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Exhibition Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustration

Online Exhibition

Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustration showcases the Library’s extensive collections of original art by talented artists hired by both newspapers and television to capture the personal dynamics of legal trials. Skilled at quickly conveying both individual likenesses and the atmosphere of the courtroom, these artists reveal, in intimate detail, the dramatic and, at times, mundane aspects of trial proceedings.

Elizabeth Williams. Artists at the DeLoren [sic] Trial, August 16, 1984. Porous point pen. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (003.00.00)
Gift of Tom Girardi

The illustrations on display represent court cases dating from 1964 to the present day. These cases influenced how Americans perceive race and race relations, religion, gender issues, political and corporate corruption, international relations, and the role of celebrities in society. The corresponding drawings are poignant images of people from all walks of life during the last fifty years of court history, observed in their most vulnerable moments. While artistic styles vary, each artist brings the theater of the courtroom to life, capturing gestures, appearance, and relationships in a way that humanizes defendants, plaintiffs, lawyers, judges, and witnesses.

This exhibition begins with the work of Howard Brodie who documented the Jack Ruby trial in 1964. Brodie donated his trial drawings to the Library of Congress and spurred the development of its Courtroom Illustration Collection. The collection has expanded to include trial drawings by Marilyn Church, Aggie Kenny, Pat Lopez, Arnold Mesches, Gary Myrick, Joseph Papin, Freda Reiter, Bill Robles, David Rose, Jane Rosenberg, and Elizabeth Williams, among others. These courtroom drawings provide insight into the drama and impact of events in American law during the past fifty years.

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