August 20, 2012 "Down to Earth: Herblock and Photographers Observe the Environment" Opens at Library of Congress on Sept. 22

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Sara Duke (202) 707-3630, Carol Johnson (202) 707-9336

Throughout his 72-year career, Herblock, the award-winning cartoonist at the Washington Post, revealed a concern and passion for the environment. His cartoons, along with photographs on environmental issues by 12 American photographers, will be showcased in a new exhibition at the Library of Congress.

“Down to Earth: Herblock and Photographers Observe the Environment” opens on Saturday, Sept. 22 in the Graphic Arts Galleries on the ground level of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, the exhibition closes on Saturday, March 23, 2013.

The exhibition will offer new perspectives with which to observe the planet. The cartoons and photographs on display are compelling compositions, because their creators intended to provoke reaction and inspire change.

The inspiration for “Down to Earth” comes from Herbert L. Block (1909-2001), commonly called Herblock, and his long-standing support for protecting the environment. A four-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Herblock was the chief editorial cartoonist at the Washington Post, where he worked for more than 55 years.

The exhibition features 15 Herblock cartoons and 17 photographs. Although the visual techniques used in photography and cartooning differ, both types of media can address such themes as the spread of toxins, water pollution, the negative effects of oil drilling, global warming, deforestation, exploitation of wetlands and overconsumption.

Sam Kittner’s photographs vividly document the outrage of demonstrators in Louisiana over toxic-waste dumping. Other images are more subtle, such as Olaf Otto Becker’s beautiful image of a blue river in Greenland that shows the effects of global warming and acid rain.

Herblock’s cartoons rely on humor, irony and sarcasm. One of the drawings on display, from 2001, shows two businessmen smoking cigars and looking at oil derricks on the Alaskan landscape. It is titled “We Could Compromise and Paint Them Green.” Another drawing, created in 1998, shows a beleaguered man, seen through the heat waves of a blazing sun. He is carrying a coat on one arm and is holding up a newspaper with the headline “Environmental Groups Warn of Global Warming.” It is titled “All Right, All Right – I Believe It.”

An online version of “Down to Earth” will be available on Saturday, Sept. 22, at

“Down to Earth” is located in one of the three exhibition spaces of the Graphic Arts Galleries. The other spaces are the Swann Gallery and the Herblock Gallery. Currently in the Herblock Gallery is “Herblock Looks at 1962: Fifty Years Ago Today in Editorial Cartoons,” which will rotate in 10 new cartoons from 1962 on Saturday, Sept. 22.

Three gallery talks about “Down to Earth” are scheduled in October. At noon on Wednesday, Oct. 3, and at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 17, curators Sara Duke and Carol Johnson will talk about the works featured in the exhibition. At noon on Thursday, Oct. 11, photographer Robert Coppola will talk about his work.

Most of the photographs displayed in “Down to Earth” are part of the Kent and Marcia Minichiello Collection at the Library of Congress, which contains 350 contemporary works by more than 20 American photographers. The collection presents ongoing environmental issues through the lens of some of the most renowned American photographers working today, such as Terry Evans, Frank Golhke, Sam Kittner, John Pfahl and Victor Landweber. Kent and Marcia Minichiello, Washingtonians committed to the environment, collected 27 in-depth photographic projects by these photographers and others. The Minichiellos donated the collection to the Library in 2001.

The Herb Block Foundation donated a collection of more than 14,000 original cartoon drawings and 50,000 rough sketches, as well as manuscripts, to the Library of Congress in 2002, and has generously continued to provide funds to support ongoing programming.

The Library has been collecting original cartoon art for more than 140 years. It is a major center for cartoon research with holdings of more than 100,000 original cartoon drawings and prints. These works, housed in the Prints and Photographs Division, span five centuries and range from 17th-century Dutch political prints to 21st-century contemporary comic strips.

The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division includes approximately 14.4 million photographs, drawings and prints from the 15th century to the present day. International in scope, these visual collections represent a uniquely rich array of human experience, knowledge, creativity and achievement, touching on almost every realm of endeavor: science, art, invention, government and political struggle, and the recording of history. For more information, visit

For sample images from “Down to Earth,” contact Donna Urschel at (202) 707-1639.


PR 12-155
ISSN 0731-3527