually etched sheets or in pamphlets. He never lost his provocative edge. In the 1820s, as singular satirical etchings declined in importance, he successfully shifted to book illustration, including collaborating with Charles Dickens. Cruikshank's images are versatile, imaginative, humorous, and incisive. He began campaigning against alcohol, especially gin, in 1830s. In 1847 he renounced alcohol and became an enthusiastic supporter of the Temperance Movement in Great Britain, a sharp contrast to his early years when the wee hours of the morning often found him in police custody and his publishers wondering if he were going to make deadline. Cruikshank's crusade against the evils of alcohol culminated in The Worship of Bacchus, a huge painting begun in 1860 and completed in 1862. This image depicts a skeletal Medusa raising a cup of alcohol to the crowd, while the Devil enjoins them to imbibe. The image is humorous, yet biting.

The pen and ink drawings of Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911), are emblematic of the Golden Age of American Illustration. An exceptional illustrator, by the age of nineteen Abbey had became one of Harper's most talented artists. Inspired by the work of pre-Raphaelite artists exhibited in the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876, he went to England in 1878 where he remained. While in England, Harper's New Monthly Magazine commissioned him to illustrate the novel Judith Shakespeare. In this image, Abbey depicts William Shakespeare's second daughter Judith strolling along the River Avon with her mastiff and encountering Master Leofric Hope to illustrate a scene from chapter fifteen in the book. She allows the young stranger to have a preliminary reading of her father's new play, The Tempest, an indiscretion that leads to disaster in the novel.

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E.A. Abbey,
"He opened the book, and she saw that there were
some lines pencilled on the gray binding
Pen and ink. Published in Judith Shakespeare, her love affairs and other adventures, by William Black and illustrated by E.A. Abbey. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1884, p. 175. LC-DIG-ppmsca-03347
Heinrich Kley, [Three nude characters astride an ornate building], ca. 1910
Heinrich Kley,
[Three nude characters astride
an ornate building
ca. 1910.
Pencil, ink, ink wash and watercolor.

This fantasy image is one of twelve drawings by renowned German artist and illustrator Heinrich Kley (1863-1945). Drawings by such European master illustrators as James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, George Hogarth, Honoré Daumier and others represent an important component within the Wood collection. Kley studied art at the Karlsruhe Akademie and in 1908 moved to Munich where contributed satirical drawings to the popular Simplicissimus and Jugend magazines. Described as "Rubens corrupted by Rabelais," Kley transformed an ornate building, probably a rathaus or city hall, into a monstrous beast with grotesque figures in what is most likely a commentary on German politics.

Nell Brinkley (1886-1944) epitomized the early twentieth-century woman cartoonist, drawing exquisite cartoons and illustrations of young, beautiful women. However, Brinkley's characters were not all fluff. Here she uses her "Brinkley girls," full of ruffles and lace, to criticize the government for not providing housing for the hundreds of young women who had flocked to Washington to take jobs left by enlistees during World War I only to discover they were barred from renting apartments. A working woman herself, Brinkley rallied for the rights of other women. Her work at the Denver Times attracted the attention of William Randolph Hearst for whom she worked in New York for 31 years. The popularity of her feminine characters led to a Brinkley Girl being featured in the 1908 and 1909 Ziegfeld Follies.

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Nell Brinkley,
Uncle Sam's Girl-Shower
Pencil and ink on board.
Published in 1918 by
Hearst's International News Service.
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Katharine Pyle,
Rinaldo for the time escapes the beast
ca. 1932.
Gouache on board.
Published in Katharine Pyle, Charlemagne and His Knights told and illustrated by Katharine Pyle.
Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1932.    
LC-DIG-ppmsca-03336   LC-USZC4-9476

The works of artist, illustrator, and author Katharine Pyle (1863-1938) are among hundreds of drawings by notable women artists in the collection. Pyle began her career at sixteen as an writer with a poem in Atlantic Monthly. She studied art with her more famous brother, Howard Pyle, who set artistic standards for the Golden Age of American Illustration. She had a rare combination of gifts for writing and illustration and achieved recognition through her short stories, poems, and plays for children, including Charlemagne and His Knights. Prolific as a writer and illustrator, she published more than a book a year from 1898 to 1934. In her portrayal of Rinaldo as he crouches on a beam to escape a beast in the castle of Altaripa in Charlemagne and His Knights, Pyle uses color in her gouache subtly, the gold and silver hues enhancing romantically the composition.

Already an accomplished caricaturist Miguel Covarrubias (1904-1957) took New York by storm when he arrived from his native Mexico in 1923. By 1925, he had become one of Vanity Fair's principal contributors, as renowned as the men and women he drew. In his introduction to Covarrubias's first book, The Prince of Wales and Other Famous Americans (1925), performing arts critic Carl Van Vechten wrote, "At the present moment, Miguel Covarrubias is about as well known in New York as it would be possible for anyone to be." In the series Impossible Interviews he brilliantly paired prominent politicians, artists, writers and actors who would never be seen together in real life. He pairs Samuel "Roxy" Rothafel, designer of Radio City Music Hall and the Roxy Theater, with impresario conductor Arturo Toscanini, musical director of the New York Philharmonic.

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Miguel Covarrubias,
Impossible Interviews- no. 15.
S.L. Rothafel versus Arturo Toscanini
, 1933.
Published in Vanity Fair (New York),
Feb. 1933, p. 25.   
Miguel Covarrubias/ Vanity Fair
© Conde Nast Publications, Inc.
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  The Library of Congress >> Prints & Photographs Reading Room >> Swann Foundation
  August 29, 2003
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