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Providing a Reality Check

The editorial cartoons of Pulitzer Prize winner Ann Telnaes provide a reality check to her many fans. In "Humor's Edge," an exhibition at the Library that runs through Sept. 4, 55 cartoons provide a reality check for the world as Telnaes sees it.

Ann Telnaes, We Interrupt Our regularly Scheduled Programming to Bring You Reality, 2001. Ann Telnaes, Florida Legislature, 2000. Prints and Photographs Division.

Telnaes' series of cartoons on the contentious presidential election of 2000 won her the Pulitzer -- only the second one to be awarded to a woman for editorial cartooning. Born in 1960 in Stockholm, Telnaes became a U.S. citizen when she was 13. In 1984, she began her career in animation and gradually became interested in cartooning as she became more politicized. She moved to Washington, D.C., in 1993 and now devotes herself primarily to political cartooning.

Her drawings consistently uphold the finest tradition of the "gentlemanly art" of graphic satire. Telnaes' work spans a broad range of important issues, such as the state of civil rights, the separation of church and state, the presidential election of 2000, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, overconsumption, corporate scandals and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Library of Congress' Prints and Photographs Division houses one of the nation's premier collections of caricature and cartoon. Many of these collections, which have been the basis for Library exhibitions, are available on the Caroline and Erwin Swann Foundation Web site.

The nation's attention was drawn to Broadway, when the Tony Awards were handed out last month, and no artist is more closely associated with the Great White Way than Al Hirschfeld (1903-2003), who drew everyone from John Barrymore to Liza Minelli. In "Al Hirschfeld, Beyond Broadway," another Swann Foundation exhibition, you can see his caricatures of those actors as well as drawings of people who were not associated with entertainment, such as Adm. Chester Nimitz and Walter Lippman.

The remarkably detailed cartoons of Arthur Szyk can be seen in "Arthur Szyk: Artist for Freedom," also a Swann exhibition. Szyk (1894-1951) was one America's leading political artists during World War II, when he produced hundreds of anti-Axis illustrations and cartoons in aid of the Allied war effort.

New York advertising executive Erwin Swann (1906-1973) established the Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon in 1967. An avid collector, Swann assembled a large group of original drawings by 400 artists, spanning two centuries, which his estate bequeathed to the Library of Congress in two installments, in 1974 and 1977. Swann's original purpose was to compile a collection of original drawings by significant humorous and satiric artists and to encourage the study of original cartoon and caricature drawings as works of art. The Caroline and Erwin Swann Collection of Caricature and Cartoon, is now preserved in the Prints and Photographs Division.


A. Ann Telnaes, "We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming to Bring You Reality," 2001. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-134306.

B. Ann Telnaes, "Florida Legislature," 2000. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-134300.

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