March 11, 2009 Thomas Nast and French Art to be Topic of Lecture at Library of Congress, March 25

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Martha Kennedy (202) 707-9115

Swann Foundation grantee Marie-Stéphanie Delamaire, in a lecture at the Library of Congress, will discuss American cartoonist Thomas Nast’s use of artistic elements commonly employed in French grand manner and history paintings.

Delamaire will present an illustrated lecture titled “The Artist as Translator: Thomas Nast and French Art” at noon on Wednesday, March 25, in the West Dining Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

Nast (1840-1902) began his career as a newspaper illustrator in the 1850s in New York. During the Civil War years, Nast developed a new style of large-scale cartoons that made extensive use of the visual vocabulary of old masters and contemporary French academic painters, particularly those whose works were reproduced in prints that were disseminated by the American branch of Goupil & Cie in New York.

Nast referenced or alluded to specific French paintings as a means of capturing and engaging his viewers’ interest in major political developments of the day, as seen in such cartoons as “Democracy” and “The Tammany Tiger Loose” (published respectively in Harper’s Weekly on Nov. 11, 1865 and Nov. 11, 1871). In doing so, according to Delamaire, Nast transformed history painting into a mass medium and appropriated the significance of foreign images into the American national or local political sphere.

Delamaire is a Ph.D. candidate in art history at Columbia University. Her dissertation project, titled “Art in Translation: Franco-American Exchanges in the Civil War and Reconstruction Era” has been awarded a Terra Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution and a Swann Foundation grant. Her research interests focus on transnational exchanges in relation to the development of reproductive technology in 19th-century visual culture, the international art market and the emerging apparatus of international exhibitions. She completed a master’s degree in Egyptian archaeology. She has published several essays on the American perception of ancient Egypt, the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle and the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition.

This presentation is part of continuing activities of the Caroline and Erwin Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon to support the study, interpretation, preservation and appreciation of original works of humorous and satiric art by graphic artists from around the world. The foundation’s advisory board is composed of scholars, collectors, cartoonists and Library of Congress staff members.

The foundation awards one fellowship annually (with a stipend of up to $15,000) to assist scholarly research and writing projects in the field of caricature and cartoon. Applications for the academic year 2010-2011 are due Feb. 15, 2010. For more information about the fellowship, visit or email [email protected].


PR 09-051
ISSN 0731-3527